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International Sacred Groves Photography Contest

September 19th, 2016


I have just received this press release from the Hiite Maja Foundation – based in Estonia – about a photography competition focused on natural Sacred Sites and Groves. They have opened up the contest to include photos of sites outside Estonia. The photo included here is a 2014 contribution from Normunds Kazoks of the Liepas Large Ellite’s Cave. For further details on submissions and some interesting articles on Estonian Sacred Sites and indigenous culture visit the Maavalla Koda website:

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, 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.

2 Responses to “International Sacred Groves Photography Contest”

  1. Congratulations. These sites are felt in the heart as special.Nothing sets them apart, no altars or great buildings mark them out. They are simply felt in their sacredness. Thank you for recognising their worth and letting people know where they are so that they may share in the sacred feeling of place.

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