Minorities Research 1.

Vilmos Tánczos

The Manifestations of “szent” in Traditional Prayers of Moldavia and Gyimes

 According to Catholic theology only God is holy, but through the sanctifying grace his holiness can emanate to other people in the state of grace (saints), to objects metonimically related to them (sacred relics), to places (the Holy Land, the shrines, the church, the altar etc.), to time intervals (holy Christmas, Holy Friday and other sacred days), the religious means of grace (e.g. the seven sacraments). From this aspect everything can be sacred, which the Church sets as an object of veneration. I am also going to use the concept of sacred in this generalised meaning.

 First, on the basis of the results of my field-work, about 500 archaic prayer-texts from Moldavia and Gyimes, I will attempt to define the conceptual areas to which the genre applies the notion of sacred. Because certain forms of worshipping the Holy and the Sacred were developed in more or less definable historical ages all over Europe, the appearance of these forms of worshipping in prayer-texts may serve as points of reference in determining the time when these archaic prayers were created. Furthermore, according to our chosen aspect, we may even have an insight into the genre’s inner evolution to some extent. That is why references will be made, both in religious and in cultural history, to the connections of the worship of the Holy in the prayer-texts. In the second part of my essay I will attempt to get closer to the traditional medieval Hungarian terminology of the conceptual sphere of “szent” (both ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ in this case) on the basis of traditional prayers of the Hungarian-speaking natives of Moldavia (the “Csángó”). Because the presence of Hungarian synonyms of the word “szent”, which has Slavic origin, in prayer-texts proves at first sight the former diffused coexistence of pagan and Christian elements. So it is important to investigate the issue more thoroughly, because from the investigation one can make some points about the ancient Hungarian belief-system and the religious syncretism that followed it. The noticeable changes that occurred in the conceptual fields of “szent” (both ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’) convey much about the nature of the transformation of religious consciousness in the couple of centuries following the Conquest.

I. Manifestations of “szent” (both ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’)

The attribute “holy” only belongs to God himself in the first place: “Szent Isten”, “Szent Atya”, “Szentlélekúristen”, “Szentfelséged”, “Uram Teremtő Isten Őszentfelséged” (Holy God, Holy Lord, Holy Father, Your Holy Highness) but the prayers also refer to Jesus as Mary’s “holy son”: “szent fiadat elfogták”, “hol járál én áldott szent fiam?” (eg.: ~ your holy son was captured. ~ where have you been my blessed, holy son? etc.). Jesus and his Passion are in the centre of archaic prayers, but it is not the only context in which he appears in the prayers: “aranykereszt előtt Világ Ura / jaj úgy sír, úgy sír!”; “közepibe egy oltár, / rajta vala Világ Ura Jézus”; “nyitva látom mennyország kapuját, / küjjel arangyos, belől irgalmas, / rajta üle vala a Világadó Jézus”. (~ before the golden cross, the Lord of the World weeps so much. ~ there is an altar in the middle, the Lord of the World Jesus sits on it. ~ I see the gates of Heaven open, gilded on the outside, merciful on the inside, and Jesus sits on that.).

While the attribute “világ” (both ‘world’ and ‘light’ in archaic Hungarian) connected to Jesus’ name, occurs only in a few prayers’ visionary imagery, it is still evident though, that Jesus appears there as some kind of a cosmic creator deity, as if he were related to “the Creator”, the highest deity called “Atyám Teremtőm” (~ “My Creator Father”). The origins of such a representation of the second divine person have not yet been found. We may suspect the survival of some notions of the ancient religion or the spiritual influence of the Bogomil heretics behind the phenomenon.

The third divine person’s name, which only occurs in the following forms: “Szentlélek Isten”, “Szentlélek Úristen” and “Szentlélek” (~ “Holy Spirit God”; “Holy Spirit Lord”; “Holy Spirit”) could appear in the traditional prayer-texts as a result of religious teachings about the Holy Trinity. On the basis of still collectable sacred texts from Moldavia, it seems demonstrable that the medieval Church, which had been fighting against the pagan belief-system in order to transform it, attempted to spread and strengthen the monotheist concept of God and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by circulating prayers, hymns and catechism-texts in the mother-tongue, translated from Latin: “Dicsüség legyen Istennek, / Atya, Fiú, Szentléleknek / egyenlő három személjnek, / egy állotu örök istenségnek.”; “Hiszek egy Istenbe, / bizom egy Istenbe, / az az egy bizott Isten /lakójzék lelkembe.”; “Gyónom Uram Egyistennek…” (~ Glory to God, to Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, the three equal persons and the one eternal deity. ~ I believe in one God, trust in one God, that one trusted God should live in my soul. ~ I confess to my one and only Lord…) etc…

