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The Origin of the Legend of the White Stag

The Legend of the Wonderous Hind

By Fred Hmori

The Hungarian Legend of the Wondrous Stag is one of the oldest legends of the nation. It is so old that it is found in various forms among those nations who were the distant relatives or neighbors of the Hungarians, long before their settlement in Hungary. The meaning and the wording of the legends may have changed slightly but they all have much in common. Today the remaining legend is relatively short, whereas in the past it was probably much more extensive. However the Hungarian legend despite it's brevity includes in it many important points some of which can be found in most of the related legends found in other cultures. It is these points which show that once, in the remote antiquity, these people were neighbors or some were even related.

The symbol of the cosmos and the mother of the sun was symbolized as a large horned female doe. The great horned doe often was shown carrying the sun in her horns, in some cases the sun itself was symbolized as a stag the son of the doe of the legend. The following Christmas song told by the Hungarian regos (bards) illustrate the stag as the carrier of the sun.

The hind represents not the sun, but it's mother, the heavenly firmament, the cosmos, which carries the stars, the sun and the moon in it's "horns". For these reasons the Scythian stags often represented the horns of the stag like flames.

Hungarian Version of the Legend of the Hind

A long time ago, thousands of years ago, in a distant land in Asia there was once a great and powerful kingdom. It was bordered by tall mountains in the north and a great southern sea in the south. From the mountains, two mighty rivers flowed southwards to the sea watering the flat lowlands. The people who lived there were famous for their arts, sciences and wisdom. They lived in abundance and plenty.

It was following the great flood that the people from the northern mountains settled here and founded a new land. The king of the land was the giant hunter Nimrod, the descendant of the great king Etana. (Tana in Hungarian, Kus-Tana in Kushan-Scythian, or Etana in Sumerian, the king who lived in the 3 rd millenium B.C. and according to the legend of Gilgamesh he established the city of Kish and the first Mesopotamian empire, following the flood) Nimrod founded great buildings and cities and founded the great pyramid of the city of Babylon 201 years after the flood as a haven against future flooding (Simon Kezai, Gesta Hungarorum, ca 1282) and as a temple to god.

Csángo Hungarian "Rege"
Hungarian English Translation
Csoda fia szarvas, ezer ága boga Boy stag of wonder, with horns of a thousand branches and knobs
Ezer ága boga, ezer fénylö gyertya Thousand branches and knobs and of a thousand bright candles
Szarva közöt hozza áldot napnak fényét Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun
Homlokán a csillag, mellén a hold, On it's forehead there is a star, on it's chest the moon
S elindul az égi Duna fenyes partjátol, And it starts along the banks of the shining heavenly Danube
Hogy égi küldötként hírt adjon That it may be the messenger of heaven and bringer of news
A teremtö és gondviselö istenünkröl. About our creator and caring god

Nimrod was a mighty warrior king who also expanded his empire to include much of the northern and eastern territories and he and his people moved there, to the land of Evilath, following the confusion of languages. (Simon Kezai, Gesta Hungarorum, ca 1282) (according to Berrosus the Babylonian historian, BĂ©las [Bel Nimrud] ruled for 56 years 130 years following the flood, and built the tower of Babel in the land of Sinear to the height of a mountain.) This land was latter called east Persia, and lay next to Northern India.

Here he married his first wife Eneth and she later bore him two twin sons called Hunor and Magor. He later had other wives and from them were born other sons and daughters who became the ancestors of the Parthians or Persians. (In the medieval version it was the Persians, the inheritors of the land of Iran, that are mentioned instead of the aboriginal Scythic Parthians. In other medieval references though it is the Parthians which are mentioned as being related.) The language of these people was similar to the Hungarians but not quite the same.

