Religious Studies Field Trip to the Busójárás in Mohács

March 1, 2017

On 26 February 2017, CEU’s Religious Studies students and faculty went to Mohács, Southern Hungary, to observe the annual Busójárás celebrations, a winter banishing ritual of the Šokac (a local Croatian community) dating back to the eighteenth century. The celebration features a turbulent parade of busó, men wearing threatening wooden masks and sheepskin costumes, as well as participants in folk costumes. With their rude practical jokes and their pranks on women, the masked busó create a transgressive “threshold state,” writes Tünde Minorics, ethnographer at the University of Pécs,  in her book Behind the Mask: The Busó Festivities at Mohács and the World of Busó (2010): "They freely go across the 'threshold' and can never be caught red-handed. They have some sort of a sacred character that is created through their separation from social norms and structures […] The condition for the 'sacred', distinguished state of the busó authenticated by society is that he should not be identical with his own self.” Dr. Minorics met our group in Mohács and guided us through the procession and the symbols and rituals observed as part of it. Busójárás lasts six days, starting on Thursday and ending on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. We were present at the major celebration day, Farsang vasárnap (Carnival Sunday). The events include the busó parade as well as folk music and dance performances. At the end of the day, the busó abandon Poklade (a figure symbolizing carnival) in a coffin into the Danube River; then a wicker man made of straw, symbolizing winter, is burnt in a bonfire in the main square. Busójárás is recognized since 2009 as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.