According to Zsuzsa ERDÉLYI, the catechisms might turn into prayers too, and the prayer-texts explaining the Holy Trinity could recall distant exercises of religious education. It seems that the traditional prayers are attempting to summarise items of past catechisms. For example in the following Transdanubian text: “Hány az Isten állatjában? / Három személyben. / Atyaisten, Fiúisten, Szentlélekúristen. / Minek híjják az Istent? Miatyánkisten.” (~ How many is God in his animal? Three persons: Father-god, Son-god, Holy Spirit-god. What is the name of God? Our Father God). (see ERDÉLYI 1976: 658-659.)

Here we can only mention, that the terms “Szentlélek”, “Szentlélek Isten”, “Szentlélek Úristen”, that frequently occur in traditional prayers, have religious, and certainly not folk, origins.

The figure of the Holy Mother, Mary (“Szűz Mária”), searching for her son and then mourning him, is almost always present in the archaic prayers about the Passion. In traditional prayers Virgin Mary is referred to as being “szent” (‘holy’, ‘sacred’, ‘saint’) in the following expressions: “Szent Boldog Asszon”, “Boldogságos Szépszűzmárja”, “Szent Szép Szűz Mária” etc. The diversity of expressions, the variety of the attributes “szent” (sacred, holy, saint), “szép”, “boldog”, “áldott” (blessed) prove the fact, which is well-known in Hungarian ethnography, that there are at least two female deities concerned in the prayers. According to Dezső Pais the “Boldogasszony Mária”s and the “Szépszűzmária”s are in possession of the magic powers of ancient nature-goddesses: they can bind by spell and withdraw spells, can exorcise and keep away the demonic powers of Darkness. The word “boldog” has appeared in the Middle Ages with the meanings ‘wealthy’ and ‘rich’, but its original meaning is ‘falling under a spell’, ‘being (spell)- bound’, ‘being enchanted’ (PAIS 1975: 264-271.). Virgin Mary and “Boldogasszony” appear independently in certain prayers: “Boldogasszony tűzhelyemen, / Mária ablakomban.”; “Fejemnél Mária, / Lábomnál Szent Anna, / Mellemen Boldogasszony.” (~ Boldogasszony on my hearth, Mary in my window (ERDÉLYI 1976: 723.) ~ Mary at my head, St. Anne at my feet, Boldogasszony on my chest (ERDÉLYI)). We know that St. Stephen and Bishop St. Gellért were the first to call Mary “Boldogasszony”, ‘governess of the world’, and in this way, her ancestor in the ancient belief faded into her personality. The “Boldogasszony” motifs of the prayer-texts recall an imagery of the ancient religion and supposedly evoke the figure of an ancient fertility goddess (KÁLMÁNY 1885.; ERDÉLYI 1988: 722-723.).

The mother of Jesus (Mary) and his grandmother on his mother’s side (St. Anne) also appear as participants, characters of a cosmic creation process: “Ég szülted Földedet, / szülted Szent Annát, / Szent Anna szülte Máriát, / Máriám szülte kicsi fiát.” (~ Heaven, you gave birth to your Earth / you gave birth to St. Anne / St. Anne gave birth to Mary / My Mary gave birth to her little son). Through them, the prayers place the birth of Christ into a cosmic context and give a more universal perspective to the story of Redemption. After all, it is the Christianization of a pagan cosmic image, since the spontaneous fertility of the woman and the self-conception of the cosmos, are brought together. This aspiration for universality, filling the universal existence with Christian imagery can be seen in other symbols of traditional prayers as well – for example, in the motifs of the following notional circle: the tree of life in Paradise (arbor vitae) › the tree of the Fall › the Cross of Redemption › the flower of the Cross (Jesus).

The next cosmogonic image has a similar content: “Világ állapodék, / ezer éjjel betelék, / Szűz Mária születék, / szent székébe ülteték.” (~ “The World has settled, a thousand nights have passed, Virgin Mary was born, and was seated into her holy chair.” (ERDÉLYI 1976. Text 116.)).