His first born sons were his pride and they spent much time with their father, growing up in the palace and later they accompanied him on his many hunts. Nimrod was a famous and great hunter who loved the sport. During one of his hunting expeditions he took his sons with him. During the hunt he spotted some game and separated from his sons to pursue it. The two young men continued their own search and came across a wondrous beast, a great horned doe, which shone in multicolor lights and it's antlers glittering from light. (Mahmud Terdjuman, Tarihi Ungurus The History of the Hungarians, 1456; Translated by Joseph Blaskovich, Prauge, 1982)

Enchanted by the heavenly beast they gave chase to it. The animal lead them across glades and meadows onward toward the west. At dusk the beast vanished so the two princes and their men camped for the night. At dawn the hind reappeared and the chase continued afresh. It lead them through foreign lands and across the mountains of Adjem (western Iran), through wild and dangerous swamps of Meotis (The Sea of Azov, an inlet of the Black Sea, was associated with Meotis because of the common ancient name of this sea and because the Magyars and Huns lived there before their settling in Hungary. It is unlikely however that this was the original sea of the ancient legend) until they entered a beautiful bountiful country. Here the hind lead them to a lake and jumped into it and disappeared. This swampy land, called Meotis, is surrounded by the sea on all sides except one where a shallow swampy land connects it to the mainland making it difficult to enter. It is rich in birds, fish and game and is situated on the borders of Persia.

The two young men were filled with sadness and remorse because of the loss of the hind. They returned to their father and asked him to build for them a temple at the sight where they could retreat and contemplate and prepare themselves. They then lived in the temple for 5 years, and on the 6th year they were longing to return to the world when a great teacher came to them and thought them the ways of being a great king. (Terdjuman Mahmud, Tarihi Ungurus, 1456)

They and their men then left the temple and scouted the nearby territories. In the evening they camped and in the morning they awoke to the sound of music. They followed the source of the music to a clearing in the forrest where they spied the dancing and singing of young maidens who were celebrating the festival of the horn. The name of a hind is "horned" in Hungarian and this celebration was of the hind. The maidens in the clearing were the daughters of the Bulars and amongst them were the two beautiful daughters of the king, Dula. (Simon Kezai, Gesta Hungarorum, ca1282) (The Persian version only has one prince, who similarly marries the queen of the women, who called her self a doe with the name "sar-istani" Sraw=horned in Avesta.)

The two young men were so enchanted by the two princesses that they resolved to marry them, so they and their men kidnapped all the women and married them according to their custom. They settled on a great island in the lake, which was well protected. Their descendants multiplied and populated the nearby lands, founding the 108 clans of the Scythian nation. (108 was a "holy number" related to the astronomical rate of precession of the equinoxes. Its also a holy number among Buddhists and the Buddha himself was of the Scythian Sakia tribe.) The descendants of Hunor and one of the princesses became the nation of the Huns, while the descendants of Magor and the other princess became the nation of the Magyars.

The land of the Scythians stretched from north of the Black Sea to Central Asia as far as the city of Samarkand. Their country bordered the country of their father on the north and east. However a long time after the death of their father the kingdom of Nimrod fell to a foreign ruler from the west. This nation in later ages became Persia (around 500BC). (See the Iranian legends of the struggles between Iran and Turan.)


This is but the tip of the iceberg, because there is a lot more corroborating information about this legend from ancient Mesopotamia. also from Assyrian and Babylonian records. The legend amongst our language relatives including FinnUgor, Huns, and others varies but is generally a star myth where the "great hunter" hunts the heavenly stagg (Ursa Major) and kills it around Christmas time. The sun which is held in its horns now escapes and becomes stronger, ushering in spring. However the calve of the stagg repeats the event every year.

In Hun art all the way from Mongolia and DungHuan caves of western China show the magical hunt of the stagg by two twins. Even our "western?" constellations Nimrod (Orion), Twins (Gemini) and the horned animal

(Taurus) show the hunt. The myth is Asian and Scythian but even Babylonians and others had the twin hunters part of their star lore.

