Tag Archives: Hungary

Crowning the Queen of May

Bring flowers of the fairest,
Bring flowers of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;

Every mid-to-late May at my Catholic school we would host a mass run by the students called the May Crowning, where Mary, Queen of Heaven was crowned with flowers donated by parishioners and carried up to the altar by us. Given that my birthday was also in May (my favorite month) and Mary was already an important figure in my life it was one of the only masses that I actually cared about and paid attention to (the other was Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve). I was eager to be one of the students specially selected to carry the flower offerings to her statue and hold the candles to her honor. Some years I was lucky enough to do just that, other years I would look on in mild envy as I tried to praise her in song instead. Normally, due to my hearing impairment affecting my speech, I was discouraged from speaking at mass or singing, but during that mass I didn’t care if anyone heard me. I worked hard to memorize the songs for the mass and damn it I’m was gonna sing. I can still recite “Bring Flowers of the Rarest” by heart.

The Marian cult remains a constant, albeit a background, holdover from my Catholic childhood, a reminder of the few good things from the Church that I experienced. God was this abstract, formless being that was referred to, and used, as a hyper-masculine entity, but Mary was real. She had a form, she was once human like us, had to be strong in the face of her son’s torture and death, and then she became the eternal Queen of all of freaking HEAVEN. You don’t hear about Jesus being the King of Heaven nearly as much; King of Jews maybe, but not King of Heaven. In addition, she’s been named in various incarnations as the Queen of several countries, the supreme spiritual being of the entire nation for all its inhabitants, with no Kingly counterpart. Yet, for all her power she was still accessible and could relate to humans, constantly appearing to us and giving us tools to connect to her. She was real, God wasn’t.

Our full hearts are swelling,
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

At least, that’s how it felt for me. Many people use her as an example of being a meek, quietly devoted mother and wife, something all women should aspire to be, and I don’t blame people for being uncomfortable with Mary as a result. The Church is inherently anti-feminist, so naturally their depiction of Mary follows suit. But for all the attempts by the Church to keep her in a generic box and control her image she just couldn’t be contained. Her cult developed in hundreds of different manifestations, absorbing remnants of pagan cults and deities, and she become the most popular saint in the world. The Church tries to regulate them all but like anything else they’re never fully successful. The May Crowning event is one such manifestation, born out of (presumably) Italian folk customs some 2-3 centuries ago that had since been recognized and spread to some Catholic regions, including some parishes in North America. It used to refer to the Crowning of Mary feast day, which occurred on May 31, but in 1954 that was changed to August 22 and the May Crowning tradition became a separate semi-official event. Nowadays the May Crowning can occur anytime during May, and the entire month is dedicated to her as well.

Queen Mary, in her incarnation as Nagy Boldogasszony-Queen of Hungary, retains a place in my ancestor shrine. She is a homage to my immediate ancestors, who have been Austrian and Hungarian Catholics for at least 6 generations (most likely much longer than that), as well as my distant ones with her possible pagan origins as a “birth and fertility goddess“. In that same pagan context she’s also the one I honor during planting, harvests, and family-specific events. Since old Magyar traditions beyond 1000 years ago are scanty and speculative at best, and Christianity already existed as one of many regional influences on Magyar culture(s), it is difficult to tell where the Catholic beliefs begin and the pagan ones end. Recorded folk traditions are likely a combination of both and that’s the assumption I rest most of my customs on. My worldview is pagan, but my traditions are a syncretic blend of the folk Catholicism I was raised in (which is inherently syncretic already) and the pagan customs of my heritage. Keeping Queen Mary as a presence in my life just seems to fit.

