Busójárás (Buso-Walking), Carnival Of Masked Devils in Hungary

Busójárás means Buso-walking in Hungarian, and it's an age-old annual tradition and event specific to the town of Mohács.

The History Behind Busójárás (Buso-Walking)

In 1526, Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire marched his pompous army into Europe with the sole intention to crush and conquer everything in his path. Having defeated the peoples of the Balkan, the Sultan who liked to be referred to as "The Magnificent," reached the borders of the then flourishing Kingdom of Hungary. He decided to take his campaign to the next level by entering what was then considered to be civilized Europe.

Royal Hungary, perceiving that the Ottomans were not unassailable and intending to withstand their onslaught, built up an immense army that employed the technology of King Frances I of France. The bulk of the army consisted of heavily armored medieval knights and cavalry made up of adventurous mercenaries for the main. They faced the significantly larger army of Suleiman, which was the most modern and professional army of the time.

Owing to their outdated technology, the Hungarian army was crushed in many battles, Mohács being the decisive one.

The Battle of Mohács, painting by Bertalan Székely, 1866
The Battle of Mohács, painting by Bertalan Székely, 1866

Historical Facts

Mohács is known for two famous battles in Hungarian history:

The first battle of Mohács was fought on August 29, 1526 between the Kingdom of Hungary led by King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia and the army of the Ottoman Empire commanded by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. It resulted in the defeat of Hungary.

This defeat eventually led to the partition of Hungary for centuries to come between the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, and the Principality of Transylvania.

The second battle of Mohács, 1687, a.k.a. the Battle of Berg Harsány, happened between the army of Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, and the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, led by Charles of Lorraine.

This battle resulted in a devastating defeat for the Turks. These two battles marked the beginning and end of the Ottoman occupation of Hungarian territory.

The Legend Behind Busójárás (Buso-Walking)

According to legend, after the defeat the Hungarian people fled the battlefield and the town of Mohács to seek refuge in the nearby woods and swamps and lay hidden. On one night, while they were sitting around the campfire and discussing how to make new league against the Turkish foes, they were visited by a Šokci man who gave them counsel.

"On a dark, stormy night that is soon to come, you can return home with a vengeance and restore peace to the land. Craft new weapons and carve hideous devil masks for your people, and wait for the night when a masked warrior will come to you and lead you to victory."

A few days later, as promised by the old man, there came a dark, stormy night, and a masked warrior of tall and robust stature marched into camp. The people stood in readiness to put on their masks made of gnarled wood, and follow the command of the newcomer. They lit fires and swarmed into Mohács making as much noise as they could.

Upon seeing this, the Turks were terrified and thought that they invaded the land of imps and demons and fled the town in hysterical fright before the sun came up.

This possibly fictitious event gave birth to the tradition of Busójárás (Buso-Walking) that Hungarians celebrate in February every year. It is like a pagan ritual whose purpose is to chase away winter and let the sunny season set in.

2010 Busójárás (Buso-Walking), Mohács, Hungary
2010 Busójárás (Buso-Walking), Mohács, Hungary
Buso contraption. On the license plate it says "Vazze!" which is a cross between the Hungarian equivalent of the F word and the English 'What's that?' It either means 'WTF?' or is a warning to signify that you're not someone to be trifled with.
Buso contraption. On the license plate it says "Vazze!" which is a cross between the Hungarian equivalent of the F word and the English 'What's that?' It either means 'WTF?' or is a warning to signify that you're not someone to be trifled with.

Buso-Walking, The Festival

Buso-walking is a yearly folk festival held in February in the town of Mohács, usually lasting from Thursday to Tuesday. It signifies the end of the carnival season before Ash Wednesday. The biggest celebration occurs on Sunday and the festival ends two days later with a symbolic ritual called 'The Burial of Farsang,' 'Shrove Tuesday,' or 'Mardi Gras.'

The celebrations feature Busós, folk music performances, masquerading, parading, and dancing. It all beings with a landing on the opposite bank of the river, followed by a parade from Kóló Square to Main Square. The festivities include saying farewell to winter by burning a pyre, which is the equivalent of burning winter itself, and also dancing in circles around the pyre.

Busójárás is attended by groups of performers and visitors alike from many neighboring countries like Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria, where similar celebrations are held for many different reasons.

Busós in boats crossing the river.
Busós in boats crossing the river.
Busós in boats during the landing, which is the first event that occurs in the course of Busójárás.
Busós in boats during the landing, which is the first event that occurs in the course of Busójárás.
Buso performers - mostly just silly people dancing around in the middle of the street.
Buso performers - mostly just silly people dancing around in the middle of the street.
Firing a cannon for the entertainment of the masses.
Firing a cannon for the entertainment of the masses.
The pyre to be burned when the night comes and Busós dancing around it.
The pyre to be burned when the night comes and Busós dancing around it.
Burning the pyre at night during Buso-Walking.
Burning the pyre at night during Buso-Walking.
Quite the wicked image. But yeah, that's what's happening.
Quite the wicked image. But yeah, that's what's happening.

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Comments 9 comments

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

Very interesting. This sounds a little like American Halloween and Mardi Gras with the spiritual connotations, rituals and beliefs. I imagine this would be quite the scary event for children to see who are not accustomed to it. In the very first picture, are those instruments?


Haunty profile image

Haunty 4 years ago from Hungary Author

It's supposed to be kid-friendly, but I'm not sure I would take my kids to see it. The masked people are usually folklore groups, dancers, whatever... I'm not really up on it. They sure won't eat anybody. American-style Halloween is becoming popular here too. I think it's a cuter tradition. As for spiritual connotations, I'd like them to be present, but that's not really the case. It's more about having fun and doing something out-of-the-ordinary.

The instrument is called havasi kürt, which is sort of an Alpine horn. One of my favorite musical instruments.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

Zombie walks, devil walks, Alpine horns? Your area sounds like so much fun. One day when I get to travel the world I will have to stop in. American Halloween today is more about community, tradition and children than the spirits and harvests and what-not.


Haunty profile image

Haunty 4 years ago from Hungary Author

You have to stop in, Ardie! We are really bored in these parts, so we do all kinds of adventurous things. :)


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

Is it often cold where you are? I don't know anything about Hungary... Time to do some research!


Haunty profile image

Haunty 4 years ago from Hungary Author

OMG! No! Summers are warm, often hot, and winters are moderate. We just had the hottest summer ever this year, and I enjoyed it more than ever. :)


Hear Me profile image

Hear Me 4 years ago from Somewhere in Florida

Really awesome! This looks like a really colorful festival!


Haunty profile image

Haunty 4 years ago from Hungary Author

Thanks Hear Me. :)


Weick Chen 3 years ago

Can I get more information of havasi kürt . I very interest in this instrument , but I only can find data of Hungarian .

Thanks!

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