December 6, 2012

0405 HUNGARY - A chief herdsman in Dévaványa, in 1940

Puszta of the Pannonian Plain, an exclave of the steppes of Asia, is the only region in central Europe which can provide the grazing for a large numbers of horses. It was therefore natural to be preferred by nomadic peoples coming from the steppes of Asia, be they Huns, Gepids, Avars, Magyars or Tartars, whose armies were based almost entirely on cavalry. Probably that, for example, the hordes of Batu Khan would have had to withdraw in the Russian steppe in late 1241, after they have devastated Eastern and Central Europe, had it not been Puszta. In addition, its geographic position was perfect as the basis for raids into Western Europe and Balkans.

Unlike other tribes who arrived in Pannonia, Magyars remained there and became sedentary. Their way of life changing, began to cultivate the land and grow in increasing numbers and other animals than horses. The sheeps, which accompanied them in their wanderings, but not in large numbers, began to occupy an important role in the life of Magyars. During the Árpád dinasty the number of sheep population was raising, but the peak was reached during the Ottoman occupation, because of the Muslims' preference for mutton.

The shepherds always seemed to me distinguished from the rest of the peasants. Proud, silent and tough due to their solitary and difficult way of life, they often intimidates the others. In addition, they have a specific culture, of their, which transgresses ethnic boundaries. For example, a shepherd can be immediately recognized after the clothing, whether he is Romanian, Hungarian or Greek. This happened in the case of this postcard: when I saw it, I knew that the character is a shepherd. The explanation which is on postcards' back has confirmed my opinion: "Gyula Kadar - chief herdsman / Naggy Sárrét / Dévaványa /  Békés Megye / 1940". So this photo from 1940 depicts a shepherd in charge of a sheepfold in Dévaványa (a settlement become city in recent years), in Naggy Sárrét region, Békés county.

He wears on his head a rimmed hat of long-drawn cupping shape, to resist at the rain, with a feather (commonly of bustard or heron), which designate his rank. Thrown over the shoulders he has a szűr, ankle-long, the most important piece of clothing of a shepherd, which serves as coat, protection against the sun, wind and cold, and at night it is his pillow and cover. It's also his best garment, for church and weddings. The szűr consists of 12 straight cut felt pieces. The natural colored felt is woven of sheep's wool (breed racka, which is said that has been with the Magyars since their settlement in Pannonian Basin). As can be seen, it's lavishly decorated with embroidery and felt-applique, a design and technique with roots in Inner-Asia. Underneath the szűr he has a waistcoat or maybe a frieze jacket called szűrdolmány or kankó (can't see well), decorated with (again maybe) silver buttons. His shirt and gatyas are of linen, or of cambric. He wears certainly also the rajthuzli, a trousers widened below the knee, with buttons, and boots. He smokes a pipe with a long tube, custom probably acquired in the Ottoman period. In the back can be seen a hut of reeds, a material that was found in abundance in that marshy area.

About the stamp, one of the two which constitute the second series Health Tourism - Spas, I wrote here. This postcard is the second of a series of six, about which I wrote also here.

Great Plain - Magyar Elektronikus Konyvtar 
Folk Costume on the Hungarian Lowlands -
Hungarian Folk Attire - Hungarian Folklore Museum

sender: Petrică Sîrbu, Andreea Dolete and Marian Irimia
sent from Budapest (Hungary), on 19.10.2012
photo: Olácsi Jánosné magángyũjteményébõl

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