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Art by Réka Somogyi

~~~~~~~

Sources

Coronation of the Virgin: Wikipedia

Coronation of Mary: Jean Frisk

May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Wikipedia

The goddess of birth and fertility: Fred Hamori

“Flowers of the Rarest”: Wikipedia

 

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Arany Atyácska, Hajnal Anyácska

Golden Father and Dawn Mother

Screenshot of the divine parents of the Sun God from the movie Fehérlófia. They don't match the description exactly but this movie has influenced much of my imagination and I can't help but be reminded of this scene whenever I think of the Mother and Father.

Screenshot of the divine parents of the Sun God from the movie Fehérlófia. They don’t match the description exactly but this movie has influenced much of my imagination and I can’t help but be reminded of this scene whenever I think of the Mother and Father.

Symbols: Stars, Universe, Time, Weaving, Milky Way, Mountains, Auroras

Colors: Black, White, Gold, Silver, Dark blue

There is no earth yet anywhere, but in the immeasurable heights, Above in his golden house, sits the great heavenly father on his golden throne.

He is the old, white haired and white bearded God of eternity. On his black robes there are thousands of sparkling stars. Besides him sits his wife, the Great Heavenly Mother. On her white robes (palast) there are thousands of sparkling stars. She is the ancient material of which everything is made. They have existed from eternity in the past and will exist for all eternity to come.

– Excerpt from the “Hungarian Myth of Creation”

These are the shapers of the universe, the origin of all that we see and know. I imagine them as the mountains rising in the distance, melding into the heavens, the aurora borealis, and the stars themselves. These two are a more abstract than the other deities because they act in a more pantheistic manner, particularly if you take the “ancient material of which everything is made” descriptor literally. If they make everything, then they are everywhere, and if they’re eternal, then they’re always everywhere. So there’s really no discreet deity to reference, other than the symbolic titles and descriptors that are mentioned in the passage. Therefore I consider these deities to be outside of our world, impersonal and not in contact with us in the way we are in contact with other beings. In a way though, one could consider contact with anyone and anything else to be contact with Them as well, but either way it’s an abstract extreme rather than something in the middle of the contact spectrum that defines most of our relationships.

Humans often see the world from the inside-out, laying over their immediate family structure and immediate surroundings over the rest of the universe, presumably because it makes sense of things the best. Most ancient people, at least among the regular population, were family-based rather than individual-based, and one is defined by their family rather than just themselves. Following the strong historical importance of families and clans I am not surprised that the Source of all is understood as a Mother and Father duo, as those are the traditional starters for a family, that then develops into a clan. Everything that exists could be the “descendents”, therefore  it’s all part of the same overall clan.

Images that remind me of them:

Milky Way over Lavaredo by Luca Cruciani

Winter’s Dream by Amanda Jane Clark

Uranus by vkacademy

Creation of Earth by Sukharev

 ~~~

Sources

Fehérlófia. video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cRfmAMdIeM

Magyar, Adorjan. Excerpt of the legend of creation from the Hungarian saga: The Saga of the Legend of the Stag. http://users.cwnet.com/millenia/creation.htm

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Day 11: Pantheon – Overview

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you’ll know that I look into a variety of neighboring cultures in Central and Eastern Europe, with greater emphasis on Magyar cultures (and it’s influences) because there’s so little known about its pre-Christian past compared to Germanic or Slavic cultures.  This mixture applies to the gods as well. Even if I have names, there’s little to no explanations or descriptions for many gods so I have to fill in the blank so to speak with concepts from possible cognate gods and with my own UPG. So while I do prefer to make things as historical as possible, and I base as much as possible in evidence presented by literature and archeology, there are some things that are gonna be major UPG here to at least keep things making sense for me.

Explanation on the cosmology structure can be found here. It’s essentially a World Tree structure, growing out of a giant deer skull. The Upper World is the crown, the Middle World the trunks and surface roots, and Underworld is below the surface deep into the skull. Surrounding this is the ancient sea, creating an island of sorts out of the skull and tree, and is ringed by mountains on the horizon. Surrounding all this are the Mother and Father of all, being both the material and the makers of all that is and will be.

The Origin

Arany Atyácska (Golden Father), Hajnal Anyácska (Dawn Mother)

Mother Danube (the Primordial Waters)

Upper World

  • Sunna (The Sun)
  • Napkirály (King of the Sun)
  • Mano (The Moon)
  • Hold Anya (Lady of the Moon)
  • Turul (Heavenly Messenger)

Middle World

  • Nagy Boldogasszony (Queen Mother)
  • Szélkirály (King of the Wind and Rain)
  • Hadúr (King of War)
  • Csodaszarvas (Miraculous Doe)
  • Tündér Ilona (Queen of Fairies)
  • Tabiti/Kresnik (Hearth Fire/Sacred Fire)
  • Fra Berta (The Bright One)
  • Volos/Zomok (The Serpent God)
  • House and Nature wihts
  • Ancestors

Underworld

  • Ördög (King of the Dead)
  • Wihts of bad things

I’m going to be giving each one here a post (if I haven’t already) with my own understandings and associations, that way their roles will (hopefully) become clearer.

