Hungarian Mythology I
God and his helpers


Fred Hamori

This only a short summary of Hungarian Mythology starting from before their conversion to Christianity. This first part will mainly be about God and his helpers, other parts will deal with the Devil and his deimons and Mythical Heroes.

The last millennium has obliterated much of the old traditions, especially since there was a strong anti-Hungarian propaganda in the Church, which tried to prove that the Christian Church was responsible for all that was good like religion, culture, letters and everything was thought to the "wild and nomadic" Hungarians by the church. This must always be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism especially since we have records and physical proof showing that Hungarians were literate using a script similar to the Central Asian Turks and the some of the Scythians, whose earliest remnants were found near Alma Ata. (Isik) Words for book, letters, writing are all from the east. Most of the words associated with religion, farming, cities, tools and basic professions were not European in origin in Hungarian but were from Asia.. therefore they were brought with them from their earlier homeland and not thought to them by the "civilized and cultured" Europeans, as the church maintained so long. Especially since this was the Dark Ages in Europe at that time. In any case after more than a millennium of living in the center of Europe, much of the Hungarian language has been Europeanized in the sense and meaning of their words. This sometimes causes problems in properly understanding the old meaning of some words in ancient times.

The type of religion they practiced was monotheistic, where god was a formless spirit, never represented with images and often associated with the Sun and the sky. Remnants of this association are found even today in remote Transylvanian villages. The following references from the European chroniclers of the time remain.. Recent evidence and research that many of the Huns & Sabirs who lived in the Caucasus were Christianized and these were in close contact with the Hungarians. The Georgian and Albanian early chronicles documented their conversion to Christianity under the guidance of Cardinal Israel and their building of Churches and translating and writing of the bible into their own language and their own runic script, whose remnants (the writing method) survived in Hungary into modern times.

Early Reference to their religion.

Theopylaktos Simocata /Greek/ : "The Turks (Hungarians) respect fire, air, water and even the earth and sing praises to earth, however they only worship the one who created heaven and earth." [Note the Greeks called Hungarians at first Turks and only later did they get familiar with their proper Magyar (Macar) name after they settled next to them.]

Abufeda /Arab? or Persian/ :"The Magyars are a Turkic nation, their territory is between the Bedsenak (later absorbed by Hungarians) and the Sikul (also absorbed by Hungarians). Both were eastern nations in origin.

The other neighboring nations of the Hungarians before their settlement in their current homeland also had a similar religion as the following examples show.

Menander: The Avar-Hun Khan swears to the god of fire "deus ignis, aui in coelo est."

Desguignes (French historian) ".. The Hiung-nu king Tanjou, as his name indicates him to be the 'son of heaven and earth', worshipped the sun at dawn and the moon at night, and gave offerings to the sky and to the earth." [This refers to the eastern Hun emperor.]

Herodotus /Greek/ ".. amongst the gods they (Scythians) worship the following: first of all Hestia (fire).."

In the first contact with Hungarians, some Christian priests believed them to be Christian due to their religious manners. However at the time of their settlements there were some who were also Manichean and some were Muslim as well. Many however were simply a variation of the Magian/Parse religion as is indicated by their religious terminology. God=Isten, Heaven=Meny, Hell=Pokol, Devil=Ordog are found in eastern Manichean terminology also. Greek references to the house of Álmos the father of Árpád, and the first Hungarian dynasty (in Europe) state that their religion was Manichean.

Priestly titles:
Táltos Priest king (root-word is wisdom, knowledge "Tud, Tut"
Magoch Magus, Magian priest (root-word magia=bonfire)
Bacsa,Baksa Priest of crafts, science
Harsány Priest of song and ceremonies
Arbis Priest of medicine (modern "doctor"=Orvos)
Barus,Rasdi Priest of magic (modern Varázs)
Garabonciás Priest of storm black magic. (from Kara-pan)

The name of the "bonfire" or the sacred flame of old, remains as Magia in modern Hungarian, recalling the old Magus priests who maintained the sacred flames.

The most typical Hungarian word for a church (not used by Catholics) is even today called Egy-ház, which in a simplistic way is translated as the house of ONE. However this same word EDGY or ÜGY is also holy in meaning and the word for GOD in Hungarian IS-TEN is also related to the universal ONE god, since in Babylon and Persia also a special word described the universal ONE as ISTEN (Babylon) and YSTEN (Persia). Hungarian legends all state that they came from the borderlands of Persia. This word ISTEN is not Persian in origin as far as I know. It can be best explained with Sumerian from the word ASH-TEN (first/one creator). The TEN word means godly spirit in the other Altaic languages also, and perhaps they passed the word even to the Chinese as the word for heaven "tien". The word is also found in early Parthian as shown by an inscription on one of their temples to the goddess Nana. (N.N. Y.S.T.N.) It was the Parthians and not the Persians who ruled during the time of Christ, and from their territory came the three wise men.

