The sculpture “I was Born and Raised Singing”
A stroll through the expansiveterritoryofFolk Song Parkwill begin at the sculpture “I was Born and Raised Singing.” This folk song speaks to human lives from birth to death. Songs help people to work, they strengthen us when times are hard, and they bring joy to us when our hearts grow wearyWork is so inseparable from human lives that it continues beyond our world, though in an effortless, free and more beautiful way. In Latvian folk songs, even God does everyday work – something that is very uncommon in the mythology of the world’s nations.
Latvian folk songs represent a concentration of the nation’s attitudes toward life, work and the world. They have been passed down for centuries from generation to generation – sung, wept over and experienced, thus becoming a compendium of ideas which have not lost their meaning even today. Work on collecting Latvian folk songs began in the late 18th century, and today there are approximately 1,044,000 songs in the archives. The work is continuing, however.
The sculpture “This World and the World Beyond”
The historical centre of Turaida contains signs of population lasting for more than 40 generations, and these are represented as a combination of ideas and concepts in the sculpture “This World and the World Beyond.” The sculpture is dedicated to previous generations which have created a wealth of song and are sharing their experience with us through the region’s cultural heritage.
Indulis Ranka has this to say about his sculpture: “I did my best not to ‘damage’ the initial form of the fieldstone which I found in Kurzeme. As I looked at the two-part and massive piece of stone, my desire was to enrich the existing ensemble of sculptures with the textual motif of our folk songs. I want the viewer to be a bit more magical and ritualistic in looking at the sculpture. My long dedication to folk songs surrounds the stone in a spiral way, beginning from the top and ending all the way at the ground. The reader will have to walk around the sculpture again and again to get a gradual sense about the engraved content, as well as an idea about our great and eternal Sun and world beyond.”
The sculpture is located close to the former Turaida cemetery, and it was unveiled during the international Baltica 2000 folklore festival.
The sculpture “Sleep Not, O Sun, in the Apple Orchard”
The sculpture “Sleep Not, O Sun, in the Apple Orchard” can be found at the highest spot in Folk Song Garden, where it stands among century-old apple trees.
The sculpture represents ideas from folk songs about the loving kindness of the Sun. As the symbol of life, light and warmth, the Sun encourages people to get up and get busy with their lives. The Sun dictates the rhythm of human life, and as it floats across the mountain of the sky, it marks out seasons of the year and allows people to count up the summers of their lives. There are four solstices in relation to the rhythm of the Sun, and these determine the work that must be done during each season of the year. The Sun takes care of the earth and its fields, it provides warmth and kindness. The life of the sun is compared to human lives in Latvian folklore. The Sun has sons and daughters: “The Moon married the Sun’s daughter, Thunder served as best man.” The Sun and Moon have their own procedures: “Day for you, night for me.” They tell each other what must be done: “Do not sleep, o Sun, in the apple orchard,” or “The Sun chastised the Moon for not shining during the day.” The Sun is beautiful, careless, frisky and happy. It shines, sparkles, shimmers, glimmers, radiates, gleams, glows and radiates.
The sculpture is in the former orchard of the Turaida Estate and was installed in 1992. As was the case with every sculpture that was installed in Folk Song Park after the opening of Folk Song Hill, this one was consecrated with a special ritual of song.
The sculpture “Austra’s Tree”
On one of the steepest hillsides inFolkSongGardenstands the proud sculpture “Austra’s Tree,” reaching for the sky. The sculpture stands six metres high and speaks to the people’s unity, hopes and efforts which can be achieved. It is important that the stone from which the sculpture is made was found nearby in Turaida, at the “Dimzas” homestead.
Austra’s tree is an element of Latvian folklore. It is an unusual tree of dreams which people seek out throughout their lives but never find. It is a beautiful symbol which helps people to maintain their lives. Austra’s tree represents the eternal dream of the Latvian people for unity. It merges the past, the present and the future, and it symbolises the inheritance of values. Life is transferred from generation to generation, just as the days of human lives begin with the dawn and end with the sunset. Austra’s tree is celebrated in folk songs, with red threads in the designs of blankets and belts, and on the caps and scarves of women. It symbolises protection, life, and the strength of families.
