B bábi, Tibor

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Blood Covenant or Treaty (Vérszerződés) – The basic inter-tribal treaty to form a tribal federation of the ten tribes: seven Magyar and three Kabar tribes on the eve of the occupation of the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 9th century. The anonymous notary (“Anonymus”) of King Béla III described in the 5th and 6th chapters of his Chronicle (the valuable pre-1200 Gesta Hungarorum) how the Magyars, about to move into the Carpathian Basin, initiated a new position by appointing a hereditary Khagan (Prince, Supreme Ruler) while using an ancient custom based on the symbolic blood relationship accompanied by ceremonies held universally among Asiatic peoples. This supreme position was established when the tribal leaders, by slitting their forearms, let their blood flow into a bowl. The collected blood was mixed with wine and then the tribal leaders drank from this, one by one, thus becoming each other’s relatives symbolically, according to their ancient beliefs. The seven Magyar tribes and the three dissident Kabar tribes (that at that time seceded from the Khazar Empire) needed a “Blood Covenant”, a symbolic kinship agreement to unite them into a single tribal federation. Collectively, this treaty comprised 108 clans. The leading tribe was the Megyer (Magyar) with its leader Álmos, later Árpád that supposedly gave the newly formed nation its name, as was customary among the Asian peoples. We learn the names of the tribes from Emperor Constantine VII (913-949) (a.k.a. Constantinos Porphyrogenetos): Nyék, Megyer, Kürt-Gyarmat, Tarján, Jenő, Kér and Keszi; while Anonymus tells us the names of their leaders: Álmos (Árpád), Előd, Ond, Kont, Tas, Huba, Töhötöm.

According to Anonymus, the text of the Covenant was as follows:

(1) As long as they and their descendants were living, they would elect a leader from the progeny of Álmos.

(2) They would all share equally in the land and goods they acquired.

(3) The leaders, having elected Álmos to be their leader, made the decision of their own free will. Furthermore, neither they nor their descendants should ever be excluded from the central ruling council and other leadership positions of the country.

(4) If anyone among their descendants were to become unfaithful to the king, or conspire against him and his relatives, the blood of the guilty should flow like theirs did at the oath they took to king Álmos.

(5) If anyone among Álmos' and the other leaders' descendants were to violate the agreements they sealed with their oath, they should be cursed forever.

As to how this ceremony took place, the 5th century BC, Greek historian, Herodotus offers a description in his Histories. He was probably eyewitness to an oathtaking much like the Vérszerződés, for he describes one such event in great detail in his work on the Scythians. He wrote the following: "...a large earthen bowl is filled with wine and the parties to the oath, wounding themselves slightly with a knife or an awl, drop some of their blood into the wine; then they plunge into the mixture a scimitar, arrows, a battle-axe or a javelin, all the while repeating prayers; lastly, the two contracting parties drink each a draught from the bowl as do also the leaders among their followers."

This covenant of blood forged one nation, the Magyar from the ten tribes. They recognized Álmos, the head of the leading Megyer tribe and his descendants as their “blood-related” supreme leader. In these critical times for the Magyar tribes, the aging Álmos did not enjoy his position very long as the supreme leader (according to more recent historical research by e.g. Bálint Hóman): “Álmos, being honored as the embodiment of the national totem, the sacred mythical eagle (turul), he was sacrificed so that his magic power, wisdom and bravery would move into the soul of his son, Árpád”. This occurred when the ten tribes left the interstice area of Etelköz (“Atelkuzu” in the writings of the Greek Emperor Constantinos Porphyrogenitos, referring to the area between the Dnieper river and the Lower Danube, 830-895) to occupy the Carpathian Basin. The organizational task of this move of the ten tribes in 108 clans, involving about 500,000 people, fell on the new Khagan Árpád. The Petcheneg threat might have been a motive for this decision to move westward beyond the protective mountains of the Carpathians. According to the text of the Blood Covenant as described by Anonymus, the descendants of the tribal leaders were not be excluded from the ruling council of the Khagan, and the goods and land they acquire were to be shared equitably. The text of the Blood Covenant of Etelköz became the basic part of the Hungarian constitution, the Corpus Juris Hungarici. – B: 0942, 1241, 1242, 1257, 1075, T: 7617, 7456.→Anonymus; Etelköz; Kabars; Pechenegs; Álmos; Árpád; Homeland Settlement; Constitution of Hungary; Dentu-moger; Hungarians, History of; Hungary, History of; Tripartitum; Corpus Juris Hungarici; Hóman, Bálint.

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