The main point in the motif is that some kind of a female deity – Mary, Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Anne - appears almost simultaneously with the non-Christian world-creating process, which happens without divine intervention. Although she is a passive participant of the cosmic event, that female deity is superior to the Universe.

Besides the female saints (Virgin Mary, St. Anne), who are in direct contact with Christ – and through him, with the universal world beginning, or with the story of Redemption -, the names of other female saints, whose worship originates in the Middle Ages too, also occur in certain prayer-texts.

St. Barbara (“Szent Borbála”) was the patron saint of good death in the Middle Ages, but her formerly flourishing worship is on the decline even in the traditionalist areas. (BÁLINT 1977. I. 22.) It is not by accident, that the few variations of the archaic prayer connected to her name were only found in Moldavia, as these texts could survive the ages of Reformation more easily there. The clauses of the “Szent Borbár”-prayers all promise the grace of good death and salvation, without exception:

“Szent Sziz Szent Borbár / ül volo sirvo székibe, / térdig vérbe, könyökig kinyibe, / aran haja leereszve, / vosrudokvol lecsiptetve. / Odamene Szent Lukács evángelista. / Azt mondá: Miér sírsz, miétt keseregsz, Szent Sziz Szent Borbár? / Honne sírjak, honne keseregjek, / Szent Lukács evángelista, / ha Szizmárja szent fiját elrendezte fekete fődekre, / hogy hirdesse ezt ez én imádságecskámot, / hogy ki elmondja mindennap egyszer, / kiváltképpen pénteken háromszor, / harmadnappal hamarább megmutitódik az ő halála, / megidvezül, s hálálo óráján nem leszen vétekbe / még a legküssebb ujja es. Amen.” (~ “Holy Virgin St. Barbara / was sitting in her chair, crying, / in blood to her knees, in tears to her elbows / her golden hair is let down, / fastened by iron-bars. / The evangelist St. Lucas went to her, / asking: why are you crying Holy Virgin St. Barbara? / Why shouldn’t I cry, why shouldn’t I be mournful evangelist St. Lucas, / when Virgin Mary let her son to the black lands to profess my little prayer, / that anyone, who tells it once a day, / especially on Friday, three times, / his death will be shown in three days advance and will find salvation, and will not be sinful at the hour of his death.”) (see TÁNCZOS 1995. Texts: 102., 103., 104., 140. and 154.) According to a record from Szabófalva, an apocryphal prayer, told beside the dying person, is called “St. Barbara dying prayer”.

The worship of St. Margaret of Antiochy also goes back to the Middle Ages; her worship in Hungary can be traced back to the 13th century. (HOLL 1971. 373.) St. Margaret, the girl who carries the Holy Grail, is the allegory of the Christian Church in medieval religious iconography (miniatures, stained-glass windows) (BOZÓKY 1972. 665.); she appears with this attribute in some archaic prayer-texts, that were only found in Lészped (ERDÉLYI 1976. Text: 20.) and in Pusztina (TÁNCZOS 1995. Texts: 62. and 63.): “Megindula Szüzleán Szen’ Margit / az arany medencével a hónya alatt, / Krisztus urunknak harminchárom csepp vérivel, / Máriának fátyolával, arany kendejivel…” (~ “The Virgin St. Margaret has started off / with a golden basin in her arms, / with the 33 drops of blood of Our Lord, Christ / with Mary’s veil and her golden shawl…”)

The prayer-texts connected to her name all have storm-chasing functions: the Virgin provided with the saints’ requisites, who carries the Holy Grail, has fearsome powers. (“Krisztus urunknak harminchárom csepp vérivel, / Máriának fátyolájával, arany kendejivel, / Szent Antalnak kötelével, / hét singes olvasójával, / Szent Benedek úrnak szárnyával, szárnyékával” (~ “…with the rope of St. Anthony and his 7-cubitted rosary, with the wing of St. Benedict.)) Her name means “pearl” in Latin, which is the symbol of absolute, transcendental reality, and as such, is also a fertility-symbol. (ELIADE 1994. 155-158.) The formation of the function may also be influenced by the fact that, according to a concept connected to her figure, the enwreathed St. Margaret forced the dragon, lying at her feet, to retreat with the sign of the cross. (As we know, the epic incantations often call the storm-demon “the great evil Dragon”.)