The Creator God

The chief god and creator of the world therefore was called ISTEN and is still the Hungarian word for God. Today it is still used in the neighborhood of Persia, by the Kurds according to some tourists. I don't know the circumstances of the usage, as it may be just a special title there.

The IS-TEN word is based on the archaic variation of the word for first & ancestor. Elso =As,es while first Os,us =ancestor.. as the ancestor of everything, the creator. The word Iz/is can also mean fiery. Ten can be related to the word TENY-esz meaning to breed, genetically manipulate, ...create new life forms.

Other references to the name ISTEN for god found in Manfred Lurker's, Lexicon der Gotter und Demonen, Stutgard, 1904.

ISTEN or ISDEN in Egypt a god related to TOTH (scribe and wisdom), in the later's aspect as cynocephalus hamadryas./?/ In Hungarian TUD also means knowledge.

ISTANU was the Hittite sun-god, the Hattic form is ESTAN (=sunday). One of his main attributes is a winged sun as part of his head-dress.

ISTEN; Supreme god of the Hungarians. Among his attributes; the arrow, the Tree, the Horse.

Other important titles of God are "creator", TEREM-tö" based on the root word TEREM, for creation, grow and flourish. Certain Finno- Ugrian tribes also use the TAREM word for the name of their chief god of heaven. While linguists may still be arguing about the original and common Finn-Ugor meaning of the root word, it is quite obvious in Hungarian. The name can be found as far east as the name of the Tarim Basin in western China and in India as the name of the Tree of Life among the Dravidian language family. In Sumerian his name Darama, was one of the titles of the god of knowledge and creator of many plants, better known as ENKI. In the Middle Ages a variation of this "pagan" god(?) DOROMO,DRUMO was made a devil by the Christian church, all the more so since its ancient dwelling according to the Sumerians was the deep subteranean waters. His son Saba (Hungarian Csaba) or Dumuzi (Hungarian Damacsek) was also retained in the early Pagan Szekely-Hungarian chronicle, as the god to which Csaba prayed to before returning to Scythia with his Hun army..

In old stories god is often described as living in the 7th heavens, in a golden kingdom. However he does interact with this world and he sometimes hurls great stones to earth "stones of heaven=menykö, or in anger may shoot his arrows down to earth "god's arrow =istennyila". Fires started from such lightning bolts were the source of the sacred flames tended by priests.

The best explanation I ever saw for the Hungarian name of God came from Persia, which was quite precise and closer to the original meaning than today's Christianized form. It describes the perfect unity, self generated, not constituted of matter but ethereal, the uncreated creator of all. This comes from the archaic Yzdan-ite holy book the Dab-Istan, a religion which is pre-Persian.

While the Hungarians of the 10th century were monotheists in the sense that there was one god to which all was subservient, they also had memories of more archaic times, and these ancient gods were over time made to be angels, nymphs, heroes and devils, due sometimes to the influence of their newer religion.

One of the most beneficial of the ancient goddesses was called by several names:

Nagy Asszony meaning Great Queen.

Boldog Asszony meaning Bountiful & Glad Queen.

Baba meaning midwife, but also meaning God in some isolated Hungarian communities in the Carpathians.(Csango dialects)

In the lowlands of the Hungarian plains, the mirage of the sun is also called Déli Báb, the noonday BAB, the feminine mate of the Sun which is typically translated as FATA MORGANA.

She was the benefactor of marriages, childbirth, agriculture. These I believe were though to be the same, however they may have been differentiated in the distant past. The term "Boldog Asszony" was a predominantly associated with marriage and childbirth, and some women in the Hungarian city of Szeged still worshipped her in recent times after their childbirth and there are many folk customs associated with her, including the birthing bed. Her day is Tuesday, when women were warned not to wash or dirty the water. Apparently she was associated with fresh water also, like the eastern Scythian Anahita the source of fresh waters.

She was also associated with agriculture as many Hungarian folk holidays of Boldog Asszony are agriculturally named, and have nothing to do with Christianity. She was included into Hungarian Catholicism to ease the way to conversion, as the grandmother of Christ and today there are many hymns to her. In the east the Manichean religion also had a pure goddess of Joy, called RAM-ratuk. (RAMA=Hungarian OROM).

Historical association of the names show that these are early Mesopotamian in origin. For example the goddess of birth and fertility in Sumerian was called BAU meaning bounty, while DUG also meant gladness. From this one can readily get BODOG, which also means gladness in Hungarian while just BÖ means bounty.