The sculpture was unveiled during the 20th Latvian Song Festival, and on July 1, 1990, folklore specialist Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga had this to say about it: “A new dawn has risen overLatvia. We have gathered together from all four regions, all four corners of the world to join together in awaiting the sawn of our true freedom. Light begins to appear even before the sunrise. It is the first sign that the night is gone, that the forces of dark must retreat, and that the victory of light is approaching. There are no obstacles, nothing at all which can stop the arrival of the light.”
The sculpture “Liv Bird”
Turaida is a place where the different languages and songs of Baltic Finnish nations and Baltic nations have resounded ever since antiquity. The destinies of Baltic and Finno-Ugric people have been similar during the centuries. They have tended to and loved their land, established understanding in relationships, and developed attitudes toward themselves and their surroundings. All of this has been recorded in the collective memories and experience of the people.
Sculptor Indulis Ranka decided that the memorial to the Livs of theGaujaRiver– a Finno-Ugric ethnos near theBaltic Sea– should be in the shape of a bird, because archaeologists have found that the bird is one of the most typical elements of Liv culture. The sculptor chose the king of birds – the eagle – to send the message. The eagle is a symbol of winged freedom, independence and great strength. It appears in Liv texts together with elements related to small birds for which it is time to wake up.
The sculpture was unveiled during the international Baltica 91 folklore festival, when a day to celebrate Finno-Ugric people was held in Turaida. There were the melodies, songs and languages of Livs, Estonians, Finns and Hungarians at the event.
The sculpture “Summer Solstice Stone”
The Summer Solstice is a time when the Sun is at its apex. It represents the longest day and shortest night of the year. Latvians know the Solstice as John’s Festival, and traditions related to the celebration can lead to discoveries about the mighty power of nature. It is specifically during this festival that one can feel how all living things gather up their strength, flourish in unaccustomed vividness, and are prepared to share themselves generously with everyone. God, nature and humankind come together in unity which creates harmony.
The sculpture “Summer Solstice Stone” shows two young people enchanted by the Solstice and looking into the sky to seek out their fortune. Their youth is in line with the forces of life and fertility which emerge from nature. There are ferns around the sculpture, and folk songs tell us that they bloom just once a year – on the night of the Solstice. Anyone who finds a blooming fern gains fortune.
The sculpture “Summer Solstice Stone” was unveiled in 1993, and it is on the side of Māra’s trail.
The sculpture “Father of Song”
The sculpture “Father of Song” symbolises the memory of the people, their wisdom about life, and their preservation and transfer from generation to generation of Latvian folk songs. Maintenance and preservation of the cultural heritage is work, but also a blessing that can be achieved with good will and by supporting one another. On one side of the sculpture is the image of a respected old man who protected songs and made up new ones: “A song for him, a song for her for a piece of bread.” On the other side are singers of three generations who are familiar with the songs. Beside them is a defender – a powerful young man. The sculpture sits on a dowry chest which symbolises the dowry of songs. “I sang for three days and did nothing else,” one folk song goes, and that just shows how very many folk songs there really are.
The area around the sculpture is the site each summer for performances by folklore and ethnographic ensembles. People come from all around to sing together and engage in major traditional cultural events. Tourists who visit the Turaida Museum Reserve as asked to sing their own folk songs at the sculpture, thus continuing to expand on the dowry of songs.
The sculpture “My Steed Had…”
One of Latvia’s folk songs says that “my steed had a blanket of stars on its back,” and the sculpture “My Steed Had…” praises hard work and is dedicated to the horse. The horse was the farmer’s best helper over the course of many centuries. Rural life, concerns and work could never be imagined without a good horse. The beauty of a steed is described as a lot of joy and sparkling: “I took a grey horse toRīga, I took a bay horse to church, father’s red horse will bring seed to the pasture.”
