Sabtu, 29 September 2012

Archaic Hungarian Peasant Tattoos

The Hungarian girls (from Bács-Kiskun county) paid homage to a particular fashion around 1910-20. By the time of the collection the 60-70-year-old women had shown their tattoos willingly on their inner forearms. The figures depicted starry or knob ended Greek crosses (so-called dominum-cross) with dot decoration between the arms. Also, the monogram of the wearer's maiden name and the completion date often occurred. This type of tattoo existed in heterogeneous villages in the circle of Hungarians and Southern Slavs (Sokac or Bunjevac), however, it seems that the mostly Hungarians wore tattoos and they tattooed the Southern Slavs as well.

The scenario was almost the same in every case. The young 13-18 year-old girls had their figure done with their close friends. With an ink-pencil they scribed it then they bound 2-3- sewing-needles and got soot from the chimney or paraffin lamp and blended that with some brandy. With needles dipped in the soot they poked the scribed figure until it bled. They sometimes only stretched the skin from under but more often they tied it off below or above the area or the hand above the wrist so that the blood went to the forearm and the skin hardened. This mode produced a big pain and additional inflammations. Örzse Kunyik (Mrs István Gyenis) could account herself really unlucky who had made a tattoo secretly for herself. Her elder cousin wore a similar figure and she had a desire for it since she was a young girl. She was woken up crying by the pain because her wound had come to a head and they had to call the doctor. On top of all this, she was trounced.

On the one hand, because of the parents' disallowance, on the other hand because of the girlish secret, the two friends mostly without the adults' knowledge did the procedure in a hidden place and they often tattooed each other. The field was suitable for this where most people watched the animals anyhow or the spinning-house, the centre of communal life.

It was typical to take fancy to tattooing when they left home, went to serve to a different village or became a day-labourer. Here they could meet other young people from different villages. For example, Verona Gyenis (Mrs Péter Gyurica) saw a tattoo at harvest and then she took a liking to it. Also, Örzse Német (Widow Mrs Antal Nagy) got inspiration at corn harvest in autumn where she saw face tattoos on other girls. Together the friends wanted one too and because there were more understanding parents then as well, she told her father what she wanted. The father did not permit the face tattoo, because he thought those were worn by bad people, however "if they can bear it", he said "they can do it on the hand". The father scribed the figure for his daughter and her girlfriend. Years later, when she was a bride, when Mrs Antal Nagy got married in Nagybaracska, she made a tattoo for a local girl.

We also know an example of a skilled girl who tattooed both boys and girls. For example, Katalin Elek (Widow Mrs Mihály Mészáros) had a tattoo made as a young bride when she was pregnant by such a girl who served together with her and so they lived in the same flat. Many girls went there to get a tattoo then. Ilona Német (Mrs János Szabó) said that her 16-year-old sister made not only her a tattoo but also many boys and girls when they worked far from home and could not kill time on days off, on Sundays. In her opinion the youngsters were bored so tattooing became a popular pastime. Allegedly, her sister made a cross for girls and a heart for boys because the cross was completed sooner and so it did not hurt so much than the boys' heart figure.

Read more interesting content about Hungarian tattoo history: you can find original pictures from Kiskun Prison Museum in 'The tattooed secret of Kiskun Museum - Hungarian tattoos for men at the turn of the 19-20th centuries'. Do you know the most famous Hungarian folk motive: Kalocsai? You can download our new tattoo designs based on Hungarian folk motives.

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