Karikázó, 1984. július - 1985. január (10. évfolyam, 1-4. szám)

1984-07-01 / 1. szám

Continued from p.3 In an wicient winter solstice song, we find the following passage: Outside St. John's village, there's a round little hill, A sweet apple-tree grows on 1t. Its apple is sweet, its rose 1s full blooming, The Virgin Mary sits under it. So she binds, so she binds her adorned wreath With white and red (flowers); where it is not enough, She finishes it with golden ones. (P.P. Domokos, Moldvai Magyarság ,q.i. Leader, p. 76) In many Medieval songs and legends, in Hungary as well as in Western Europe, the apple-bower, resplendent with flowers, appears as the natural habitat of the Virgin Nary. Her Mighty figure inspired Many poets with thoughts of perfection, eternal life, and imMortality. Ninon Leader also Mentions the parallels between this ritual song, sung between ChristMas and New Year's, and the apple-tree Motif in "Julia Fair Maiden," which occurs in eight of the twelve recorded versions of the ballad. Over there is a round little hill. A sweet apple-tree grows on it. r Its apple is sweet, its flower is / full blooMing And a yellow eidelweiss grows under it. And a fair maiden sits under it. She binds red and white flowers, And those which she presses against her breast Become silver. (Leader, p. 76) The suggestion that "Julia Fair Maiden" belongs in the winter solstice cycle is an old and venerable one, first introduced by Gyula Sebestyén early in this century and reinforced by the researches of Béla Vikár and others. I agree with those scholars who see in this story a survival of ancient myth. The curly white lamb carrying the sun and the moon between its horns and the stars on its brow was originally the Magic Stag of a pagan Hungarian myth, and was here metamorphosed into Christian. The fair maiden - whether Julia, Ilona, Martha, Susanna, or whichever name she goes under in the numerous variants - may well Joe none other than the "Happy Lady" of ancestral myth, discussed in detail by the Catholic priest Lajos Kálmány in his 1885 book, The Happy Lady, Goddess of Our Ancestral Religion. (Published by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.) During the reign of St. Stephen, who introduced Christianity into Hungary, the figure of the Happy Lady was assimilated to and absorbed by that of the Virgin Mary. To this day, both the most popular and most ceremonial way of referring to the Virgin Mary in Hungary is "boldogasszony", "happy lady" or "blessed lady." One of the greatest feasts of the Hungarian church calendar, as far as popular observation is concerned, is August 15, the feast commemorating her assumption to heaven. Significantly, it was on this same day, August 15, that St. Stephen himself died, having dedicated his country to the Virgin Mary, the "Boldogasszony". To this day, the name of the holy king is linked to that of the Virgin. This is especially appropriate in our context, since Stephen means "wreath, crown." The day after Christmas, December 26, is the feats of St. Stephen protomartyr, when village boys and men go around from house to house, greeting the Stephens of the community. Here is a final example of a winter solstice song, which also shows a combination of apple and flower symbolism as the other winter solstice song I cited earlier. On the market of heaven They pick violets, They make a bunch of them A crown for St. Stephen. In the courtyard of St. Stephen There is a beautiful apple-tree, Earth gives its roots, Its roots give its tree, Its tree gives its blossom, Its blossom gives its apple, Let us praise its apple: Happy Virgin Mary. (Z. Kodály; q.i. Leader, p. 77) The songs and the ballad I cited show the symbolic as well as the mythical and mystic levels of meaning of the apple in Hungarian folk poetry. It seems to me that the two are not as far from each other as it might seem at first glance. The symbolic meaning is love, and the mythical-mystic meaning is perfection and immortality. Did not St. John insist: "God is Love"? But notice that in the last two lines of the last song the apple symbolizes, not an abstraction - love or perfection - but a person who is loving and perfect, the Virgin Mary. As did Eve, did Aphrodite, Iduna, and the other goddesses and women of myth, the Happy Lady of the Hungarians has the apple as her inalienable symbol. She sits in the flower-filled apple bower, making a wreath, or crown, of flowers. A mythical animal acts as a messenger, leading her to her heavenly groom amid the winter solstice celebrations, amid candles and torches which flare up and go out, unaided by human hands. Bells toll, gates open and close mysteriously, and the mother sings her ritual song of farewell. The "menyasszonysirató", the "wailing for the bride," is a custom which survived in Hungary to our own era. It is traditionally attributed to the fact that in patriarchal cultures the bride must leave her parents' home, her family and girlhood friends, and live with her husband's family as part of his clan. The old self must "die;" she gets a new name, a new identity; so, in a sense, marriage brings death. But this is not the only possible interpretation. The corollary of the marriage-death equation is that death itself becomes a marriage. This is of course the view of the mystics, and "Julia Fair Maiden" is usually considered one of the finest examples of Christian balladry, singing as it does of a virgin's marriage with the Heavenly Lamb. But I feel that even this interpretation Continued on p.5 4