Thursday, January 14, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Celestial transport is kind of a mess

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

Returning to our regularly scheduled #FolkloreThursday fun in 2016! I'll be continuing my new theme of the folklore of natural phenomena and constellations from Hungary. So far, we have had rainbows that cause sex-change, and a very klutzy star.

Today, we talk about the Big Dipper. Or, as Hungarians know it:

Göncölszekér (Göncöl's cart)
(Sometimes called Nagygöncöl - Big Göncöl -, as opposed to Kisgöncöl - Small Göncöl)

Göncöl, according to legend, was a táltos, a wise man or shaman, a "knowing person" who traveled in a cart with a crooked shaft that was not drawn by horses. He could talk to animals, birds, and plants, he could read the stars, and perform miracles. No one saw him die, so people concluded that he had ascended into the sky, and now his cart with the crooked shaft can be seen at night among the constellations as he continues his wandering.
(This legend comes from old records about the folklore of Great Rye Island, or, as we know it, Csallóköz. The record also claims that Göncöl was a popular name in the area, even though the táltos never had children. Ahem.)

Other names for Ursa Maior include:
Carriage of Angels
Cart of Elijah
Cart of Job
Cart of Saint John
Johnny's Cart
Cart of Saint Peter
Devil's Cart
Star Cart

This is one crowded vehicle of celestial transport, people.
Whoever sits on the Cart, however, has to answer for quite a few things, including, but not limited to:

1. The stars. Some legends say Göncöl / Job / whoever is driving is supposed to keep an eye on the stars.
2. The Milky Way. There are stories about how the cart is transporting hay, but it has been losing the cargo on the way, hence the Milky Way.
(Hey! It rhymed!)
3. The crooked shaft. There is at least one delightful story where Saint Peter accidentally drives the cart into the Pearly Gates of Heaven, and breaks the shaft. Great job, Peter. Don't pray and drive.
4. Yet another legend claims that the cart is driven by a king who was killed by a pagan Hungarian warrior to make him the warrior's servant in the afterlife.

Saint Peter and David go on a joy ride

According to one legend, Saint Peter and David wandered far from Heaven one day, and God wanted them back. He sent an angel called Göncöl to fetch them. Göncöl complained about not having a ride; God told him to build a cart from stars (you are an angel, Göncöl, for Heaven's sake). Sitting in the cart drawn by fiery horses, Göncöl picked up Peter and David and started on the way home. They flew so fast that they bumped into the Moon; the cart's shaft broke, and David got flung out of the vehicle (SAFETY BELTS, PEOPLE) and left behind. The rumble of the cart is thunder, and the sparks flying from the horseshoes is lightning. Peter got so scared on the ride that he turned seven different colors - God, to remind him of the scare, created rainbows.

(Never, ever let God send you an Uber driver.)

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