The Wonder Deer: The Early History, Religions and Folk Traditions of the Hungarians, Volume 3

Contents & Abstracts


ISTVÁN FODOR: The Scythian Wonder Deer: What Were These Golden Ornaments Really Used For?
In 19th-century southern Russia, extraordinarily rich early Scythian tombs (6th-7th c. B.C.) were discovered containing large golden deer. In one burial mound in the village of Kostromskaya, a figure of a deer supposedly lay on an iron shield. Researchers therefore drew the conclusion that the deer were shield ornaments, a view that was generally accepted up until only recently. Not long ago, however, Alekseev (1996), having analyzed the history and documentation of the earlier digs, made it clear that neither the deer, nor a golden panther that had also been found there were shield ornaments. He concluded that they are far more likely to have been decorations for the gorytos (bow and arrow case). It must be noted here, however, that the possibility that the Scythian golden deer were also gorytos ornaments was mentioned as early as 1934 in a book by Nándor Fettich, a noted Hungarian archeologist and goldsmith.

KATALIN URAY-KŐHALMI: Wonder Deer in the Siberian Taiga
István Fodor's article "The Ethnic Identity of the Ancient Hungarians and the Legend of the Wonder Deer" in Csodaszarvas, Vol. 2, discusses the cultural background that informs depictions of the deer hunt, the tree of life with birds, and a hoofed animal fighting with a bird of prey. The epic poetry of the Ewenki and Turkic forest-dwellers of Siberia contain a large number of parallels to these motifs. This reinforces the view that (a) scenes of the deer hunt and of a hoofed animal warding off a predatory bird and (b) motifs of the tree of life with birds often coupled with these scenes are no doubt closely linked to the national origin myths of these peoples.

ALFRÉD MÁRTON: Sacrality and Power among the Türks
The literature on the subject still accepts Károly Czeglédy's view that the institution of sacral dual kingship, going back to Khazar and Türk historical origins, existed in Hungarian society prior to the Conquest (895 A.D.). Czeglédy reconstructed the sacral dual kingship among Hungarians on the basis of Khazar data. In the dual authority of the Khazars the sacral sphere was separated from actual political power. This was the result of an inherent Khazar development, which might have been influenced by the region and environment of the Caucasus. Exploring Czeglédy's claim that the Türks had the institution of sacral dual kingship and that it was adopted by the Khazars, the paper attempts to ascertain whether this can be justified.
A division of powers can be observed with the Türks but that was based on the division of the nomadic empire according to military wings, and no sign of sacrality can be discerned in that. The leaders of wings were not separated according to sacrality, and they conducted relatively independent military, foreign, and other policies as long as there was comparative stability within the empire. Sacral and political power was in the hands of the supreme ruler, the Kaghan. It can be established that the Türks did not have the institution of sacral dual kingship. Türk rulers had actual power, which was legitimized by sacrality. In order to hold power the ruler had to have both dynastic (strips regia) and individual (qut) charisma, as well as the political wisdom and military skill necessary for leadership.

PETER B. GOLDEN: The Khazar Sacral Kingship
The ruling house and core tribes of the Khazar empire did not share the same tribal or, in many instances, ethnic origins as those of the Kaghanate's diverse subject population. The Khazar rulers were heirs of the Türk kaghanal charisma. Although aspects of sacral rule and dual kingship can be seen in the Türk and other Inner Asian nomad-based empires, it was only in Khazaria that the Kaghan became a sacralized, tabuized figure. This transformation occurred in the 9th century and may reflect the influence of the Ors, the Khwarazmian-Iranian guard of the Kaghan and the chief minister drawn from their ranks.

