Our ancestors had interesting, unusual, often brutal burial customs. Ancient Hungarians buried their dead with reverence and believed in the afterlife even at the time of the conquest (Honfoglalás, 895).
Szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu has asked an expert, Dr Péter Langó, a historian-archaeologist specialising mainly in the Árpád era, about the traditions of our ancestors.
According to him, our ancestors usually buried their loved ones in multi-storey cemeteries, in mine graves. In addition to their clothes, in some cases, their jewellery, utensils or, in the case of men, their weapons were buried with them. Food was often placed in the grave, and sometimes, the remains of a horse were buried with the deceased.
Usually, during the funeral service, a horse was killed. However, they did not put the whole horse in the grave, only the skin, in which the skull and the legs with the hooves were left. The rest of the horse was probably eaten as part of the funeral feast.
There were many superstitions that played a big part in how our ancestors buried their deceased. Sometimes, the dead were laid in a shrunken position or on their backs in the grave. Dr Langó says they know of graves that have people in them with one or another limb missing. In these cases, experts have speculated that fear of the dead may have played a role in the construction of such anomalous burials. The dead were tied up or placed belly-first in the burial pit to prevent them from returning and haunting the living.
All that is available about the beliefs of the ancient Hungarians is that Muslim sources written before the conquest remember the Hungarians as “fire-worshippers” and “idolaters”.
Both their burials and their deeds recorded in the chronicles suggest that the Hungarians believed in an otherworld, respected their relatives and loved ones, and buried them in a fitting manner, and never disturbed their graves.
The placement of the dead among our ancestors was in regular order, with the graves facing west-east, usually close to each other, as cemeteries still look today.