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Koppany

Hungarians are very familiar with the Curse of Turan.  In popular language, it refers to the suffering of the Hungarian people either through inner strife and pessimism or through natural catastrophe, lack of independence from other nations and wars in general.  The pure mention of it usually creates bitterness and sadness in Hungarian people.  Where did this belief in the curse come from?

The most accepted explanation for the origin of the curse is that a pagan shaman put a spell on the nation.  Historically, Hungary was a pagan nation until the year 1000 A.D., ruled by the House of Arpad.  With the death of Geza, the ruler of Hungary, according to the Levioratus tradition, the nation’s leadership belonged to the oldest and most able male member of the ruler’s larger family.  The most able leader was Koppany.  However, he was not the son of Geza and Geza’s son, Vajk, revolted against the ancient tradition to claim right to his father’s throne.  The dispute led to a battle of the men against each other.  The battle was not just significant for the leadership in the family, but also for the spiritual fate of all Hungarians.  Koppany was deeply entrenched in his pagan faith and was ready to defend it against the Christian invasion.  On the other hand, Vajk was ready to make a change and adopt the Christian faith to save Hungary from a devastating destruction of the Christian army.  The battle was fought and the pagan leader died.  Vajk became a Christian a took the name Istvan (Stephen) and became King Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king.

The pagans lost and they were not happy.  They did not want to lose their faith for political reasons.  As a result, according to the legend,  a powerful shaman officially put a curse, a malicious spell, on the new Christian nation for 1000 years.  His spell simply pronounced: “May you not live in agreement for a 1000 years!” The Hungarian nation was to suffer because of the official adaption of Christianity.  There is a disagreement whether the shaman was targeting the Christian leadership or the Hungarian people or both.

One thing is for certain: The Hungarian people believe that they have suffered a great deal of misfortune in the past 1000 years, beginning with the leadership of King Stephen.  Hence, they have a tendency to believe in the curse.  Of course, others cite alternate theories for the birth of the curse.  But, whatever the origin may be, the belief in the curse is very strong in Hungarians.

The wonderful news is that 1000 years is up!  Ironically, there has been a resurgence of the old pagan faith for the past fifteen years.  The new theory is that maybe the shaman’s spirit that lingers around have come to understand that Hungarians have never really lost their old faith, tradition or culture!  Or, maybe the curse has truly lost its power!  Of course, these answers do require a belief in the power of the initial curse and curses in general.

M. J. Mandoki

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