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One of the purposes of this study is to outline the research problem related to the wizard called táltos and a hypothesized shamanism in the pagan, pre-Christian religion of the Hungarians. Another purpose is to present the results of new research on this issue. The first part of the study is the analysis of the activities of a weather wizard called táltos from the 16th to the 21st century, as well as its related beliefs and narrative motifs. Then I present the process in the course of which researchers of the pre-Christian pagan “ancient religion” – Gyula Sebestyén, Géza Róheim, Sándor Solymossy, Vilmos Diószegi and others – created the fictitious construct of the táltos and reconstructed the Conquest-era shaman in line with the model compiled from the attributes of shamanism of various periods and various peoples. The criticism of Vilmos Diószegi’s construct of the táltos is followed by the introduction of new research results. Their main points: modern táltos beliefs and narratives show many correlations with Balkan – especially Bulgarian – folk beliefs and folk epics. The táltos and táltos-epics show the closest correlation with the beliefs of Bulgarian dragon-men who were fathered by a dragon or eagle and born with wings or other animal traits, as well as with the adventures of heroes of epic songs who slay the dragons of the underworld and are protected by the spirit of the eagle, dragon, rooster, crane, etc. We also need to consider the infl uences of Slavic storm wizard practices and the werewolf beliefs and narratives of the Balkans. The infl uences of Balkan peoples on Hungarian culture are indubitable, partly the result of the Bulgaro-Turkic relations between the 5th and 9th centuries and partly the consequences of Slavic relations after the Conquest. It is likely that at the time of the Hungarian Conquest, there was a weather magic practice similar to those of the Balkan dragon-men, as well as a weather wizard called táltos. However, the construct of the research tradition represented by Diószegi must be refuted: there is no evidence of a shaman-táltos similar to the “classic” Eurasian shaman who was initiated in the world tree and established contact with the spirit world through a ritual performance, in a drum-induced ecstasy.

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The paper discusses the question of the existence of Hungarian fairy magicians. Fairy magicians is a term to denote magicians who sustain a mediating connection with the fairy other world. One type of Hungarian fairies, usually called a szépasszony (fair woman), is closely related to the fairy world of the Balkans. The paper also analyses the way in which fairy beliefs radiated from the Balkans toward Hungary. The question is whether along with the fairy beliefs and narratives the Hungarians also appropriated the various methods of mediating communication with the fairies. In the light of a few recently published data and of recently discovered historical documents it can be stated that at least two types of Hungarian magicians (healers and weather magicians) as protégés and initiates of the fairies, did exist. There are a number of questions that can be answered better now than earlier, although even the totality of the old and the new data do not allow for a full reconstruction of the presumed system of Hungarian fairy magicians. However, the new data have outlined the geographic area where it is worthwhile to add further fieldwork to the research on contemporary issues. This is the contact zone between Hungarians, Croatians and Slovenians on the south-western borders of the Hungarian speaking area.

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Analyses concerning the gender of the witches in Europe in the 15th-18th centuries show an unanimous female dominance. According to European statistics - as much as it can be reconstructed from the records of the trials - the percentage of men accused of witchcraft was 80-85%. The question “why witches are women” cannot be answered with a simple explanation based on a single factor. The witch-accusations were not homogeneous at all, and, what is more, the concept of the witch was made up of several components in the background of the different witch-types. There are many kinds of social conflicts and ideological clashes acting as factors inducing witch-accusations. These factors emphasize the female side of the witch-stereotype and increase the number of female reputed witches. Thus, in connection with the different types of Early Modern rural witchcraft, the answer to our question is briefly the following: the majority of the witches was woman because the majority of the accusations was based on conflicts that could develop in the female spheres of private and communal life. Another important point is that the accusations were supported by a “female” witch-ideology and mythology: with certain kinds of conflicts and certain witch-types, this female mythology could become in itself a factor inducing witch-accusations. These two “female” factors - the social and ideological incentives of the witch-accusations - could function hand in hand and thus inevitably lead to the female dominance in witch-accusations. The joint functioning of these factors - and their reinforcing effect on each other - resulted in the far higher proportion of female witches.

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Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Éva Pócs
María Palleiro
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