I also want to point out that the high gods are primarily Magyar ones, but the lower gods and mythologies are what I tend to associate with more Germanic and Slavic wihts (along with some Ho-Chunk and other Great Lakes tribes’ wihts, since I live in their area). This is the pattern I tend to find when researching Hungarian stories and culture, where the more formal sagas are distinctly Magyar, while the informal tales feel Slavic.

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Day 7: Holidays

Slowly but surely we’re chugging along with the 30 days of Paganism meme, and this is one of my favorite topics to talk about!!

I love personal calendars, especially when you start seeing how they evolve according to one’s environment and home culture. Mine is no exception, as it’s a blend of Pagan and Catholic traditions from the ancestral lands carried into the US. Due to my currently solitary nature, continuous research, and the fact that changes in life are prone to happening, my calendar is tentative rather than being hard and fast (despite having specific dates listed), and is not entirely religious in nature.

Winter

wordpress winter

  • Feast of the Dead (October 31-November 2)
    • A mixture of US Halloween festivities and the more solemn ancestor worship of European All Soul’s Day, where ghosts and spirits are awoken and the ancestors return. The growing season has officially ended.
    • Honors: Ancestors
  • Harvest Celebrations (Late November)
    • These are usually several family-oriented days (including US Thanksgiving) that center around gratitude for the last of the harvest. Usually by this point all the native plant species have gone dormant for the winter, and the migratory birds have past. Deer hunting season traditionally occurs this time as well.
    • Honors: Nagy Boldogasszony
  • Krampus Night/St. Nick’s Day (December 5-6)
    • A fun little Christmas holiday where the kids leave out their clean shoes in anticipation of some goodies from St. Nick. A holdover from family traditions.
  • Green Sunday (1st week of December)
  • Copper Sunday (2nd week of December)
  • Silver Sunday (3rd week of December)
  • Gold Sunday (4th week of December)
    • These Sundays are a holdover from Advent, as mini-celebrations in anticipation of Karascunt and the Rough Nights. Due to the names I also use the days to reference a corresponding Magyar deity (Copper – Hadúr, Silver – Szélkirály, Gold – Napkirály)
  • Karascunt (December 21/22)
    • Winter Solstice festival full of fire, drink, and merryment to celebrate Csodaszarvas carrying the Sun over the river to begin the year anew and overcome the darkness. First day of the Rough Nights. Spinning stops by this night.
    • Honors: Csodaszarvas
  • Bertchten Day (January 5-6)
    • This day ends the Rough Nights and the new year begins. The sun finally overcame the darkness and the light continues to grow in strength. Spinning chores resume. Also known as Twelfth Night (evening of Jan. 5)
    • Honors: Fra Berta/Lutzl (though she is also associated with all 12 of the Rough Nights)
  • Day of the Bear (February 2)
    • Midwinter celebration in anticipation of the season’s end. The Bear awakes and bring with it the first hints of life and hope in a time where patience and food stores are wearing thin. “Spring cleaning” and purification processes occurs at this time. Winter expulsion begins.
    • Honors: Szélkirály
  • Zöldágjárás (usually mid-late March)
    • First hints of life appears in the trees and shrubs, and the initial bits of greenery is brought inside to continue the purification process. Boughs of greenery are formed into arches and wreathes for women and children to dance under, and boys splash water on girls (purity and fertility rite, most likely). Birds are migrating back at this time.
  • Fruit-grafting day (March 25)
    • Fruiting tree branches that are starting to bud are grafted and hopefully successful. Several traditions regarding death and fertility surround this day as it is also the Catholic holiday of Mary’s conception of Jesus.
    • Honors: Nagy Boldogasszony
  • Walpurgis Night (April 30)
    • Winter expulsion ends, compelling the ghosts and ancestors back to sleep. Most migratory birds have returned and begun their breeding season.

Summer

wordpress summer

  • May Day (May 1)
    • Summer begins. The fields and markets are readied for the growing season.
  • May Crowning (May, usually mid-to-late May)
    • Fields are cleared and sown, and seedlings transplanted, as the risk of frost is gone by this time. First harvest occurs around this time (depending on what plants are growing). Leaves have returned to the trees. Flowers are offered to the Queen of May by young girls.
    • Honors: Nagy Boldogasszony
  • Szentiván-éj (June 24)
    • A summer solstice celebration of fire, successful crop growth, and remembering the ancestors. Peak growth and first major harvests are occurring around this time. Apples are served to the fire and to the graves.
    • Honors: Csodaszarvas
  • Goldenrod Days (late September-early October)
    • A completely made-up period surrounding the autumn equinox to mark Summer drawing to a close. The Goldenrod flowers are in their full, yellow bloom, as if they absorbed part of the sun and took away some of its vigor. Apples are harvested at this time, and the birds are undergoing their fall migration.
    • Honors: Volos/Zomok

*Deities and their associations here will be discussed further in later posts of this meme. Some associations are traditional, some are not. Those with / between two names refer to the same being.