The name of St. Helen rarely occurs in the traditional prayers of Moldavia. In the prayer-texts functioning as incantation she appears as the saint meeting and chasing the disease-demon away. She is also the conversation-partner of Virgin Mary in the conversational parts of the so-called “Friday prayers”.

 In the prayer-texts of medieval origin, we often come across the name of St. Anthony, as the magic protector of the house (“Az én házam Szent Antal, négy szegibe négy angyal.” (~ “My house is St. Anthony, with four angels in the four corners.”). The objects related to him often appear as signs of magic protection (“Megindula Szüzleán Szen’ Margit … Szent Antalnak kötelével, hét singes olvasójával…” (“The virgin St. Margaret has started off, with the rope of St. Anthony and his seven-cubitted rosary.”). Also in the St. Margaret-prayers, and as a sign of magic protection, the phrase “St. Benedict, wing of the Lord” appears as St. Margaret’s requisite, but neither linguists, nor ethnographers have given any satisfying interpretation of the motif yet. (PAIS 1971: 366; SILLING 1994: 80.)

 The apostles St. Peter and St. Paul are mentioned together in the prayer-texts and appear as the saints celebrating a mass in the heavenly church, appearing in the sky (“St. Peter is celebrating a mass with St. Paul”) or as the participants in the conversational parts. (“St. Peter and St. Paul go to…”) The evangelist St. Lucas is the one who most often appears in the latter function, as the interlocutor of Mary or Jesus and who is assigned in the clauses of prayers to declare the Passion all over the world. (Menj el, menj Lukács, s hirdessed az Adám népei közt.”, “hirdessed az egész teremtett fődön.” (~ “Go Lucas, go and declare it among the people of Adam”, “…declare it all over the created world”.)) The name of the martyr St. Stephen, who is also called an evangelist in the prayers, is more rarely mentioned in a similar function. St. George, St. Michael, St. Elijah and St. Martin, the fighting saints, who defeated the evil witches landing on the Hill of Jerusalem and bound them with golden chains, appear together in only one type of prayers of incantation kind from Gyimes (“Elmenyen az Urjézus Krisztus, / elküldi a szenteket. / Jeruzsálem hegyein leszállának, / Szent György, Mártin, Illés próféta, / Szent Mihály arkangyal / arany láncokkal a gonosz boszorkányokra rearohannak, / a láncokkal megkötözik, / a fegyverekkel esszelövődözik, / a kardokkal esszevágják, / a Jordán vizibe vetik.” (~ “Our Lord, Christ sends the saints./ They land on the hills of Jerusalem, St. George, Martin, the prophet Elijah, the archangel St. Michael, they attack the witches with golden chains, they bind them with the chains, they shoot them with weapons, they slash them with swords, and throw them into the river Jordan.”). It is possible that this incantation, which does not have any variations (see Tánczos), got into the Csángó folklore of Gyimes for Rumanian influence.

 The archaic prayer-texts indicate the intensity of the medieval worship of angels. The angels also deserve the attribute “szent” (holy, sacred): “true holy guardian angel”, “guard me holy angels” etc. In the Middle Ages people prayed for good death to angels, besides St. Barbara. Several prayer-texts and belief-actions (hiedelemcselekmény) related to dying, from Szabófalva, refer to that archaic practice. Four candles were burning beside the dying person and the following text was told: (“Kidzsülnek ez andzsalok, / nédzs dzsorcsa mellett őreznek, / őrezzetek szentandzsalak ez ablakaimat, / Uriszusz Krisztu ez ajtómat, / én amikor meghalok, e menyországba bévidzsetek, áment!” ~ “The angels are gathering, they guard me beside four candles, guard my windows, holy angels, guard my door, Jesus Christ, and when I die, take me to heaven, amen!”). For the recovery of the sick they also sang to the angels:(“Jőjetek, jőjetek, andzsalak / könnyebisszitek mg a beteget…” ~ “Come angels, come, help the sick man…”).

 The angels are the messengers of God (“szereti szent angyalit, küldi vala őköt fekete fődnek szinyire...” ~ “He loves his angels, and sends them to the surface of the black lands…”). That is why the archangel St. Michael could become the mythical-religious being who takes away the human soul - the angel of Death. The guardian angels standing by the dying person and the angels of the Last Judgement become vaguely related through Death.

