Thursday, January 21, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Two words: Storm dragons

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.

I was going to slack off on today's FT post, but then someone brought up the topic of storm lore on Twitter, and I realized that I have some fun things to say about that.

Storms and dragons in Hungarian folklore

Storm lore in many places in Hungary is closely connected to the lore of the garabonciás - trained wizards (as opposed to the táltos, who are born with their knowledge). These wizards can warn people about coming storms, or even cause hail and thunder, depending on how they are treated when they come to town. They usually look like traveling students or beggars, ask for some milk, eggs, and bread, and judge people's kindness based on how they are treated. They can break witches' curses, find buried treasure, grant good luck... or do the opposite.

The garabonciás' most well-known companion is the dragon. While dragons in Hungarian folktales have multiple heads (three, seven, nine, and their multiples) and human traits, dragons in garabonciás lore are aquatic, serpentine creatures that the wizard can summon, saddle, and ride - invoking a storm.

The storm is mostly created by the dragon as it flies over the landscape. The low-hanging tail of the creature swipes off the roofs of houses, or tears trees up by their roots. Seeing storm clouds and lightning suggests that a garabonciás is traveling, riding his dragon within the clouds. In some cases, when the storm is particularly bad, people also said that multiple garabonciás were going to battle against each other, riding their dragons. They might occasionally turn into dragons themselves.
(In some stories, the garabonciás can also summon storms from his magic book)

Some folklorists say that all this makes the wizard related to the Germanic lore of the Wild Hunt. One way to keep the hailstorm away from a village was to ring the church bells. Like most creatures of pagan belief, garabonciás were not too keen on the sound of bells.

Garabonciás lore existed until fairly recently in Hungary. My native part of the country (north-western Hungary) is particularly known for it.

If you want to read a haunting love story involving a garabonciás, read Love in a Bottle by Szerb Antal, a well-known classic Hungarian author.

Note: I translated two garabonciás folktales for my book, Tales of Superhuman Powers.

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