A Stag of Scythian Gold from the Hungarian National Museum

The Legend of the Stag
Fred Hámori

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 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.

The symbol of the cosmos and the mother of the sun was symbolized as a stag. 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) illustrates the stag as the carrier of the sun.

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

The stag here 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 this reasons Scythian stags often represented the horns of the stag like flames.

The Remnants of the Hun Legend of the Stag

According to the Byzantine historian, Procopius, the nation of the Utigurs and Kutigur Huns originates 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 sons, princes called Mauger and Gorda (Magyar and Hunugur?), who ruled after the deaths of their fathers.

Another descendant of the Huns are the Uygur (Yugor, Ugor) of eastern China which even by their name appear 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 ancestors of the Tartars and the Mongols. [Abul Ghazi Bahadur, a 17th 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.


The symbol of the fishes was called in ancient Mesopotamia Hea from the god of wisdom and rivers. Fish was Ha in Sumerian, Hal in Hungarian. 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 with Pisces. In the Sumerian legends of the antediluvian kings, the legend of Etana is prominent. Etana’s legend includes the visiting of heaven. In Asia Ten or Tien means god or heaven also and Teno was the title of emperors as in early Egypt S-Ten.

The Persian Version

In a Persian legend of the very early (pre-Aryan) period, when Iran was civilized by a western Mesopotamian ruler, Takma Urupi (Takma=Tana) whose wife was 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.

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 Sagittarius 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 (a 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, was 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).

The 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 god-hero Osiris as follows.

As to how the ram became the symbol of Osiris, the following tradition has 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 sighn 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 (Dionysius) 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 Aries (the ram) so that when the sun is in the house of Aries in spring, nature shall revive it’s life. The Egyptian dictionary explains that the word Cush also means 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 Polydeuces is Polli, or Apollo the sun god whose other Near Eastern name is Makar (Magor). Zeus was once a king in the Near East, a Cushite 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 (Pollux) and Naes (Castor,Nesus 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.)

The Finnish 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 can be equated with Kalama of the Sumerians.

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 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, 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.

The 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.

The 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 (Asfali=Magor), who is more peaceful. Their adventures, with their 400 warriors includes the kidnaping the women. Their jealous half brothers chased them, but they turned them into monkeys (i.e. make monkeys of them?).

The Astrological Symbology of the Chase of the Stag

We must remember that in the early times the zodiac was not based on 12 stations but only 8 representing two quad cycles one represented by Aries (ancestor), Sagittarius (father), Virgo (mother) and Gemini (twins,children). The second quadrant which is between these events is the cycles of nature the seasons and the elements of nature. Aquarius (water,winter), Scorpio (air), Leo (sun, summer), Taurus (earth, spring). The signs have shifted in meaning and relevance since this very early time. The following legend originates from the time of the hunters and still uses the old zodiac rather than the new 12 station one. The sequence also first goes through the cycle of generation then through the cycles of nature.

The Hungarian Version

  1. After the flood the son of Tana, …
  2. The giant Menrot (Nimrod), who built the tower 201 years after the flood (form Kezai,Gesta Hungarorum, and also the story of the flood by Berosus the last Babylonian historian). [SAGITTARIUS]
  3. Moved to the land of Evilath, which today we call Persia Here, from his wife Eneth ….
  4. Two twin sons were born to him. These two sons were called Hunor and Magor, the ancestors of the Huns and the Magyars (Hungarians) Nimrod also had other sons, from other wives, which became the ancestors of the "Persians" (or more likely the Parthians) (Assyrian versions have Ninus and Tur as his sons, but some versions also call them Vagur/Magur. [GEMINI]
  5. The two boys were Menrot’s eldest and were often with their father in his palace and on hunts. One day Menrot went on a hunt with his sons and they separated. The boys hunted together and came across an amazing "horned" (stag, or elk or literally "horned" animal) It shone in multicolored light. (The story of the hunt of the twins is early Mesopotamian in origin. [TAURUS]
  6. They followed the strange beast, which lead them on a long chase, through many lands. The stag lead them to a swampy lake (Meotisz), where it jumped into the lake and disappeared without a trace. (Much like the sun disappearing at dusk).[AQUARIUS]
  7. They searched for it a long time without any luck and finally gave up disgruntled. They returned home and reported to their father their experience, and asked him to build for them a temple-retreat, on an island in the lake, where they could isolate themselves from the temptations of the world and prepare themselves for their great task. [SCORPIO] was in ancient times called the temple and also called the eagle.
  8. They isolated themselves there for five years (preparation). In the sixth year, they began to yearn for the end of their isolation and a teacher appeared who taught them about world power and divine kingship. (1. SCORPIO, 2. Virgo, 3. Leo, 4. Gemini, 5. Taurus, 6. Aries)
  9. They and their 200 men left the island and went north to the plains to continue their hunt where accidentally they encountered a group of women who were dancing in celebration of the festival of the "HORN", the celebration of spring. [Aries].
  10. They abducted these Allan women with all their possessions (as was then the custom) and married them. The two daughters of king Dula (Hun royal family) were among the women of the Bellar’s and these Hunor and Magor took as their wives. (This reflects the historic mixing of the Hungarian people with the Allans and Huns. Evidence of both is found in their customs, music, dress, art, language, and mythology).


Their descendants, the Huns and Magyars originated from them and their men and peopled the land called Scythia.

Their people were divided into 108 clans. When the land could no longer hold them they gathered into a council where they urged moving toward the west. (108 is another "magic"number related to astronomy and astrology).

The people of the Huns decided on leaving, while the Magyars stayed behind and came later to settle in central Europe. (Both the HUN and MAGYAR name can be related to aspects of the Sun. KÜN=sun in Turkic KUN=dawn in Sumer and even found in Hungarian and Japanese).

Special thanks to Fred Hámori for permission to reprint the contents of his page, "The Legend of the Stag".

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Other Links of Interest

Fred Hámori’s Hungarian Myth and Legend exploring many of the other traditions of the Hungarian people.
Fred Hámori’s Hungarian Heritage Homepage brings together a diverse collection of materials on Hungarian arts and sciences, history, language, mythology and letters. This site is a must for anyone interested in Hungarian culture.
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