People decorate horses with bells and use diamond nails on their hooves. Mythological tales inLatviasay that God has horses with silver bridles and golden saddles. The sons of God emerge from the sea or theDaugavaRiveras grey horses wearing a blanket of stars and golden reins. As golden horses, they pull the cart of the Sun across the hill of the sky. They never grow weary, and they never rest. The Latvian symbol for the Morning Star, too, appears in folk songs on a colt given by the Sun.
Fortune presents a good colt to an individual. People can tell colts about their sorrows by hugging their necks. The colt is a friend which listens to people and understands them. Colts can be entrusted with secrets. When a man lacks advice for a decision, he asks his horse as his best friend to help. The Liv people, too, have their own story about the Horse of Destiny, as reflected in a chronicle about events in Turaida in 1191.
The sculpture “My Steed Had…” was unveiled in 1996, with people singing songs about colts during the event.
The sculpture “Beekeeper’s Bride”
As you climb the steps of Folk Song Hill, you will find the sculpture “Beekeeper’s Bride.” The sparkling whiteness of the sculpture and the portrayal of a fragile girl who is shrugging her shoulders represent the responsibility for protecting song. The girl has been entrusted with the treasures of the people, and she will protect them.
The sculpture contains an allegory – just like bees bring honey to the hive from many different places, people from all overLatviabrought folk songs to the Folk Song Cabinet of the great researcher Krišjānis Barons. Honey is the fruit of the labour of bees, and aromatic drops of it can be found in the frames of the hive. Similarly, songs provide us with joy and happiness in our everyday lives and during celebrations.
The Folk Song Cabinet contains a unique collection of Latvian Folk Songs. It was created by Barons, who was instrumental in systematising the songs that he had collected. The cabinet itself was built inMoscowin 1880 after a design by the specialist himself. It is something of a database with 70 drawers, each of which is divided up in 20 sections. The folk songs are all written down on individual pieces of paper, and they cover topics related to the entire life of a human being. Today the Folk Song Cabinet is held by a department of theUniversityofLatviaInstitute for Literature, Folklore and Art. Because of its unique nature, the Folk Song Closet was put on the UNESCO List of World Memory in 2011. This confirmed its importance in the world’s cultural heritage.
The sculpture “Stone of Souls”
Latvian mythology speaks to the concept of “veļi” – the souls of deceased people who are continuing their lives in the world beyond. After death, according to these myths, the human soul is greeted by the Mother of Veļi, or Mother of Souls, and she brings the soul to the world of souls. It exists in parallel to the human world. Everything continues, including work begun while the person was alive, as well as care for his or her loved ones. The autumn is the particular season for the souls to rise from the Earth like fog and to spend some more time with their people in this world.
A special Latvian fieldstone was found for the sculpture “Stone of Souls.” Its structure and natural texture fully reveal the mighty, but also gentle strength which causes the rock to become wavy, light, and similar to a bank of fog.
The late film director and cameraman Ansis Epners had an emotional recollection of the placement of the sculpture on Song Festival Hill in 1982. He was there to record the installation on film: “You and me. We stood there on Turaida Hill that autumn. We did not move. ‘Stone of Souls’ was hung up on cables, it slowly swung like the pendulum of a clock, and it obediently settled into its new location. There was a fall of oak leaves, and still cameras and film cameras quietly purred as they recorded this holy moment in history – the moment when the first stone prepared for Folk Song Hill nestled into its foundation, which had the design of mittens.”
The sculpture “Mother and Daughter” or “Difficult Thought”
In Latvian folk songs, a mother’s love is compared to the warmth and love of the Sun. It is necessary for the child to grow up strong, healthy and happy. Everything becomes nicer and more pleasant when mommy is alongside the child: “A lovely, warm room, heated with birch wood – even warmer, even nicer, when mommy is in the room.” A loving mother lifts her child to the Sun and raises the child “like the Sun raises a pea plant.”
