Spring AS XLVI (2012)
Volume XVII, Issue 3 (#65)

From the Nachalnik

Springtime greetings to you all!

Our issue is a bit thin this quarter but I hope we'll have more to present in the future. I would welcome short articles, brief fiction, drawings and illustrations, or anything else of interest to a Slavic medieval reennactor.

Pennsic is coming sooner than you might expect! Last year, we did not have a gathering, but I am hopeful that one of you will volunteer to host it this year. The most important part is having a space at which to meet. Arts and Sciences tents are the most convenient, but must be signed up for soon in order to get on the calendar. If you want to host, please let me know so I can help coordinate the publicity through Slovo and our various web presences.


Hungarian Heraldry

By Istvan Valkai

Heraldry came much later to Hungary than to the rest of Western Europe. Prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Hungary, what we might call heraldry was either decorative or a means of showing allegiance with a clan or tribe or a particular military leader. These military leaders filled the position of the nobility in a feudal society. Heraldry, as such, first began to appear in Hungary in the 13th-14th centuries. Hungarian heraldry shares many aspects with German and Polish heraldry and falls within the Slavic-East European family of heraldry.

Hungary became a Kingdom in 1000 AD under King Saint Stephan I, who forcibly Christianized the Hungarian people and set about forming a feudal society in Hungary. Prior to this time, the Hungarian people were a tribal society ruled by the tribal and clan leaders under the overall rule of a Grand Prince. King Stephan relied heavily on German Ritters (Knights) to seize control and solidify his position as leader of the Hungarian people. I believe the influence of these German Knights and cultural identity from their earlier existence as semi-nomadic tribes had a hand in the formation of Hungarian heraldry.

Many of the significant differences between Hungarian heraldry and that of Western European (mainly English/French) heraldry with which we are most familiar, may have developed from the influence of the German Knights and the practices left over from the tribal days. The most easily noticed difference between Hungarian and Western European heraldry is the almost complete disregard for the rule of tincture, which states color on color or metal on metal are not allowed. Hungarian heraldry has no problem with color on color or metal on metal. While metal on metal was not extremely common, it was still used in good standing with Hungarian heralds. Color on color was quite common and appears to be carried over from earlier times as color on color was used extensively in tribal/clan totems or house marks.

A second and also easily recognized difference is that Hungarian heraldry has a distinct dislike for charges just hanging in space by themselves. Charges are very often found on a mount or base. Another acceptable form was a central charge surrounded by secondary charges, such as charge A between two B's. Hungarian heraldry was also fond of a charge issuing from another charge, such as an arm issuing from a cloud.

Ordinaries (a charge of one or more stripes of a tincture which cover a large area of the shield) are rarely used. Some ordinaries, such as chevrons, crosses and saltires are not found at all. When ordinaries were used, the most common were per fess, fess a bar across the center of the shield, and bases. Only rarely is per bend (a bend is a straight piece extending from the dexter [left] corner to the opposite side of the shield) used in Hungarian heraldry.

The most commonly used tinctures (the colors used in heraldry) for fields are blue, red, green and black. Rarely were gold/yellow or silver/white (the metals in heraldry) used as the field tincture, but examples are found.  In Western heraldry, purple is used as a color. Furs are also widely used, but these are never found in Hungarian heraldry.

Common animal charges in Hungarian heraldry were lions, bears and deer. Eagles, storks and ravens are the most common bird charges found in Hungarian heraldry. Human figures are often found along with demi beasts, crowns and crests. When crowns or crests were used they often had another charge issuing from them. Cadency marks used in western heraldry to show relationship within a family are unknown in Hungarian heraldry.

Some might consider Hungarian heraldry to be “bloody.” Most animals or birds are pierced by arrows or a sword. Animals attacking other animals are common as well. From 1540 on when Hungary was constantly battling the Ottoman Empire, disembodied arms, human figures with weapons, Hungarians killing Turks or severed Turk heads were common. Nearly 15% of personal arms from this period had severed heads.

Another aspect of Hungarian heraldry from this time of conflict with the Turks was the granting of arms to an entire group of people. Entire garrisons of 80 to 120 soldiers were granted the same arms as a group, not individually.

While quite different from Western heraldry, Hungarian heraldry was influenced by the cultural identity of the Hungarian people and those peoples around them, mainly German and Polish. It is beautiful in its own way and worthy of study. As our Society, the SCA, grows and encompasses more cultures I hope authentic style of Hungarian heraldry will become acceptable for registering with the College of Heralds.


•  “College of the Hereditary Nobility of Hungary” ( www.hungarianheraldry.org )
•  de Tamáska de Baranch, Endre: The Evolution of the Hungarian Coat of Arms . Sarasota, 1979.
•  Kezd, Bela Kezdy Vasarheli De: Totemistic Elements in Hungarian Armory , 1961.
•  “Main Characteristics of Hungarian Heraldry” ( www.heraldica.org )
•  “Bratislava County Nobility” ( http://kleberczderethe.blogspot.com/p/hungarian-heraldry.html )
•  “Tempus Peregrinator's Little Heraldry Book” ( http://www.theweebsite.com/heraldry/index.html )
•  www.crflags.com/fotw/flags/hu_king.html
•  www.heraldikum.com



•  Kazimira recommended the website for the “World Wide Web Portal for the Study of Cyrillic and Glagolitic Manuscripts and Early Printed Books” ( http://www.obshtezhitie.net ).


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