 The worship of saints in the Baroque, following the Middle Ages, is hardly traceable in the traditional prayers of Moldavia and Gyimes. Even if we come across the name of a saint whose worship started to flourish in the Baroque, the spread of such texts has almost always been influenced by certain hymn- and prayer-books (eg.: Cantus Catholici, Cantionale Catholicum, Spiritual Armoury, Spiritual Heaven, Golden Crown, etc.), so mostly the phenomenon is the result of the folklorisation of the prayers in those books. The St. Rosalie- and St. Rokus-prayers from Lészped are good examples of it (ERDÉLYI 1976: Texts 213, 214.)). From the popular saints of the Baroque only St. Anthony of Padua can be mentioned as the one who was included in an interesting traditional prayer. Variations of this type of prayer have only been found in Moldavia. (Mohay, Tánczos). In the prayer-texts we really find the distinct/ particular logic and aspect of the archaic, apocryphal prayers: the prayer originates the miraculous powers of the popular saint from a heavenly, authentic place, and these powers are perceived as given for his / her merits. It is characteristic of the genre that the promise, similar to the clauses of the archaic prayers, is uttered in a conversational form, by a divine person. In relation to this exceptional text we can add that in the Baroque, an apocryphal prayer was created around the figure of the saint of Padua, that was original and entirely folkish, both in aspect and in intonation. According to its structure and logic, it perfectly fits into the group of archaic prayer-texts with medieval origins (About the type of prayer: Tánczos).

 As I indicated in the introduction, “szent” (sacred, holy) is not manifested only in personalities. In the followings, I would outline other kinds of manifestations of the investigated archaic prayer-texts.

 According to the “pars pro toto” principle, characteristic of the mythic-religious ethos, the parts of the saint’s body can stand for the saint itself, so they can be conceived as sacred as well. The objects related to the saint persons can share sacredness in a similar fashion. On the basis of word-magic the name of the saint should be respected similarly to the saint’s person.

 For the religious person neither time, nor space can be conceived as homogeneous: since space cannot be independent from the people and objects in it, and through them it may be sanctified. Through a sacred event certain units of time may also get a sacral content in a similar way.

 Sacredness does not emanate only to persons, but to abstract notions, the Church’s means of grace, to the sacraments as well. Christianising is an efficient means of protection against Evil (“Menj el Sátán, ne késérts, / met én meg vagyok keresztellkedvel / az Uristen megszentelt képibe! / Ha nem hiszed, menj elejibe és megfelel képembe!” – Lészped. ~ “Go away Satan, do not tempt me, because I am christianized, in the sacred image of the Lord. If you do not believe me, go and ask Him.”). The sign of the Holy Cross, that means belonging to Christ’s Church, also denotes protectedness (“Jézus maga velem legyen, / szent keresztvel megjegyezzen.” ~ “Jesus be with me, and sign me with the Holy Cross.”).

 The worship of the Eucharist has spread in Europe from the 13th century. The miracles related to it (eg.: Altar-bread bleeding during the transformation part of the holy mass) were getting more frequent at that time, which led the Pope, Urban IV to decree its celebration. The altar-bread is credited with powers that drive away the evil (e.g. people walked around the village with sacraments before the storms) and these religious ideas were taken into the archaic prayers with defensive functions. The red blood of Christ, that redeems the whole humankind, is especially frightening for the Evil and is only referred to with the attribute “szent” (holy and sacred) in the prayer-texts. The first traces of the worship of the Lord’s Day have appeared since the end of the 13th century in Hungary. (BÁLINT 1989: I. 346-348.) The term szentvérnap (~ holy-blood-day) is a medieval Hungarian term for the celebration of the Corpus Christi (the Lord’s Day), and shows very much affinity with the motif ‘a holy drop of blood in my heart’ from the prayer-texts of Moldavia.

 According to the prayer-texts the last sacrament and the sacrament of penance are also considered to be sacred, so they could become signs of sanctity providing magical protection. The Evil has no power over the person obtaining the Lord’s grace and mercy (“szent ostya szájomba, szent irgalom kebelembe”; “jöjj el én Istenem, gyóntass meg engemet, hogy legyek én neked gyóntatott embered” etc. ~ “sacred host in my mouth, holy grace in me”; “Come, my God, and confess me, that I become your confessed man.”). The sacrament of confession had a special importance in the Middle Ages and also in the following centuries. That is not only proven by texts of sacral folklore, but by other ethnographical facts as well. According to a record from Gyimes, those (csángó) people living by the “streams”, far from the main valley of the River Tatros, who rarely met catholic priests, confessed their sins to the rising Sun, putting “the bark of a white hazel” under their tongue (from Sándor Póra (born: 1922) the cantor from Rakotyás).