**The inconsistency of the names is due to some English counterparts being too vague to be a useful label, so the source culture’s holiday words are used instead to refer to their specific traditions that I observe (i.e. “Karascunt” in place of “Winter Solstice”). Exception being Zöldágjárás since there is no English counterpart in existence.

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Being Heathen

It’s a term that can be seen throughout my posts, both in reference to myself and to the contemporary religious category. If you try to google it, you end up with a variety of definitions, ranging from the archaic to the racist, and many with conflicting viewpoints.

So what do I mean when I say I’m Heathen?

  • Worldview, traditions, and ideas are rooted in historical, archeological, folkloric, and linguistic evidence for pre-Christian cultures. Experimentation and UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) are individual, private, and secondary in “truthfulness”. Even then, the UPG should still be rooted in something factual rather than be completely made up or ripped from an unrelated topic or group.
  • Ancestor veneration is central to my personal practice, particularly of the female ones (known as the itis).
  • The home or hearth is the center of my universe so to speak, both in a literal and symbolic sense (the physical home and the friends/family symbolically allowed within it). Relative to the home are concentric circles extending outward from it; the further away one is from my “home” the less of a personal connection they have to me.
  • Deity veneration, with few exceptions, is a communal practice*, and patron deities are extremely rare. If one has a personal relationship with a deity, they are considered to be pledged to the deity, not patronized by them.
  • Local spirits can also venerated as gods and/or respected as neighbors and stewards (local meaning both those considered local to my ancestors as well as physically local to where I live).
  • Wihts (“beings”) have various levels of interactions and importance, with the general trend being the high gods at the top-level of importance (they are relevant to many people/rule over a large region/rule over a major function) and everything else is below (more localized to my area/my personal life). The high gods also have the least amount of interaction with me, while the lower tiers have more (i.e. the ancestors).
  • Celebrations are rooted in the seasons, holy days, and local community activities, rather than astronomical cycles.
  • World-accepting rather than world-rejecting. To put it bluntly, “what you see is what you get”, there is no guarantee of a pretty afterlife or chance of reincarnation to make up for this life, therefore I live as if they don’t exist at all.
  • Magic is the realm of certain few individuals and is meant to be practical in nature, rooted in the ancient drive to survive. It can be used to help or harm (often it can be both).
  • Actions make the person, and every action has consequences.
  • Luck is a serious matter, as it can be handed down unintentionally through generations and be modified by one’s own actions for better or for worse.

Keep in mind that this is a general framework based on Reconstructionist heathen ideas, and the generalities are only similarities I appear to share with other heathens. Where I deviate is my source material, as my personal heathen practice is rooted in the cultural traditions and beliefs from (primarily) Eastern Austria, Hungary, and (secondarily) Southern Poland (and their respective sources). Hence the reference to the Danube in the blog title/address and my uncommon mythological references (the Magyar gods instead of Scandinavian ones for example). The names for my “religion” can also be called ősi hit or firner situ (both translate into “old beliefs”/”old customs”).

*This is an ideal based on how it was done in the past; many heathens like myself are forced to go it alone and therefore unable to practice communal worship, even though we would like to.

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The Longest Night

Oh wondrous headed doe, with horns of a thousand branches and knobs
Thousand branches and knobs and of a thousand bright candles
Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun
On it’s forehead there is a star, on it’s chest the moon
And it starts along the banks of the shining heavenly Danube
That it may be the messenger of heaven and bringer of news
About our creator and caring god

-Hungarian Christmas ballad

Today is the day Csodaszarvas carries the sun over the river to begin the year anew. Happy Solstice everyone!

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Honoring the Doe in the Hunt

Hunor and Magor hunting the White Stag, one of the more familiar Hungarian stories that has been told in a variety of ways over time. Art (c) Gyula László

So I’ve been thinking about hunting, particularly deer hunting, after experiencing the excitement around opener this previous November. I grew up near Chicago, so while hunting does occur there, it’s smaller and gets obscured by lots of other events in the same area. Where I’m at now in Wisconsin is more rural, so lots of things are different for me (and yet, a lot isn’t so different).