In this sculpture, the mother and daughter are standing bank-to-back, and both faces indicate a bit of sadness. They’re still together, but the “earth is already trembling” and “the daughter must be brought to the farm of her suitor.” The period of time when the daughter is taken away from her childhood home and her loved ones and moves somewhere else is a happy one, though it is also full of concern and a lack of knowledge. Mothers weep bitter tears when their daughters get married. Have they managed to teach their daughters that they must work hard so as to unlock the gates of fortune? Have they provided their daughters with the wisdom of the heart and a dowry of songs? Are good people awaiting the daughter? Will she have enough advice to live a long life?
The sculpture “Mother and Daughter” or “Difficult Thought” is about links between generations, the mission of women, and the destinies of mothers and daughters.
The sculpture “Three Young Sisters”
Performers of folk songs are usually young women. 200 years ago, Garlieb Merkel wrote: “The art of Latvian song is in the hands of women, because young women are the only ones who can still feel joy under a heavy burden. The songs that they sing represent the spirit of the people.” One folk song has this to say: “I prefer to sing rather than cry, let my evil day weep instead.” Lovely singing is part of a young woman’s life. She has to learn songs, and she is taught by her mother, grandmother, father, brothers and sisters: “Sing a song for me, sister, I will rejoice in return.”
Song also helps women to do their work: “No matter what I am doing, I always do it while singing.” Young women sang when they worked in the forest, a pasture or a meadow, when they tended to livestock, threshed grain, ground grain, etc. Daughters and wives wove songs into their textiles.
The sculpture represents the warmth of relationships and the love of three sisters, because harmony emerges when women sing together. The beautiful orange and red rock has the sparkle of crystals, and it is very different depending on whether the day is sunny or cloudy, whether it is raining or snowing, and when there is sparkling frost at the turn of the year. Folklore groups gathered around this sculpture most often during the Latvian National Renaissance to sing together. It is the most sonorous place on Folk Song Hill.
The sculptures “Dreamer” and “Thinker”
It is the power and strength and durability of the Latvian nation which are related to the sculpture that is called “Thinker” and “Dreamer.” They conjure up thoughts at the same time. Folk songs inLatviado not praise war, violence or hatred. Hatred and fierceness cannot create anything. Life, freedom in one’s own fatherland – those are values which people appreciate to the highest degree. The fatherland is strengthened with strong words and thoughts, defending it whenever that proves to be necessary. “I lay my head on the moss to protect my fatherland.”
The sculpture “Beach” and “Ring of Linden Trees”
There are many folk songs in which there are poetic and mythical images. The linden tree, the oak tree, the forest as such – these are not just a part of the songs of the environment. They have also been a part of songs which involve a very unique and lyrical manner, thus establishing the most poetic part of Latvian folk songs. The ancient magical, mythological and other considerations are often difficult to understand, because the people ofLatviahave gradually distances themselves from the leitmotifs which led to the emergence of such ideas. Folk songs are unique in that they demonstrate the attitudes of people toward that which is alive and that which is not, trying to find an explanation for many phenomena and processes therein.
The sculpture “Beach” allows the viewer’s thoughts to branch out so as to envision stones on the Vidzeme shoreline that have been smoothed by water, the appearance of a girl who is sunbathing on an early summer morning, and to remember the words of an ancient incantation: “I ran my sister through water and stone, sprinkling her with water and cleaving her with stone.”
The sculpture “Spīdola’s Stone”
Folklore has maintained all that has been essential in terms of what has ensured ways of improving human lives over the course of the millennia. Wisdom, knowledge, clarity of thought and nobility help people along their path of life and are of great value. Beauty in folk songs is manifested as one of the main positive aspects of reality and of categories which are evaluated by people. That which is beautiful is closely linked to that which is ethnic and noble – two characteristics which are difficult to separate and consider individually.
Latvian poets have gained inspiration from folk songs for many centuries, discussing the harmony between the beautiful and the noble and praising universal human values. In 1888, Andrejs Pumpurs released the epic “Lāčplēsis.” In 1903, Rainis published the play “Fire and Night.” In both cases, the character of Spīdola embodied the symbol of the eternal improvement of the people’s creativity.
