You are standing at the gates of Taevaskoda – Heaven’s Hall

Taevaskoda is one of Estonia’s most beautiful and important sacred natural sites. According to native tradition, it is sacrosanct in its entirety: the sandstone walls, the caves, springs and stones, the river, the earth, and the plants, animals and any other beings.

At Taevaskoda, you can sense the peace, serenity and power of nature. This is why people come here to get a blessing for their marriage, to name their children, to heal their spirit, mind and body, to pray and give thanks, or to celebrate folk calendar events and follow other important rituals.

In earlier days, Suur Taevaskoda (Big Taevaskoda) was used for village parties during folk holidays. It was also a meeting place for discussing important issues. The outcrops together with the river and the round rock at the foot of Suur Taevaskoda have been used as a site for prayers and offerings.

Praying to the Sacred Spring
Praying to the Sacred Spring
The caves are a home for spiritual beings. Tradition allows you to peep inside, but you must not enter, or you may risk becoming deaf, blind or even insane. Scratching your name on the walls and fishing are likewise not allowed.

The water of the several springs flowing from the outcrops is known to heal eyes. The Emaläte spring, or Mother Spring, at Väike Taevaskoda (Small Taevaskoda) was said to be the mother of all springs. In earlier times, the cave surrounding Emaläte began much closer to the river and a forest track led over the cave and the outcrop.


The historical sacred groves in Estonia
The historical sacred groves in Estonia
In Estonia, there are records of more than 800 sacred groves. Sacred groves are historical sacred sites covering a wider area of land which have been used by the local community. In addition to sacred groves, there are several thousand sacred springs, stones, trees, caves, cliffs and other sacred natural sites in Estonia. Hundreds of sacred natural sites are still in active use.

The spiritual heritage related to sacred natural sites covers knowledge of the natural environment, place-names, place and family lore, beliefs, customs and rituals. Sacred natural sites also provide fertile ground for modern culture, as sources of given names and surnames, literature, art and music.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature calls sacred natural sites the oldest protected areas of humankind and suggests that the local community traditions in them should be recognised. Many indigenous peoples share the idea that sacred sites are created and changed solely by the nature. People visit the sites, but do not intervene in the course of nature there.


Offering of silver dust
Offering of silver dust
By acknowledging the ancient traditions, you help protect the environment and may gain help and spiritual nourishment from the sacred site. Sacred groves are said to be situated in places of power which amplify our thoughts, words and deeds. Anything done there, whether good or bad, is believed to return to the author with multiplied strength. This is why Taevaskoda is a place of good thoughts, words and deeds.

CLEANLINESS: When you visit a sacred grove, you should be sober, your body, clothes and mind should be clean and you should not leave any rubbish or leftovers in the grove. Just like when visiting a shrine, you should enter a sacred grove on foot and leave any pets outside. If you need the toilet, you should go outside the boundaries of the sacred site. When you leave, take any rubbish with you.

INTACTNESS: In a sacred grove, no thought, word or deed should harm any living being, including trees and bushes and the ground. According to folk wisdom, not even a twig can be broken in a sacred grove, and nor is it permitted to pick flowers, berries or mushrooms, or to hunt, fish or harvest natural resources in any other way. Likewise, it is not permitted to scratch names into the sandstone walls or enter the caves.

PEACE: It is desirable to keep silent and in peace in a sacred grove in order not to disturb its inhabitants or visitors. Every tree, stone, body of water or site has its own soul or spirit.

GIFTS: You can tie a ribbon, strip of cloth or thread of wool as a gift to a tree in the sacred grove. Please note that it should be of natural fibres and tied loosely. You can also give coins or silver dust scratched from a silver item, or offer some bits of fresh food or drink. Please do not touch the gifts left by others.

FIRE: Like the water in the springs and the river flowing in a sacred site, any fire lit there is also sacred. Burn no rubbish, such as plastic packaging, bottles or bottle caps. A candle may be lit only if it is made of beeswax or tallow and burns entirely. Candles should not be left in the caves.

Stop for a moment to clear your mind before entering the sacred site. In ancient times, people used to greet the forest and bow to the sacred grove. An open and clear mind will experience more.

Text by Ahto Kaasik, Centre for Sacred Natural Sites at the University of Tartu.