 Similarly to the sacraments, each act or ritual (eg.: prayer, song or hymn, mess) can be sanctified that comes from the principal “Szent” (Sacred, Holy). These are the “sacred/ holy words” of the incantation prayers from the biblical times, the celestially verified archaic prayers (“you, who tells this holy prayer”), or the forms of the divinely ordained worship (“they were preparing for a holy mess”). In the prayer-texts the Christian faith itself is considered to be sacred (“those who passed away in the holy faith”).

 The notion of sacredness also includes the mother-church that ensures the organizational existence of the Christian Faith. It is interesting to note that Csángó people of Northern Moldavia call the building of the church “misze”, while in other regions it is called szentegyház (holy church). According to these linguistic observation the worship was not clearly separated from its place in the Middle Ages (“misze” means “temple/ church”), or the place of the worship becomes identical with the Christian church (ecclesiastical) organisation (the word “church” means the organisation and the building too). It is important from our point of view that these notions are considered to be sacred, collective and individual.

 Besides the prayer-texts which survived in the folklore, there are other sources as well to draw conclusions from about the medieval worship of saints. From the perspective of Moldavian records the presumption is supported by the fact that in certain old villages of Moldavia we can come across patrocíniums of medieval origins. Here we do not plan to investigate the origins of the church-dedications in Moldavia, so just some references: in the church of Szabófalva the traces of the medieval worship of angels can still be seen. (St. Michael, the patron saint of the church is on the high altar, the four guardian angels from the “dying prayer” are around him) The patron saint of Nagypatak is also St. Michael. Bírófalva/Gerejes, which certainly existed by the 15th century, and the churches of Tatros, known for Franciscan (or Hussiten according to others) translations of the Bible, were consecrated in the honour of the Corpus Christi. Several Peter and Paul church-dedications from Moldavia may have medieval origins.

II. The Terms of “Szent”

 While reading prayer texts one cannot skip over the fact that the archaic prayers are full of expressions which appear to be synonyms of the attribute “szent” (holy, sacred). The words: “szép” (beautiful, attractive, fine) connected to the names of Jesus and Virgin Mary (“Szépjézus”, “Szépszűzmária”); “szűz” (~ virgin) in the names of Virgin Mary and St. Helen (“Szűz Mária”, “Szépszűz Szent Ilona”) and even the words “édes” (~ sweet), “fényes” (~ bright) and “aranyos” (~ gilded) are alternating with “szent” or co-occur together with it (“Szent Szép Szűz Mária”, “Boldogságos Szépszűzanyám”). This issue has ethnographic and linguistic literature, but it is of some interest to investigate these synonyms of “szent” (~ holy, sacred) one by one, on the basis of traditional prayer-texts and to examine their meanings with the help of the words qualified by the attributes.

 The attribute “boldog” (~ happy, glad) is most often applied to such a female divinity, who is usually identified with Virgin Mary (~ “Boldogasszony”, “Boldog Márja”…). But the fact also has to be noted, that this attribute often appears as the synonym of “szent” (~ holy, sacred), concerning sacred places and times both in prayer- and in incantation-texts, as well as in everyday language: “boldog menyország” (~ happy heaven), “Boldog Betlehem”, “boldog pillanat” (~ happy moment), “boldog éj” (~ happy night). Furthermore, in a more abstract, nounal meaning, it is the synonym of “szentség” (~ sacredness, sacrament): “az örök boldogszágban nyugodjék” (~ rest in eternal happiness), “egyebet nem hoztam, csak a nagy boldogságnak a nagy boldogságát” (~ I only brought the great happiness of great happiness).

