Pre-Christian Magyar religion

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,852
Blachernai
#1
I've been looking around a bit on the pre-Christian religion of the Magyars but have not seen much. What is more surprising the concurrent lack of wild speculation on what their religion was. Does anyone know any sources? Were they Tengrist?
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,851
Western Eurasia
#2
Very little definitive is known about it, as with christianization their practices were repressed. Historians can only speculate from the little hints here and there in chronicles, laws, from the Hungarian vocabulary, archeological findings and the later christian era folklore plus they draw conclusions and paralells from the belief systems of other better known Finno-Ugric and Turkic pagan peoples.

Here is a very brief summary in English: Emese Saga though i'm also very sceptical about the mumbo-jumbo it writes about the world tree/tree of life, there is simply no record about that the old Magyars really believed in that.

Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History by Róna Tas András contains a few pages (3-4) about their religion approaching it from a linguistic perspective. it is generally good book and maybe the best in English about early Hungarians.
but one of his etymologies is doubtful, he links the Hungarian name of god (Isten) to a Hatti-Hittite deity (Estanu) without explaining how could it reach us. personally i read more convincing etymologies for it from Iranian yazdan (worthy of worship), but there are also other alternative theories (one links it to the Göktürk ruler Istemi..., other to the hungarian word for ancestor "ős" and so on). but basicly both our word for god (isten) and devil (ördög) are of unknown origin.

just my personal opinion as the pre christian Magyars were a tribal alliance of heterogenous (Uralic, Turkic + some Iranian layers in the pool) origins, their belief system or belief systems could also be heterogenous. There were certainly strong Khazar and/or other Turkic influences on it based on some of our faith related vocabulary (words for witch, wise, spell caster, confess, mourn, eternal etc are Turkic words in Hungarian). The institution of sacral dual monarchy also came from Turkics to Hungarians. but i think the word Tengri itself is not attested among the early Magyars.
There were also certainly totemistic/animistic elements in their beliefs, like the Turul bird (mostly identified with the Saker Falcon/Falco Cherrug) being the mythological ancestor of the Árpád dynasty. Not surprisingly the horse was also very important and there are characteristic partial horse burials next to the buried pagan Magyars. The deer also appears in legend and one of the Hungarian tribes was named Wolf (Kürt/Gyarmat/). Also there is a reference (by Dietmar I of Salzburg) that early Magyars swore oath on dogs and wolves (similar practice was 300 years later also described in detail about the Cumans).
The late 11th century law code of king Ladislaus I (§ 22.) mentions people who according to pagan practice make sacrifices near wells, or they bring gifts to trees, springs and stones.

There is no trace of human sacrifices apart from the mysterious death of Árpád's father (Álmos). there are some speculations that he could be ritually murdered, this could relate to the sacral dual monarchy.

Now these came to my mind, I hope others can give more input what is known about their beliefs and practicies.

I'm personally not familiar with English language literature on pre-Christian Hungarian religion but generally beware of the neo pagan speculative stuff, unfortunetly the net is full of them and their wild theories (starting with Jesus was Hungarian of course :D )
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,851
Western Eurasia
#4

Afrasiyab

Ad Honorem
Sep 2007
6,378
#6
I think Byzantine sources would be more helpful, though they called them Turks in general (i.e., Cumans, Pechenegs).

@Tulun:

Turul (Tuğrul in Turkish) is a name in Turkey, for men though I think it was the name of a bird similar to Phoenix.

I thought Isten WAS Turkic. The closest word we could find in Turkic is Istemi Yabgu, of the Göktürks. His name, Istemi, means the spirit of ancestors. The Hungarian word "ős" rings a bell to the word "öz" in Turkish, meaning "essence".

The Turkic equivalent of Ördöng is Erlik in Turkish (by the way, did you know there was a dinosaur named after Erlik: [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erlikosaurus]Erlikosaurus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame] It's so cool! :)
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,851
Western Eurasia
#8
I think Byzantine sources would be more helpful, though they called them Turks in general (i.e., Cumans, Pechenegs).

@Tulun:

Turul (Tuğrul in Turkish) is a name in Turkey, for men though I think it was the name of a bird similar to Phoenix.

I thought Isten WAS Turkic. The closest word we could find in Turkic is Istemi Yabgu, of the Göktürks. His name, Istemi, means the spirit of ancestors. The Hungarian word "ős" rings a bell to the word "öz" in Turkish, meaning "essence".

The Turkic equivalent of Ördöng is Erlik in Turkish (by the way, did you know there was a dinosaur named after Erlik: Erlikosaurus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia It's so cool! :)
yes the Hungarian Turul is also from the Turkic tuğrul. And yes there is also a theory (by Györffy György) linking Isten to Istemi.
Btw the title yabgu became a personal name in Hungarian, with sound changes became Gyevcha. The pronounciation of this name was wrongly reconstructed to Géza in the 18th century and we kept this wrong pronounciation for daily use. It was the name of the father of Stephen I and also 2 Hungarian kings of the Árpád dynasty.
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,851
Western Eurasia
#9
I wish they had something to say, but it's all very limited. The chapter in DAI is late and not terribly informative.
i checked what does the muslim Jayhani tradition says about the 9th century Hungarians (preserved by ibn Rustah and Gardizi and partly by others) but all what it says about their religion: المجغرية عبدة النيران the Magyars are fire worshippers. in al Bakri's version not fire, but "idol (اوثان) worshippers". But nothing going in details about their religious practices.
 
Mar 2012
1,193
Magdeburg
#10
Werent they worshipping tengri? I know Hungarians were not Turkic but they had damn loads of influence and i think religion was the same as with the mongols and bulgars