The Remnants of the Hun Legend of The Stag

According to the Byzantine historian, Procopius: The nation of the Utigurs and Kutigur Huns originate from the twin sons of a Hun king. The twins separated from their father during the hunting of the Stag. These Huns also had two princes called Mauger and Gorda (Magyar and Hunugur?) who ruled after the death of their father. It is quite possible that these were also related to the Magyars and ruled over them, since the Mauger name of the "Hun" prince could have been derived from the people/nation which he ruled, the Magyars.

Stone carving from a column representing the heavenly stag. Remnant of a Hun painting from Mongolia.

Another descendant of the Huns are the Uygur (Yugor, Ugor) of eastern China which even in their name appears to be related to the Hungarians. In their legend a once great emperor had two sons called Tartar (Hunor) and Mungli (Maugor) who became the ancestor of the Tartars and the Mongols. [Abul Ghazi Bahadur, a 17 century historian of Khiva] This recalls the close association that the Caucasian Ujgurs had with the Mongol royal family and is tied to a later historical event, rather than to the original ancient legend of origin.

Mesopotamia

Amongst the many names of the god of wisdom and co-creator EA are Daramah, meaning great stag. Dr Bobula Ida's essay on "The Great Stag, a Mesopotamian Divinity", Buenos Aires is an excellent analysis and comparison of similar words and customs with Hungarian Regös customs of the end of the year and the traditions of the stag. For those who would like this sent to them by EMAIL, drop me a note.

In Hungarian knowledge, wisdom is based on the root word Tan, Tud, while god is also Is-Ten. Therefore Tana is associated with Hea in meaning as well as Pisces. In the Sumerian legends of the antediluvian kings the legend of Etana is prominent. Etana's legend includes the visiting of heaven. In Hungarian mythology Nimrod is the son of Etana, just as in Kushan-Scythian "Kush-Tana" is the ancestor of the nation. In Asia Ten, Tien means god or heaven also and Teno was the title of Hun emperors as in early Egypt S-Ten. Similarly in Japanese.

In Persian legend of the very early (pre Arian) period when Iran was civilized by a western Mesopotamian ruler, Takma Urupi (Tana=Takma) whose wife was also Eneth. Eneth or Nana are names of the mother goddess of waters, rivers, and fertility among Mesopotamian and Scythian peoples. She was symbolized by Virgo.

Persian Version

In the legends of Iran the ruler Feridun, a Scythian king who was a descendant of Takhma Urupi (Nimrod), has three sons Tura, Sin, and Iredj. The first two stick together against the third son who inherits Iran. Tura becomes the ancestor of the Turanians, that is Scythians and Huns. Nimrod was known by several names in the Near East and was also symbolized by the constellations Sagitarius and Orion amongst the Turanian/Scythian nations.

The Persian Legend of the stag is Scythian in origin: Prince Rustvan-shad (Rustam?), the son of the Chinese? emperor (an eastern emperor, more likely the HUNs not the HANs) was hunting while he came across a wondrous stag: his fur was blue (heavenly symbol), and his eyes looked like rubies, his hooves shone as though they were of gold.

This stag always lead him on and eluded him, he never could catch him. Finally it lead him to a small lake where it jumped into it's center and disappeared. The prince therefore camped and went to sleep and when he awoke he heard gay laughing and music. Following the sounds he heard, he came to a wondrous marble palace, and there surrounded by a dozen beautiful young girls, sitting on a throne a beautiful goddess of a girl. He asked her who she was, and she replied "Only a tame DOE, and my name is Sehr-istani." (Old Iranian sraw=horn, Hungarian szarv, while Isten=god in old/pre-Iranian and Hungarian.)

Egyptian Chase of the Ram

Whether we illustrate the story as the chase of the Stag or Ram is irrelevant because the name of the stag is based on the word horned, and can be any horned animal which is the symbol of the rebirth of light. The Egyptian Cushite version of the chase explains the chase of the "Horned" by the national ancestor-god-hero Osiris as follows.