The other title "Asszony" means queen in early 10th century Hungarian. Today it means lady. This word also is most closely associated with early Elamite, the neighbors of the Sumerians where USAN (ref. DS109,L301) means goddess. The same word in Sumerian of the Emesal dialect is GASAN meaning queen, lady (ref. G182). The chief Sumerian dialect Emegir uses the term NIN for lady, which is also still used in Hungarian Neni (lady, aunt..). The Accadians also borrowed it as ASATU meaning just wife (?). Persian also uses a more distorted form of the word, derived from the aboriginals of Iran, the Elamites. Often linguists state that Hungarians obtained the word from Iranians, who only got it from their aboriginals, whose language is much closer related to Hungarian than Persian was.

In Babylonian mythology BAU was also the wife of Nimrud which was a chief god at one period, hence the important Assyrian city of Nimrud. In Hungarian mythology he is not a god but a mythical ancestor of several nations, including Hungarians, Scythians and Iranians, who according to Hungarian traditions lived 201 years after the flood. That would make him a Pre-Sumerian king, possibly Elamite. (Elamites, Medes, Parthians? rather then Persians proper.) Hungarians including their neighbors all had stories of a mythical giant ancestor (like Nimrud) to whom they gave respect. Finnish Veine_MONEN while the Sabir Huns also had a giant ancestor. So it is no wonder that when they became Christians the NIMRUD name was adopted instead of the NEMERE name, which is often the name of the wild wind in Transylvania. The original Sumerian NINURTA or NIMURTA was also the wild southern wind, and the god of war. But Hungarian Chroniclers sometimes called him by his Scythian or Greek name Heracles, which the Romans took over as Hercules. This name also is from the east.

The chief holidays of Boldogaszony, the mother-goddess, was Christmas, which in Hungarian is called Kara'chon, a word also borrowed by Russians, Rumanians, Slovaks from the early eastern horsemen for Christmas. It means the new year, turning point of the sun. However if one takes notice of pronunciation distortions then Kara-acsony/aszony is another way of saying Nagy-Aszony, the name of the Great Queen, to which the Sun God Mithra sacrifices the bull at the end of the year, to free the sun. The earliest references to "Karácson" is from Iran, where January was called "Karasanaj" in early ancient references. "Kara/Kora" is root word for big in Hungarian found in composite words only. (me- kora=how big).

In Hungarian Mythology Boldog Aszony had seven daughters, who brought good things to mankind. In Assyrian/Babylonian mythology she was called Bau or ANUTA, which was the same as the mythical wife of Nimrud in Hungarian mythology ENETH, who also had 7 daughters.. the 7 days of the week. Whereas Nimrud ruled over 365 kings.. the days of the year as the Babylonian sun god.

TÜNDÉR

The ancient angels in Hungarian mythology became nymphs and special aerial phenomenon's under Christian influence. These are called TÜN- DÉR. The word relates to the Altaic languages TEN-GRI and Sumerian DIN-GIR.. the lesser gods of the Sumerians of Messopotamia. The queen of the "nymphs" which were often associated with heaven and wet places, mountains etc. was the beautiful "Tündér-ILONA", who often was represented by the swan in Hungarian fairy tales. This could be a variation of the Parthian and Mesopotamian NANA or Sumerian goddess Dingir-INANA, the daughter of the Moon, who was the young goddess of the heavens and also at times was warlike, and a seductress. Sometimes she is called szép-aszony meaning beautiful queen, in Hungarian.

In Mesopotamia she was at times the wife of the god of vegetation and shepherds DAMUZIG/SAB in Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology. The old Hungarian word for shepherd is CHABA just as in many Altaic languages still use the word CHOBAN, which is SIPAD in Sumerian. Dumuzi or SABA, was also the Sumerian god of the rebirth of spring, and shepherds and is the source of the Hungarian word for Spring TAVAS. (MU often changes to V in Hungarian) from the later form of DUMUZI which became TAMUZ, in later Mesopotamian usage.

References for information on Hungarian Mythology


Kandra Kabos, "Magyar Mythologia", Eger, 1897

Ipolyi Arnold, "Magyar Mythologia", Pest, 1854

Dr Zakar András, "A Szumér Hitvilág és a Biblia", 1973 (2nd publishing)

Dr Varga Zsigmond, "Az Ösmagyar Mitologia Szumir és Ural-Altáji Öröksége", San Francisco, 1956.

Dr Bobula Ida, " The Great Stagg, A "Sumerian divinity", reprint from Ancient and Medieval History,
University of Buenos Aires, 1953?

Albert Wass, "Selected Hungarian Legends", Astor, Florida 1971.

Dömötör Tékla, "Régi és mai magyar népszokások", Budapest 1986

Lászlö Gyula, "Régészeti Tanulmányok- Az életfa és az ösi istenasszony", Budapest.

Jankovics Marcel, "Csillagok között fényességes csillag - A szent László legenda és a csillagos ég", Budapest 1987.