ZOLTÁN KORDÉ: On the Origin of the Székelys
The goal of this study is not to offer a solution for all the details of the particularly complex and controversial problem of the origin of the Székelys. The author discusses and examines in detail three important aspects of the problem and argues against contrary opinions. The first aspect of the problem is that of the origin of the ethnic name Székely. The author states that it cannot have come from the early Hungarian occupation names for "border guard" (speculator, custos), "shooter" and "archer" (sagittarius), but, in agreement with other researchers, compares it to .skl (in the Arabic script), the name of a Volga Bulgarian tribe, and claims that this solution is the strongest one regardless of the etymological difficulties. The second aspect of the problem is the examination of the earliest Székely traditions. The author—responding again to different opinions—concludes that the Székelys did not have either original, or fictional, artificially created traditions connected to Attila or the Huns. Their original traditions were tied to the eastern Aba clan from Khwarezm, and to one of its members, Csaba. In the 13th century, Hungarian chroniclers, especially Anonymus and Simon Kézai, joined this with the Hungarian Hun traditions mostly developed by them—and thus the legend of the Hun origins of the Székelys was created. Then, the problem of this ethnic group joining the Hungarian tribal confederation is discussed, and the author prefers the view that the Székelys joined the Hungarians together with the Kabars around the middle of the 9th century. We know from the writings of the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus that the Kabars became military auxiliaries of the Hungarians. They had three tribes and one prince, but they were subordinated to the Hungarian tribal alliance. The Székelys might have been the leading tribe of the Kabars, and the princes of the Aba clan might have emerged from them. In the course of time, the two other Kabar tribes adopted the name "Székely," and thus, during the foundation of the Hungarian state, when the tribal system was dissolved, the Kabar nation continued its life with a different name (Székely) and in an organized way, but their task was the same as earlier: they fulfilled military duties and served as border guards for the Kingdom of Hungary.

ENDRE TÓTH: Sacer Mons. Additional Data about the Pre-Christian Hungarian Sacral Places
The Benedictine monastery of Pannonhalma in Northwestern Hungary was built in the 11th century on a small hill called Sacer Mons (Sacred Mountain). In the present study, I research the origin of this name. There is no such concept as "sacred mountain" in the Christian religion (peaks might be named for Christian saints, for example Mons Sacri Martini). However, the name Mons Sacer for the hill under discussion turns up as early as the 11th century. For this reason, it seems improbable that it took this name shortly after the foundation of the monastery because of the monks living there. The documents—which luckily survive in large numbers—and also the narrative sources tell us that the name Mons Sacer had no connection with the Benedictine monastery at first; it was the name of the hill itself. This naming cannot be tied to the Christian religion; it derives from the times when Hungarians still preserved their original native religion. The qualification of a mountain as "sacred" has many parallels in the Eurasian mountains where nomads once lived. The survival of this tradition in the Hungary of the 11th century is shown by the fact that King St. László I called a diet (at the Benedictine monastery) on Mons Sacer, and that a few years later King Kálmán summoned the Hungarian nobles to the Tarcal Hill in Eastern Hungary for the same purpose. This means that certain hills and peaks still preserved their pre-Christian cultic function as gathering places in the early Árpád era. The location of the first Benedictine monastery in the Kingdom of Hungary might have been selected merely to neutralize an ancient cultic place.

BÉLA ZSOLT SZAKÁCS: Between Chronicle and Legend: Image Cycles of St. Ladislas in 14th-Century Hungarian Manuscripts
The paper analyses two image cycles representing the life and miracles of St. Ladislas, king of Hungary (1077–1095). One of them, the Hungarian Angevin Legendary (ca. 1330) represents the saint's life in twenty-four images. The image cycle is partially based on the written legend, however some of the scenes follow the text of the Hungarian Chronicle. The other pictorial source is the Illuminated Chronicle (Chronicon Pictum, ca. 1360). The chapter describing the deeds of Ladislas is illustrated with seventeen miniatures. This cycle emphasizes the miraculous events more than the political acts and includes supernatural elements not described in the text. Thus, the illustrations of the chronicle and the legendary moved towards an ideal compromise between the secular and the religious character of Ladislas, creating an extremely influential ideal, athleta patriae, an important propaganda tool for the legitimacy of the Hungarian Angevin dynasty.

GYÖRGY SZABADOS: A Historiography of Early Hungarian History
The beginnings of Hungarian history have generated a strong interest from the very first centuries of written culture. My goal is to follow the path from the first chronicles (the second half of the 11th century) to the end of the 18th century, when Hungarian historiography had attained the standard of scholarship. During this long period, both the database and the method underwent radical changes, but a critical attitude represented a constant part of the thinking. This view of our early history is not entirely the same as research into prehistory, because the former focuses on the main starting and re-starting points and the most important emblematic heroes. The medieval chronicles divided ancient Hungarian history into two parts: the Hunnic starting period focusing on King Attila's greatness and the Hungarian one led by Attila's descendants, Álmos and his son Árpád. The humanist writer Bonfini introduced the Avars between the Huns and Hungarians. This triple Hunnic–Avar–Hungarian conception was strengthened by many new details in the 17–18th centuries; it developed and dominated the common historical view. But in 1746 Anonymus's Gesta Hungarorum was first published (after lying in wait for more than half a millennium) and forced a radical turn: the Hunnic and Avar periods fell into the background and permanent Hungarian settlement was now stressed. This change can be measured well in the life's work of the two greatest Jesuit scholars, György Pray and István Katona.

