International sacred groves photography contest now open

An ongoing photography contest dedicated to natural sacred sites aims to commemorate the cultural and natural heritages of traditional sacred natural sites, to record their current state, as well as to encourage people to visit and care for the sacred sites.

Held for its ninth year, the international contest focuses on natural (not built) sacred sites: sacred groves and hills, water bodies, trees, stones and other natural objects where our ancestors used to pray, heal, sacrifice, commune, foretell and perform other rituals.

The contest’s grand prize is 1,000 euros, plus a special ‘Ural Peoples’ prize of 300 euros and a youth prize of 200 euros for contestants 16 years of age or younger. In addition, a number of special prizes will be handed out in the following categories: grove, sacred tree, stone, water body, offering, pain of the sacred grove, story, Old Võro County, Viru County, Mulgi County, Jõgeva County, the islands, nature conservation, and more. Photographs from other parts of the world are also welcome. For the first time, the contest’s website is also available in English and Russian in addition to the Estonian language.

Tõnis Lukas, Director General of the Estonian National Museum and patron of the Sacred Groves Photography Contest, invited all heritage-minded people to photograph sacred sites. “Your participation in the Sacred Groves contest will help preserve a rare and valuable part of Estonian and world heritage. The National Museum has supported the contest before and continues to do so this year. Submit your photos and be sure to take part in the beautiful prize ceremony in the new Estonian National Museum building on 3 December 2016. Everybody with an interest in heritage is kindly welcome,” said Lukas.

Winners will be awarded in the conference hall of the new ENM building in Tartu on 3 December 2016.

Photos can be submitted to the contest until 31 October 2016 at .
However, we recommend that you send in your submissions as soon as possible, and don’t wait until the closing moments. That way, organisers will be able to preview the photos and advise contestants as to their quality and admissibility, so that further photos may be taken and submitted where appropriate.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers sacred natural sites to be the oldest natural protection areas of humanity, and of Estonia. Many indigenous peoples have sacred natural sites that belong to the common heritage of humanity. Estonia has about 800 known sacred groves of a noteworthy size, as well as several thousand sacred trees, stones, springs and hundreds of cross-trees. Sacred natural sites have been recorded in a large number of villages across all counties and parishes. Most of our sacred natural sites are endangered and at the verge of oblivion.

The Sacred Groves Photography Contest is organised by Hiite Maja Foundation, Maavalla Koda and University of Tartu Centre of Sacred Natural Sites.

Our supporters are: Wiedemanni Translation Bureau, Kindred Peoples Programme, Eesti Kultuurkapital, Kehrwieder, Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literature Museum, Estonian National Museum, Võro Instituut, Mulgi Kultuuri Instituut, Võrtsjärve Foundation, Uma Leht, Tihuse Riding-Farm, Estonian Folklore Council, Heritage Protection Board, Environmental Board, Jõgeva County Government, Estonian Traditional Music Centre, Krautman Health and Massage Academy, Harmoonikum, Viru Folk, Roheliste Rattaretk, Nature Photo of the Year, Pegasus Press, School of Traditional Knowledge and Folk Medicine, Mooska Farm, Tagavälja Farm, Kalevipoja Koda Foundation, Estonian Printing Museum, Siniallika Inn and the LÜÜ-TÜRR male singing association.

Additional information:

In English:

In Russian:

In Estonian:



Newsletter of the project “Ancient Cult Sites for Common Identity on the Baltic Sea Coast”

We are glad to announce that the 1st newsletter of the project “Ancient Cult Sites for Common Identity” has been prepared by the lead partner – Riga Planning Region! You are welcome to read it under the following link:

Seminar in Tartu, 26 May 2011

A seminar about the inventory methodology of natural sacred sites will be held in Tartu (Estonia) on May 26, 2011 in the framework of the project “Ancient Cult Sites for Common Identity on the Baltic Sea Coast”. The participants of the seminar will include ca 30 people (representatives of project partners & experts) from Estonia, Latvia and Sweden.

Hiite Maja Foundation in a Cross-Border Project ‘Cult Identity’

Hiite Maja Foundation is a partner in a cross-border initiatve “Ancient Cult Sites for Common Identity on the Baltic Sea Coast” (Cult Identity for short) launched in February 2011. The objectives of the project include raising awareness about the importance of ancient cult sites as a part of natural as well as cultural heritage; finding new approaches and solutions for sustainable management of ancient cult sites; ensuring their protection, and including some of them in regional tourist routes.

The project is launched within Central Baltic INTERREG IV priority 3 Attractive and Dynamic Societies. The main partner of the project is Riga Planning Region (Latvia), the others are The County Museum of Gävleborga (Sweden), Hiite Maja Foundation (Estonia), Vidzeme Planning Region (Latvia), Kurzeme Planning Region (Latvia), and Zemgale Planning Region (Latvia).