The word “boldog” had a past, more concrete, obsolete meaning: “thick”, “fat”, “bearing a child/ being pregnant” (eg.: the sayings: “a bot boldogabbik vége” /the happier end of the stick/, “boldog állapotban van” /she is in a happy state/). In this sense the word was applicable to describe Mary as a divine mother. The prayers and incantations use the word in the meaning “being rich in sacredness and divinity”. As an abstract noun (“nagy boldogságnak a nagy boldogsága”), it refers to heavenly wealth, divine happiness; in other words to the principal heavenly and divine holiness. It was pointed out even in the Hungarian Etymological Dictionary by János Melich and Zoltán Gombocz (Bp. 1914-1930) that pre-Christian religious concepts played an important role in the development of the ‘beatus’ meaning of the word “boldog”.

 The attribute “szép” appears in all the formerly mentioned conceptual areas (ie.: in all the areas where “holy” and “sacred” may appear), except for the male saints. It is a relatively frequent attribute of the second divine person (ie.: Jesus) (“előttem Szépjézus”, “előttem van Szép Jidus”). Or it is applied metaphorically to the “flower” of the Cross, to the body of Jesus (“eveleny ostya szép virág”). It is also frequent as Mary’s attribute (“Szépszüzanyám Mária etc.), but can be applied to other female saints (“Szépszűz Szent Ilona” /St. Eileen/, “Szép Szíz Szent Borbár” /St. Barbara/). The protagonists of the only Hungarian folk-ballad with a religious theme, The Girl Taken to Heaven (“Júlia Szépleány”, “Márton Szép Ilona”), are undoubtedly related to the fore-mentioned female saints of the traditional Moldavian prayers: they become suitable for heavenly glorification/ apotheosis through the content of the attribute “szép” connected to their first names.

 The attribute “szép” may refer to parts of the saint persons’ body (“szép színed látására”, “szép sárig haja meg vala eresztve” /hair/, “hajcsák meg az áldott szép arannyas fileiket, s primiljék bé a mü reméncségecskénket” /ears/ etc.) or to the objects and sacred things related to them (“sohase láttam olyan szép termőfát, mind az Urjézus keresztfáját” /the Lord Jesus’ Cross/, “szép kicsi kápolna” /a chapel/, “eme ház szép ház, küjjel arannyas, belől irgalmas” /a house/, “ó be szép templomot rakatál” /a church/, “megláttam egy szép templomocskát” /a church/).

 In several different genres of folklore, the word “szép” is very often a constant attribute of sacral sacred time – eg. in the ritual songs of folkways and naturally in traditional prayers and incantations: “olyan szép fényes a te áldott szép fijad, mint a szép fényes Nap”, “be szép piros hajnal van”, “gyönyörű szép hajnal”, “gyönyörűszégesz szép hajnal”, “én felkelék szép piros hajnalba”, etc. According to traditional logic, dawn is Mary’s part of the day, because she gives birth to the light of the world. The notional circle of Mary’s figure in the midsummer-day songs and of Mary’s waking at dawn, in the archaic prayers is related to the dawn-day symbolic circle of medieval light-mysticism (see DÖMÖTÖR 1983: 166-177; ERDÉLYI 1976.). The attribute “szép” can be applied to sacred places as well: “ó paradicsomi kegyes szép hajlékába, az Uristennek megszentelt városába” /God’s sacred city/. In some expression it refers to the sacredness of the cult/ worship: the term “szépének” means “sacred song, prayer”, the prayers’ expression “szépen dicsir az angyal” has a meaning “sacredly praise”. When used as an abstract noun, it means “health”, “purity” (“szépsége látogatására”).

 The attribute “szép” (‘beautiful’ in modern Hungarian) is the synonym of “sacred/ holy” in certain areas of meaning. It implies the sense of purity, virginity, of the immaculate, sacred beginning. In this way it is related to a certain kind of a nature-worship: the female deity gives birth to the Sun at dawn, so the attribute can be applied either to dawn or to the deity as well.

 Now it is perfectly understandable why this old Hungarian word was suitable to be included in the Hungarian translation of the Tota pulchra, the central hymn of the saint’s day of Csíksomlyó, that glorifies the immaculately conceived Mary: “Egészen szép vagy Mária, eredeti bűnnel szennye nincs tebenned” (~ “You are totally szép (beautiful and holy) Mary, there is no trace of the original sin in you.”).. Besides other things, this translation indicates that the word “szép”, similarly to the word “boldog”, started off in a peculiar way of evolution in meaning, but its “pulchra” meaning, that appears in the translation of the Mary-hymn, has not become autonomous, unlike its “beatus” meaning. The “pulchra” meaning of the word “szép” has extinguished, or, more exactly, it lives only in folk-language.