The sculpture “Spīdola’s Stone” merges the creative strength of Spīdola and the physical and vital strength of Lāčplēsis. A portrait of Krišjānis Barons is also part of the sculpture, which inspires viewers with its power and its diversity of images.
The sculpture “Stone of Love”
Songs about marriage and weddings establish a broad message in the vacuum of folk songs. The word “love” appears in folk songs less often than the words “enjoy” and “like.” Relationships between young men and women offer an exciting message in folk songs, starting with first acquaintanceships and ending with marriage. The weddings of young people are compared to the mythological weddings of the daughters of the Sun and the sons of God in Latvian folklore. That is the most beautiful segment in life with dreams and earnings which are remembered for all of the individual’s life as a time which was filled with the highest and deepest emotions, encouraging people to think about the value of the second half of their lives.
Since the “Stone of Love” was installed on Folk Song Hill, it has become a popular place for newly married couples to write love letters to one another, engage in ancient wedding rituals, and experience special moments so as to confirm the importance of starting a joint life to themselves and to others.
The sculptures “Drifts of Flowers”, “Flying Birds”, “Early Buds” and “Little Cloud”
One of the most common themes in Latvian folk songs is nature. Such folk songs rejoice about the beauty ofLatvia. Fields and forests, streams and the sea, wind and the sun, an oak tree and a reed – all living things have been a part of the poetic imagination of Latvians since ancient times. In folk songs, the events and wealth of emotions in a human life are compared to the lives of birds, trees and flowers, as the turn of the seasons and the flow of water. Folk songs reveal human lives and the world of thoughts in the rhythm of nature.
These stone images represent birdsong, piles of clouds up in the fields of the sky, the miraculous opening of flower buds, and the massive drifts of flowers which cover hillsides during the summer.
The Krišjānis Barons trail and the sculpture “Folk Song Hill”
The Krišjānis Barons trail starts at the sculpture “Little Cloud” and leads down Folk Song Hill to the ancientGaujaRivervalley. The trail is 300 metres long. The “Dainas” homestead, where the distinguished folklore researcher and collector Krišjānis Barons spent the last summer of his life, is found in the river valley. It may be that the trail is part of a longer distance hiked by Barons in the past through the valleys of Turaida. It leads past very old oak, linden and elm trees, through stands of ferns and mayflowers, along fallen trees which are populated by insects, and along the littleDainupīteRiver, leading all the way to the banks of theGaujaRiver. At the foot of the trail is the sculpture “Folk Song Hill.”
Krišjānis Barons (1835-1923) was a folklore specialist, publicist and public activist who spent 40 long years in collecting and systematising Latvian folk songs. His most important contribution to Latvian culture was the publication of six volumes of Latvian folk songs, with 217,996 songs in all. This is one of the most important collections of folk poetry in global literature.
The Sigulda District must be mentioned twice when it comes to the rich life of the man who was known as Father Barons. When he was a young man, he hiked throughout Vidzeme, particularly focusing on the ornateGaujaRivervalley and the river’s banks between Sigulda, Krimulda and Turaida. Later, he spent the last summer of his life at the “Dainas” homestead in Turaida.
Daughter-in-law Līna Barone wrote a memoir about Barons in 1924, writing that “we lived in Turaida during his last summer in 1922. It was a lovely place on the banks of the Gauja. (..) Father loved nature, this was a place where the environment offered him vast amounts of lovely aspects of nature. Every morning he first walked over to the Gūtmaņa cave. He took a drink from the clear stream that is there, and then he filled a white can with water before hiking back home. After breakfast, if it was sunny outside, Father went out for a walk and disappeared for several hours. He was always carrying a walking stick made of juniper in one hand and a collapsible little chair in the other. Thus he hiked across the hills and hillocks of the area. He often ignored local roads, instead choosing a well worn trail which led upward.