VILMOS VOIGT: That Wondrous Deer: Historical Fiction or Legitimist Propaganda?
It was likely in early 1926 that Ernő P. Ábrahám's A csudaszarvas (That Wondrous Deer), an overview of Hungarian history for young readers, was published in Budapest. It starts with early Hungarian history (more precisely Hunnic-Hungarian history) and takes us all the way up to the situation after World War I. It is illustrated with Romantic tableaux that depict spectacular scenes witnessed by a young prince named Árva (a name which means "orphan"), who is whisked from one part to the next by his magic steed Tüzes (meaning "fiery"). The mythical csodaszarvas, or wonder deer, appears in several scenes, but it is signified in the book with the more folksy form csudaszarvas (roughly, "that wondrous deer"). The book is very richly decorated, with embellishments, initials and full-page illustrations that portray key scenes from Hungarian history. These were produced in the studio of a contemporary graphic artist, the multi-faceted and renowned Álmos Jaschik. And one of the age's most prominent Hungarian politicians, Albert Apponyi, wrote the foreword to the book. On carefully surveying this foreword as well as the body of the work and the illustrations, one discovers that the book serves a legitimist goal and that it was created for a "boy who lives far away," who received the first, hand-painted copy. This boy was actually the son of the last Habsburg king of Hungary, Charles IV, who had by then died; the heir presumptive to the throne was Prince Otto.
The article discusses the multi-layered and informative writing and iconography of the book as well as the author and the designer of the illustrations. A detailed study of both text and images brings out the several phases that went into planning and making the volume. Incidentally, the csudaszarvas variant in the title is well established in Hungarian literature and art. Interestingly, however, it is unknown among latter-day readers. It is revealing that the wonder deer not only shows the way to a new homeland, but also plays a role in the story of the founding of the church at Vác and brings the hero of the book all the way to the modern age.
A discussion of the many-sided text and of points about content and iconography is useful insofar as it reveals well-known stereotypes about both early and later Hungarian history.

Book Review

GYÖRGY SZABADOS: Irregular Marginalia to István Vásáry's Magyar őshazák, magyar őstörténészek (Ancient Hungarian Homelands and the Scholars Who Sought Them) 2008. Budapest: Balassi Kiadó.
Earlier on, István Vásáry, professor of Turkology, collected his 13 studies and essays on the ancient lands of the Hungarians and the scholars of early Hungarian history who lived and worked in the 17th–19th centuries, such as the Jesuits Márton Cseles and György Pray. Vásáry's important book contains the revised and updated versions of these collected works.

Debate and Opinion

IMRE BASKI: The Madijar: A Hungarian Tribe among the Kazakhs?
This study by Turkologist Imre Baski first summarizes the evidence in the domestic literature for a supposed link between Madiyar, the name of a Kazakh clan living in Northwestern Kazahkstan, and the ethnonym Magyar. In addition to both lessons learned from Madiyar origin legends and findings from DNA tests that bear out a blood relationship, the apparent identification of the Kazakh Madiyar clan name with the Magyar ethnonym features prominently among the evidence. The author demonstrates that there is no basis for identifying the Madiyar as a tribe instead of a clan and thus the expression kurultay, or meeting of tribes, is anachronistic from a Hungarian point of view and from a Kazakh perspective it simply does not square with reality. Nor do Persian, Mongol and Turkic historical sources bear out the Madiyar-Magyar identification. At the same time, the Kazakh origin legends and genealogical tables contain references to the interrelated Madiyar, Aldiyar and Hudiyar clans, the names of which derive from Arabic or Persian personal names in the Turkic languages and are all tied to Islam. Such names are categorized as rhyming or relational names, whose continued use even today can be demonstrated in Turkic languages, including Kazakh. Numerous examples in Kazakh and related languages confirm that the name Madiyar developed from the name Muhammad-i-yar, meaning "friend or follower of Muhammad," as an outcome of a succession of abbreviations. It therefore cannot possibly be linked to the Magyar ethnonym and thus cannot serve as proof for a relationship between Madiyar and Magyar.

