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Owing to their outdated technology, the Hungarian army was crushed in many battles, Mohács being the decisive one.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