As to how the ram became the symbol of Ham, the following tradition survived. --When Osiris was returning home after his triumphant African tour, he and his army were unable to find water and were in a terrible state of dehydration. They were on the verge of death when a ram appeared in front of them. They viewed the appearance of the ram as a heavenly sign and they at once gave chase. To their great astonishment and relief the ram lead them to the shade and cool waters of an oasis. Osiris (Dionisus) explained the event by saying that the ram was Amon (who is symbolized as a ram) and to show his gratitude he raised a temple to his honor on the spot. Amon was elevated to the stars as the constellation of Aires (the ram) so that when the sun is in the house of Aires in spring, nature shall revive it's life. The Egyptian dictionary explains the word Cush to also mean tomb RAM, and this word is in accordance with the Hungarian word for ram KOSH. Nimrod and his people were Cushites and they also ruled Egypt at one time before founding Babylon.

The Greek Version

The Greeks also inherited many legends from their Scythian neighbors, which included distorted versions of this story. Many Scythians were hired into Greek armies, and some were servants. Certain Scythians became prominent teachers in Greek cities.

In the Greek story the twin sons of Zeus and Nemesis are known as Castor and Pollux. (GEMINI) Castor and his brother Pollux steal the daughters of Leukepius. (LEUK=white) Castor is the Cushite Tura, a son of Nimrod after whom northern Mesopotamia (Eturia) and the Aral and Caspian lowlands (Turan) were named. Pollux or Poly-deuces is Polly=Apolo is the sun god whose other Near Eastern name is Makar (MAGOR). Zeus was once a king in the Near East, a Kushite king (NIMROD) which the Greeks deified.

Another Scythian legend recorded by the Greeks states that the sons of the Scythian king named SCYTHES were Palos (Polux) and Naes (Castor, Nesus are ancient ancestors of the Cushites). The meaning of SAKA, from which Scyth comes from means Chief, Lord.

Another Greek recorded the legend of the MEGARI of Anatolia, and of course translated it into it's Greek equivalent, with slight changes. Here Zeus marries a Scythian Nymph of the area, and from their union is born Megaros, the ancestor of the people of Megari. Again the Scythian connection is emphasized with the results that the Megari, Magyari nation is created.)

Finnic Version

In the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, the stag is the favorite animal of the queen of the underworld (Yumala), which leads the hero to his doom. Kaleva is the mythical kingdom where much of the epic takes place. It could be equated with Kalama of the Sumerians, the name of their country.

Ugrian Version

In the legend of the Ostjak, the hunting pair, with their whole tribe are hunting for a reindeer. The animal baited them on towards the north, where finally it turned into fog. In the age, when the first ice-rain (snow) began to fall. (The coming of the ice age trapped the hunting nation?)

In northern Siberia, the heavenly reindeer, symbolized by the big dipper, steals the sun, and that is why there is no sun for half a year in the arctic. When the mythical hunter, who is often symbolized by a bear, kills the female reindeer, it starts the new days.

This is an important key to the stories, for the chase after the stag is a hunt for the return of the sun, which during winter is taken away by the stag. The hunters are searching for it's light and heat. Perhaps a southern migration from northern pastures with the coming of winter? The recapturing of it (the sighting of the southern constellation?) then brings back summer. The girls of the legend are the does, the daughters of light (Leukepius in Greek), who return the light and fertility of the sun. For that reason they have names which indicate "light, white, burning.." Dula=Gyula,Gyul..., Sar=gold,light, stag. Bular or Bugur=stag in Turkic.

Japanese Version

The twin brothers chase the stag. They get into an argument, probably about which way the stag disappeared, and one brother goes east and finds Japan, while the other goes west.

Maya Indian version

The sons of Hun Hun-apu, the god of the hunt, are the heavenly twins [GEMINI], known as Hunapu (HUNOR) who is warlike like his father and Ixbalenque (MAGOR), who is more peaceful. Their adventures, with their 400 warriors includes the kidnapping the women. Their jealous half brothers chased them, but they turned them into monkeys (i.e. make monkeys of them?).