“There was once a young man who was climbing up the steep trail of the Turaida Hill, and when he got to the top, he was weary and sat down for a rest. Then he spotted a white-haired little old man climbing the same trail – climbing and climbing until he reached the top. He did not sit down. Instead, he walked past the young man to the edge of the hill, from which a lovely view of the Gauja valley can be found. He looked at the vista for awhile and then slowly walked away. It didn’t seem at all that the little old man was weary, and only then did the young man realise that it was Father Barons. He was delighted at the old man’s durability and flexibility at such a great age.”
The Sun trail and the sculpture “Path of the Sun”
The Sun trail runs along the southern side of Folk Song Hill, is 500 metres long, and leads from Folk Song Hill to the Turaida Castle hill. Along the trail, you will see the lovely curves of theGaujaRiver, Paradise Hill, and the ruins of theSiguldaCastleon the opposite bank of the river. There is a certain amount of magic here at any time of the year, but particularly during the spring, when the sunny hillsides are covered with blue and white anemones, larkspurs and aromatic mayflowers.
The three-part sculpture “Path of the Sun” is found where the Sun trail crosses the Krišjānis Barons trail. “Mighty was the oak at the end of the Sun trail” – these words are engraved on a symbolic representation of a fence pole from an ancient castle, and this brings a new form of expression to the sculptural ensemble of Folk Song Hill. The text was engraved with a drill, thus reminding us of a perforated piece of cardboard or a computerised representation of text. The sculpture is in the forest alongside the trail, representing poles which are overgrown, eternal and surrounded by endless nature. This symbolises the traditions of the Latvian and the Liv people – traditions which never disappear. From century to century, they take root in each subsequent generation. The stones from which the three-part sculpture has been created have symbolically travelled along the path of the Sun in the world. They stop at the place where one can see the distant Satesele castle hill, thus conjuring up thoughts about things that happened in the 13th century and have so many echoes yet today.
The sculpture “Path of the Sun” was installed in 1994.
The sculptures “Swimmer” and “O, Green Pike!”
Many Latvian folk songs are dedicated to the theme of water. Latvia’s shoreline is approximately 500 km long. The fabled and ever changing and rapidGaujaRivercarries its waters to the sea, and some of that water comes from the crystal clear streams of Folk Song Hill.
Water was the origin of life, it preserves life, it soothes us and gives us strength in physical and spiritual terms. People use water to wash themselves, to scrub linden tree tables until they are white, and to ensure that their linen apparel is always sparkling. In folk songs, water and whiteness represent cleanliness, hard work and general morality.
The playful and mutable nature of water is achieved by the sculptor with plastic representations of the body. He rejoices at the green pike which is playing in the waters of the Gauja. The image that is presented in “Swimmer” relates to a thought from a Latvian folk song: “I wore white, and my figure is white.”
The sculpture “Raven’s Wing: Storehouse of Treasure”
The world’s natural and cultural treasures are the most ornate and beautiful thing that nations possess on this planet. In 2004, the two-part granite sculpture “Raven’s Wing: Storehouse of Treasure” was installed at a place where, at the request of the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist vessel was donated. The sculpture represents the thought that the unique values of any nation must be preserved as the most outstanding treasures, just as is the case with understanding among people and nations.
The sculpture consists of an ornamental stela with the image of a protective raven’s wing which stretches across the storehouse of treasure as if it were a human hand protecting a fragile flame from the harsh wind. The ornament on the stela can be found on temple walls throughoutTibet, and it is known as the Eternal or Endless Knot. It is reminiscent of the sign of a well which is common inLatviaornaments. The wing of a wise raven characterises the nation’s faith and the fulfilment of its hopes.
The sculpture “Raven’s Wing: Storehouse of Treasure” confirms the diversity and commonality of global culture. Over the course of the years, Folk Song Hill has been visited by special guests toLatvia, and by visitors from far and wide. They all learn about Latvian folk songs and see that heartfelt and true relationships among people are possible only through harmony and mutual respect – just as Latvian folk songs teach us.