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  • Clive Gilson

The Wind Mother

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Folklore & Fairy Tales from the Magyars (Hungary) - Here we have a rich mine of folk and fairy tales from the Magyar tradition. I’ve taken the following extract from Wikipedia as a starting point for this introduction…


“According to András Rona-Tas the locality in which the Hungarians, the Manicha-Er group, emerged was between the Volga river and the Ural Mountains. Between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, the Magyars embarked upon their independent existence and the early period of the proto-Hungarian language began.


Around 830 AD, when Álmos was about 10 years old, the seven related tribes, namely Jenő, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer Nyék and Tarján formed a confederation in Etelköz, called "Hétmagyar" ("Seven Magyars"). Their leaders, the Seven chieftains of the Magyars, besides Álmos, included Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba and Töhötöm, who took a blood oath, swearing eternal loyalty to Álmos…”


In a simple context, therefore, we have a long Magyar history and a deep well of tales and lore from which to draw.


That tradition is based on early shamanistic beliefs, in which the world is divided into three spheres: the first is the Felső világ (the Upper World), the home of the gods; the second is the Középső világ (The Middle World) or the world we know, and finally there is the Alsó világ (The Underworld).


In the centre of the world stands a tall tree: the Világfa / Életfa (World Tree or Tree of Life), and you’ll see phrases throughout these stories using that concept of the world view as a superlative. From the Világfa’s foliage one enters the Upper World, where the Turul bird dwells on top of all things. The Middle World is located at its trunk and the Underworld is around the tree’s roots. In some stories, the tree has fruit, and you’ll see references to golden apples and pears regularly in these tales.


The gods and the good souls live in the Felső világ. The major celestial bodies, such as the Sun and the Moon, are also located in the Upper World. The sky was thought to be a big tent held up by the Tree of Life. The several holes in it are the stars.


The Középső világ is shared among humans and many mythological creatures, with the latter often being supernatural, such as ghosts of the forests and waters, who are ordered to scare humans. There are females such as the sellő (mermaid), which lives in water and has a human torso with the tail of a fish. The wind is controlled by an old lady called Szélanya (our eponymous Wind Mother) or Szélkirály (Wind King). The Sárkány (dragon) is a frightening beast, who is the enemy of many heroes in these fairy tales, symbolising the psychical inner struggle of the hero. The Sárkány usually has many heads. The lidérc is a ghostly, mysterious creature with several different appearances, and its works are always malicious. The manók (elves / goblins) and the törpék (dwarfs) are foxy beings living in woods or under the ground, while Óriások (giants) live in the mountains. Óriások have both good and bad qualities. Some of the tradition’s favourite creatures are the tündérek (fairies), who are often beautiful young virgins or female creatures, often depicted either as personified purity and innocence, or as playful and foxy. They aid humans, who sometimes can ask three wishes from them. Their opposites are the bábák, who are equated with catty old witches, of whom we meet a good many in these pages.


Research about older Hungarian religion suggests a strong link to Tengrism, which is a shamanistic tradition common among the early Turkic and Mongolian peoples. It is believed that Tengrism was influenced by Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism, all of which the the Huns and Avars had encountered during their westward migration. There are also possible links between the Huns and Scythians in Central Asia as many of their respective legends appear to be extremely similar.


The lead role in Tengrism was typically filled by the táltos, or blessed scholar. Their souls were thought to be able to travel between the three spheres via révülés or meditations. A taltos was selected by fate, often based on slight abnormalities at birth.


They had the ability to contact spirits by specific rituals and praying. Thus, they interpreted dreams, mediated between humans and spirits, cured and removed curses, and had an ability to find and bring back lost souls. They also directed animal sacrifices.


As ever with these collections, they are a delight to read and adapt, so I hope as always, that you find something special here, something to warm a heart by a roaring fireside.

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