Shamanistic remnants in Hungarian folklore

Shamanistic remnants in Hungarian folklore

Comparative methods used in analysing ethnographic data of Hungarian folktales, and some historical sources (e.g. files of witch trials) reveal that some features of Hungarian folklore are remnants of shamanistic beliefs, maintained from the deep past, or possibly borrowed from Turkic peoples with whom Hungarians used to live together before having wandered to the Pannonian Basin;Diószegi 1998] or maybe is an effect of Eastern influence thereafter (Cuman immigration). [Bartha Júlia: [ A Kunság népi kultúrájának keleti elemei] ]

These remnants are partly conserved as fragments by some features of customs and beliefs, for example
* refrains of certain folksongs accompanying some customs,
* certain motifs of folktales, e.g. sky-reaching tree, which was a specific belief among several Uralic peoples, having some resemblances to the world tree concept, but it was also related to the shaman's tree and had some other peculiarities as well [Hoppál 1975:216–218,224,229]

There were also people who filled in similar roles that are done by shamans at other peoples: fortune-telling, weather magic, finding lost objects. These people can be related to shamanism (contrasted to the cunning folk of non-shamanistic cultures), because the former are recorded to go through similar experiences as many shamans do: being born with surplus amount of bones or teeth, illness, dismemberment by a mythological being, recovering with enlargened capabilities, struggle with other shamans or beings.

Related features can be recognized in several examples of shamanism in Siberia. As Hungarian language belongs to the Uralic family, we can expect to find them among Uralic peoples. Some of them maintained shamanism until the modern times. Especially the isolated location of Nganasan people enabled that shamanism was a living phenomenon among them even in the beginning of 20th century, [Hoppál 2005] the last notable Nganasan shaman's seances could be recorded on film in the 1970s. [Hoppál 1994:62] The original location of the Proto-Uralic peoples (and its extent) is debated. The combined results of several sciences suggest that this area was north of Central Ural Mountains and on lower and middle parts of Ob River. This approach combined ecological, namely phytogeographical and paleobotanic (including palynological [Klima 1998: 29] ) data together with linguistic (phytonymic and comparative) considerations: the distribution of various tree species in Siberia and Eastern Europe (changing in time) was matched against the distribution of the respective tree-names in various Uralic languages (filtered with comparative methods, so that only names of Proto-Uralic or Proto-Finno-Ugric relevance be taken into account). [Hajdú 1975:32–35]


Some artifacts, see online available pictures and descriptions:Magyar Néprajz, [ list of figures] ]
* Sky-reaching tree standing on a hill, with celestial body on top left part, and cattle on both lower and upper levels. (Diószegi Vilmos recognizes also a shaman ladder on the image. [Diószegi 1998:291] ) Decoration of a horn saltcellar, collected in Biharnagybajom village of Hajdú-Bihar county. The figure about the artifact (together with other related ones) is drawn by Szűcs Sándor ethnographer. See online. [ Magyar Néprajzi Lexikon, item “Világfa” (world tree)] ] [ Magyar Néprajz, chapter “Világkép” (world view)] ]
* Combat of two "táltos" people (both in the guise of bulls). Decoration on corn saltcellar. Collected in Sárrét. The figure about the artifact is drawn by Szűcs Sándor ethnographer. See online. [ Magyar Néprajz, chapter “Természetfeletti képességű emberek — tudósok és közetítők” (people of supernatural abilities — cunning people and mediators)] ] Another image depicts táltos people fighting as black and white bulls, one of them helped by a man. Drawn by Dudás Juló, Galgamácsa. Not online. [Diószegi 1998:345]

Soul dualism

Soul dualism can be observed in several cultures, in many variations: people are believed to have more than one soul. Examples can be found in several North Eurasian cultures, in some Eskimo groups; [Merkur 1985: 222–223, 226, 240] [Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 17–18] [Gabus 1970: 211] at majority of Finno-Ugric peoples, among Hungarians as well. Some of the many examples distinguishes two souls: a body soul for maintaining bodily functions, and a free soul which can leave the body (even during life), but as mentioned, such beliefs are diverse.

In some cultures, it may be related to shamanistic concepts. [Hoppál 2005: 27–28] Hoppál 1975: 225] In shamanistic beliefs of some Eskimo groups, the shaman's "spirit journey" with his helping spirits to remote places is explained with such souls concepts. It is the shaman's free soul that leaves his body. According to an explanation, this temporal absence of the shaman's free soul is tacked by a substitution: the shaman's body is guarded by one of his/her helping spirits during the spirit journey,Oosten 1997: 92] also a tale contains this motif while describing a spirit journey undertaken by the shaman's free soul and his helping spirits. [Barüske 1969: 24]

As mentioned, it could be observed also among Hungarians. The body soul, "lélek" was related to breathing (can be seen also by etymology). [Vértes 1990: 5] The shadow soul called "íz" was related to the roaming soul of the dead. Its feared nature can bee seen, as it features also in curse expressions: “Vigyen el az íz!” (= “the shadow soul take you!”). [Dienes 1975: 83] This curse is unknown for most people nowadays, and word "íz" (in this meaning) is also unknown, or felt as an archaism with forgotten meaning.

See also

* Hungarian mythology



* The tale title means: “The land of the dead in the sky”; the book title means: “Eskimo tales”; the series means: “The tales of world literature”.
* The title means: “Uralic peoples. Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “The Hungarians at the time of entering the Carpathian Basin, and their ancient beliefs”.
* The title means: “Remnants of shamanistic beliefs in Hungarian folklore”.
* Hungarian translation of the original: Vie et coutumes des Esquimaux Caribous, Libraire Payot Lausanne, 1944. It describes the life of Caribou Eskimo and Padlermiut groups.
* The title means: “"Uralic peoples. Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives"”; the chapter means “Linguistical background of the relationship”.
* The title means: “Uralic peoples. Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “The belief system of Uralic peoples and the shamanism”.
* Title means: “Shamans, souls and symbols”.
* The title means “Shamans in Eurasia”, the book is written in Hungarian, but it is published also in German, Estonian and Finnish. [ Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian)]
* Translation of the chapter: "Our ancient homes and wanderings", translation of the title: "Finno-Ugric guide".
* The title means: “Belief systems of our language relatives in Siberia”.

Further reading


External links

* See also [ homepage of author with other publications] .Terebess Ázsia E-Tár:
* Bartha Júlia: [ A Kunság népi kultúrájának keleti elemei]
* Lux Éva: [ Sámándobok és húsvéti tojások] Magyar Néprajz:
* [ Magyar Néprajz, chapter “Természetfeletti képességű emberek — tudósok és közetítők” (people of supernatural abilities — cunning people and mediators)]
* [ Magyar Néprajz, chapter “Világkép” (world view)]
* Magyar Néprajz, [ list of figures] cite book |author=Ortutay Gyula |title=Magyar Néprajzi Lexikon |url= |isbn=963 05 1285 8 |publisher=Akadémiai Kiadó |location=Budapest |year=1977–1982 |language=Hungarian:

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