Urvaste church and Lake Uhtjärv

Which are tougher – “atükõsõ” or “mustakõsõ”

Urvaste parish is one of the three parishes in Võrumaa that is presumed to have already existed during the period of Ancient Estonia. The centre of the parish was probably on the northern slope of the valley – the stronghold hill towering over lake Uhtjärv.

Urvaste Primeval Valley divides the parish into two equal parts – not just in the spatial sense but also in terms of folk tradition. The inhabitants of the areas to the south of the valley, Vana-Antsla and Vastse-Antsla, were called “atükõsõ”, and the inhabitants of the areas to the north of the valley, Urvaste and Linnamäe, were called “mustakõsõ”. The former (“atükõsõ”) was derived from the name Antsla, the latter (“mustakõsõ”) from the colour black (in Estonian ‘must’). This is because the pattern of the Urvaste national costume looked the same all over the parish, except that the parts of the pattern that were grey in the southern areas were black in the northern areas.

On the north-east shore of lake Uhtjärv stands Urvaste stronghold hill, known as the Bed of the Old Town. Numerous folk tales are associated with lake Uhtjärv.

According to the story of the birth of the Nõiariik at Uhtjärve Ürgoru (the Sorcerer’s Kingdom, or Witch Land, in the Primeval Valley of lake Uhtjärv), the Sorcerer escaped from the sleeping Uht – the Sorcerer had wanted to drown Uht, but a noise had woken the hero and the Sorcerer had transformed himself into a black ox and fled but not far since he had noticed that a lake had been formed because of his prank. So he stopped on the slope of the valley, liked the place and founded his kingdom there in the primeval valley. Over the course of time, he played different tricks – sank the bells of the church in the lake, hid the correct name of the lake in the church tower under an egg, drove a couple of newly weds, who had been sister and brother, into the lake. Finally, he even drove a black ox under water and exercised all sorts of witchcraft during the time of the barons.