Hungary has a rich, deep history, as undulating and enduring as that of the Ancient Greeks and the Bronze Age Celts.
The country was founded by the Huns and the Magyars, tribal factions from the east, long before the seeds of Western Christianity were first sown – and it’s from this period which Hungary’s colourful and fascinating myths and folklore originate.
The Huns and Magyars prospered throughout the Carpathian Basin, a sweeping plateau which stretches along the great River Danube.
For centuries, Hungary’s tribes faced off against Romans from the south and Germanic tribes from the north, establishing an advanced culture whose myths and folkloric traditions were inspired by the nation’s great heroes – from the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars to the eponymous Atilla the Hun.
With the emergence of Western Christianity, however, all this changed. The Conquests of the 11th and 12th centuries saw an eroding of Hungary’s mythological beliefs, as the country was subjected to the near-constant threat of invasion and conquest by its closest rivals.
And so, many aspects of Hungarian folklore were confined to the history books, with the mythological Hun and Magyar belief system being dampened by Hungary’s occupation by Soviet forces in the 20th century.
Since the liberation of Hungary from the Soviet Union, a renewed interest in the country’s early mythology has led to a wealth of new research projects, with the hope that archaeological discoveries could shine a light on Hun and Magyar beliefs.
Now, many folk stories permeate Hungarian culture, and these have had a huge influence on traditional music, costume, dance and theatre.