Opener refers to the opening of the deer hunting season that has become probably the biggest event next to football games. People go to bed early and wake up at an ungodly hour to bundle up and drive to hunting grounds all over the state, but especially the north. Once they get there they usually sit on their asses in the freezing cold hoping to get aim at a beautiful buck (but a doe is not safe from hunters either). Thanksgiving is especially enjoyed, as the hunters can come home to a glorious feast and pass out, even if they didn’t get anything that day.

Now let me clarify that this only refers to a season using firearms. Full deer hunting encompasses multiple seasons throughout fall and winter, with the differences being weapons (firearm vs archery), deer classification (antler presence and form, age, sex), and in my region’s case, managing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). On top of that, different states can have different regulations, and even individual counties can pass further regulations depending on the human population sizes (obviously not gonna be hunting in a large city like Chicago, but surrounding areas are fine, and more urbanized areas prefer archery to firearms).

Pretty complicated, right? Don’t worry, there’s more! Deer hunting (in Wisconsin at least) is a major political issue at the state-level. If a candidate for office even thinks about making the slightest restriction to accessing deer then they’ve already lost. It’s that big of a deal to people, causing a constant avalanche of hate directed towards people who try to manage deer herds, primarily the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Which is hilarious because the white-tail deer are not supposed to be here; there are more deer in Wisconsin than ever. While it’s wonderful that the deer bounced back from an endangered status last century, the sad fact is that they are constantly starving now. This drives them to strip bare native trees and saplings, ultimately destroying the understory of the threatened northern forests. These forests are where we get our maple syrup and logging from, but short of getting rid of most of the deer (along with buckthorns, earthworms, and all the other invasive species, both native and exotic), they’re pretty much dead forests in many places. They just don’t know they’re dead yet.

You may be wondering by now why I am explaining all of this to you. As you might remember from other posts, I honor a manifestation of a deer deity called Csodaszarvas (“Miraculous deer”, the term “szarvas” refers to both sexes, though I refer only to the female use due to the primary art/literature depictions). This carries through a fondness that I have for real-life deer of my region, the White-tailed deer, and the constant balancing act of life vs. death. Cultures all over the world have numerous, seemingly contradictory rules for treatment of deity-associated animals. You don’t hunt the animal, you do hunt it but only in a certain way, you can eat the flesh if it died on its own, or you don’t touch it under any circumstances.

What is my rule? I’m not sure. I have some basic ideas (no killing of albino or leucistic individuals, respect all animals in life and death by not torturing them, no trophies), but not a complete structure. There is no traditional rule available to me because I’m essentially reconstructing a new tradition out of remnants of my heritage, so I have to decide on my own. My meals are mostly vegetarian for monetary purposes (eggs are cheaper and quicker to eat) but I have eaten venison and concluded that it’s delicious. Given how deer (and other cervids) have been important sources of food for people throughout time, particularly in the winter, I’ve suspected that the recognition of deer and deer-like deities across cultures are because of their great importance as game. Food is central to any culture, so by proxy the deer are central as well.

In addition, there are now environmental concerns for many deer-heavy locations like the ones described earlier. Usually there are multiple predators, but now only humans remain. On one hand I find the idea of being in such a position of power, like a steward or a ruler, both offensive and full of hubris on part of us humans. We should no more be a steward than a beaver or a butterfly. But on the other hand, there’s really no choice if we want to maintain what we have left. We just can’t seem to agree on how to best do it (coupled with the fact that some people simply don’t WANT to do it). Stepping in as a predator for certain species seems to be the only choice left, otherwise they continue to starve to death en masse, taking many other species down with them.

It is also not universally clear on how the rules came about. There are some stories that depict the god themselves saying “don’t eat this!”, but the rest of them it’s a custom without a source. I suspect that hints (perhaps not so subtle ones) were given along the way when people ate a particular animal, resulting in bad luck for those who ate them. Given how often deer is eaten as a central part of a diet (particularly for winter diets when food is more scarce), and that I’ve experienced no bad luck or negative feelings since eating venison myself, I feel that eating deer flesh is not taboo for Csodaszarvas. The taboo, if one exists, would likely be for the treatment of the animal. Figuring out the particulars (aside from my basic respect for death in all animals) is something that will have to happen in the future, when I take up hunting for myself. I trust Csodaszarvas to guide me through her wishes when that happens.

Funny how this post was started at the very first of November, but didn’t finish until now, on Candlemas eve. Perhaps there’s some deeper meaning to it, but I’m sure the reality is that I just get lazier in winter.

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