GYÖRGY KARA: Judgment on a Misjudgment. A Review of Uchiraltu's A hun nyelv szavai (Words in the Hsiung-nu Language). 2008. Budapest: Napkút Kiadó.
Critical notes on a Hungarian version of a series of papers written by Uchiraltu of Inner Mongol University who, in an effort to interpret several Hsiung-nu terms found in Chinese sources, attempted to prove that the language of the Hsiung-nu was Mongolic.

ENDRE ABKAROVITS: Traditions and Changes in Korond (Corund, Romania). A Conversation with Mrs. Antal Páll
Korond (Corund) is a village in Transylvania which has become famous for traditional hand-made pottery. There are more than 200 Hungarian families in the village who have come to be involved in pottery in some way, either as potters and decorators, or traders. The Páll family is perhaps the best known among them. Lajos Páll, Sr. played an active role in reviving the motifs of the whole region of the Székelys, as Hungarians are called in central Romania. Several of his children have carried on his craft, Antal Páll, Sr. being the most famous beyond the borders of Romania, primarily in Hungary, but also in some Western countries. After his early death in the 1990s, his wife, Róza Páll, and son, Antal Páll, Jr., have carried on his legacy.
In many potter families of Korond, the physical work of mining the clay, working on the potter's wheel and baking the finished products was the husband's job, while the wife was responsible for the ornamentation of the pottery. As the function of their creations has changed from everyday household objects in the homes of peasants to decorative elements in the houses of town dwellers, the wife's work has taken on greater significance. While it was the potters that were in the centre of attention in the past, these days an increasing number of buyers and collectors attach at least as much significance to the ornamenting talents of the women.
In this interview, Endre Abkarovits talks to Róza Páll about her life, her husband's family and the story of pottery in Korond in general. The reader gains not only an insight into a famous potter family, but also a glimpse into how life has changed in the village over the past few decades. While many potters attempt to follow the taste and requirements of buyers, the Páll family insists on preserving the colors, forms and motifs of traditional Székely peasant pottery.

GYÖRGY SZEMADÁM: Hungarian Folklore on the Screen
The past fifty-two years of the art and production of cartoons, or animated films, in Hungary have been marked by the elements, motifs and influences of Hungarian folk culture in one way or another. Throughout these decades, numerous films were produced which, in their subject matter, formal design or music, clearly demonstrated an affiliation with those popular traditions which we could either call popular culture, folk art, or simply folk tradition in general.

ENDRE ABKAROVITS: Traditional Music from the Urban Táncház to Research in the Field. A Conversation with András Jánosi
In the 1970s, András Jánosi was present at the start of the Hungarian traditional music and dance revival in Budapest (widely known as the "táncház movement," named after village dance events held in private homes). Taking the love of folk dance from the home of his parents, who organized such activities for boy scouts and girl guides from the time of the Second World War onwards, András Jánosi also started out as a dancer. As he had studied some classical violin in his childhood, it was not difficult for him to learn to play the fiddle and become one of the first musicians to play traditional music in the táncházes of Budapest. In the seventies, he founded his own band, the Jánosi Ensemble, which has been active ever since.
In addition to dancing in various traditional dance groups and playing traditional music in táncházes, he also began to take field trips, especially to the Transylvanian village of Szék, which had rich dance and music traditions, and which represented a model for urban táncházes. He observed the fiddle playing of village musicians, and collected traditional songs. He also studied the works of Franz Liszt and Béla Bartók, and released records of their folk music sources, as reconstructed with his own band. Further, he conducted research on traditional Hungarian music in earlier centuries. An essential part of the interview is dedicated to the role of Hungarian music in Europe from the time of the Renaissance, when Hungary was one of the most important countries on the continent not only politically and economically, but also culturally. The kind of music that was common throughout Hungary in the 16th to 19th centuries has survived best in Transylvania.
For the first time since the death of Kodály, a traditional music department has recently been set up at the Music Academy in Budapest. Jánosi is head of the string instruments section of this department, and he teaches the fiddle.


Ferenc Kiss: Three Years in Music: A Selection of Traditional and World Music Releases from 2006–2008

Authors in this volume