 The meaning of the attribute “szűz” is very similar to that of the attribute “szép”, though it can only be used in a more restricted conceptual area: it can only be applied to Mary (“Szépszüzmárja”, “Szűzmárja”, “Szűz anyja ölében tartja”, “ez a szép gyenge szü*z*, aki téged szült”) and to certain female saints (“Szent Szűz Szent Borbár”, “Szépszűz Szép Ilona”, “Szüzleán Szent Margit”), although sometimes, in certain prayer-texts from Vojvodina, it becomes the attribute of St. Peter (“abban látom szűz Szent Pétert” – SILLING 1994:82). It is noticeable that the attributes “szép” and “szűz” occur together very often or sometimes with the attribute “szent”.

 The word “szűz” is a clear synonym of “szent” in the archaic prayer-variations of the Northern csángós: “ki elmundzsa régvel e felkelésszinél, / ösztö lefekisszinél, / szüzzi válik mind e szent Szűz”, “ki el tudzsa mondani, / elszüzüljön *!*, mind e Szüz” (Szabófalva, see Tánczos 1995: texts 189. and 190.).

 Virginity and purity are considered to be sacred as well. This concept is connected to the paradisiac nakedness and purity (according to the evidence of folk-language of Moldavia): in Pusztina the naked person is called “szűzcsóré”. The Evil has no power over the ones in the pure and virginal state of the holy, paradisiac Golden Age; the defensive, preventive function of the motif is derived from that idea. According to the prayer-clauses from Szabófalva, man can reach the state of paradisiac purity through saying prayers and doing penance.

 Finally, I have to note that besides “boldog”, “szép” and “szűz, in certain contexts the words “áldott”, “édes”, “aranyos” and “fényes” can also be considered the synonyms of “szent” (sacred/ holy)”, but I will not describe their various meanings and their occurrence.


 After the Conquest, as early as the 10th century, the Hungarians encountered the concept of Holy/ Sacred, and its Hungarian equivalent had to be found. The reality of a similar problem is recorded by Eliade as well, when he defines the concept of Sacred to be linguistically inexpressible (ELIADE 1987:5-9.).

 The linguistic–theological problem was not solved in one day. The terminological incertitude around the concept of “szent” (sacred, holy) lingers on through the centuries of the Hungarian culture-history, especially of the centuries of traditional religious consciousness: on the one hand we have taken – with several other elements of the Christian terminology - the word “szent” of Slavic origin to denote a complex and linguistically hard to express content. On the other hand, in certain contexts we have also preserved already existing Hungarian words with similar meanings (“szép”, “boldog”, “áldott” etc.). According to the evidence of religious folklore and the traditional Hungarian belief-system, the words “boldog” and “szép” are definitely seem to be the constant attributes of already existing deities and mythological creatures. The name-transformation has certainly happened as the result of an ecclesiastical initiative from above: Mary, for example, as we already mentioned, was first called “Boldogasszony” by St. Stephen and St. Gellért. Certain phrasings in the archaic prayer-texts from Moldavia seem to represent Mary as the only female deity (“Szépszüzmárja”, “abba üle Szent Asszonyunk, Szent Urunk székibe”, “Jézuskám, Krisztuskám, asszonyunk a Szizmárja” etc.).

 From the aspect of the investigated genre I finally claim that through their vernacular nature, the prayers known in folk circles were suitable to convey the most important doctrines of the Church (e.g. monotheism, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the divine motherhood of Mary, the doctrine about the Redemption, etc.) towards the people. The archaic traditional prayers also indicate, that the Church has attempted to phrase certain theological contents – in this way, the theological content of the Sacred as well – with authentic, Hungarian terminology, that was closer to the hearts of the people, or at least tried to tolerate the vernacular phrasings of religious concepts. It seems that the prayer-texts, which are totally disapproved by the Church today, were under church control in the Middle Ages, moreover, they belonged to the spiritual-ideological armoury of the Church. Further proof to this claim is that in the (apocryphal and liturgical) prayer-texts with medieval origins, that can be found in traditional environment today, we can find not only ecclesiastic doctrines, but theological-philosophical concepts referring to doctrines as well (eg.: “egy állotu istenség”), that cannot have traditional origins. The concept of Sacred might have been such an abstract concept from “above”.