BBC’s ‘Baptiste’ and the libel of the Busojaras

The popular BBC crime drama ‘Baptiste’ is a slick example of layered and intriguing screenwriting and storytelling.

But I couldn’t help but notice a severe sleight on a pagan-influenced celebration in the latest series, which is set in Hungary and largely in the beautiful city of Budapest.

But the series delves into the murky world of far right extremism as the titular character searches for the British Ambassador’s missing sons.

It would be fair to say that Budapest, which is a jewel of a city, is not shown in its best light in this production.

And, for some reason, the series’s antagonist is portrayed on threatening viral videos wearing a Busó mask.

This relates to the pagan-influenced Central European and, in particular, Hungarian, Busojaras festival.

I feel this association is nothing short of libellous on the Busojaras tradition, although it does make for an interesting story.

But what was and is Busojaras?

The folk celebration, which is also observed in parts of Serbia and Croatia, is an annual event and is part of the traditions of the south Slavic Šokci people in Mohacs, Hungary and involves dressing up in fearsome hairy horned beast costumes, in February, in the run-up to Ash Wednesday.

There is more than one theory about the origin of the practice. One dates back to the time of the occupation of the area by Ottoman Turkish forces (in the abortive 1687 campaign, rather than the more successful earlier invasion by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1526).

As the Sultan’s troops approached, the locals were said to have abandoned the town and fled to woodland and swamp areas.

According to legend they were encamped one night by a fire, when an elderly man approached and entreated them: “Don’t be afraid, your lives will soon turn to good and you’ll return to your homes. Until that time, prepare for the battle, carve various weapons and scary masks for yourselves, and wait for a stormy night when a masked knight will come to you.”

The mysterious messenger then disappeared, but the townsfolk followed his orders. Later, on a stormy night the promised knight arrived and, as instructed, the refugees donned their costumes, took up their arms and returned to Mohacs in a loud reconquest of the town.

Alarmed by the incursion it was the Ottomans’ turn to flee in terror, believing they were under attack by demons.

Another, earlier, version of the story holds that the Busós, as the costumed host became known, were attempting to shoo away winter itself, rather than the Turkish invaders.

The latter, more primal, version of the story has similarities with other Slavic traditions, such as the Balkan Koledari’s Koleduvane dance, which is still enacted in Bulgaria in December and involves energetic dancing, loud chanting and the playing of instruments, by costumed participants, to scare away supernatural winter entities like werewolves, ghosts and vampires and, more generally, winter itself.

The Busós’ masks are also similar in appearance to the Bavarian and Austrian myth of Krampus.

Belief in the demonic horned anthropomorphised goat character is also a tradition in Hungary and some other Central European countries.

The terrifying creature is said to punish children who have misbehaved in the period before Christmas.

He is a companion and dark mirror of St Nicholas who, it is said, rewards well-behaved children.

However terrifying these folk costumes may appear, they do not deserve to be associated with modern-day extremist politics. They are part of a rich Central European heritage.

More on these traditions and others can be found in my book ‘Dark Secrets of Central Europe: A Tale of Three Cities’: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0951TT4XN/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_imm_awdb_JBM9F85EZJ3HJVGMMK64

Publicity for ‘Dark Secrets of Central Europe: A Tale of Three Cities’

My book ‘Dark Secrets of Central Europe: A Tale of Three Cities’ has been featured in Czech-based Central European news website Kafkadesk.

In the interview I explained how the book came about and provided some more information on the gruesome contents.

You can read the interview here: https://kafkadesk.org/2021/01/14/unveiling-the-dark-secrets-of-central-europe/

The book’s blurb reads: “Prague, Vienna and Budapest and the countries they are the capitals of, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary, represent a bubbling cauldron of ideas and beliefs.

“From obscure Christian sects and mainstream fundamentalists, to Talmudic mysticism, Islamic invasion and the ever-present hidden hand of paganism, this region is where east meets west. And the panoply of human existence and interaction has played out, often in gruesome fashion.

“Influenced by polities close by such as the Holy Roman Empire, German states and France and those further afield from Spain, to Iran and India, Central Europe is where synthesis has taken place. Both a wall and bridge for vastly different cultures.

“This volume came about after an odyssey to these three cities and the surrounding areas and explores the contradictions and curiosities of these iconic places.

“The journey takes in vampires, ghosts, brutal killings, war and plague. As well as magic, folklore and religion. Join me as I unearth the Dark Secrets of Central Europe in this Tale of Three Cities.”

Get the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GG2RR6H

SUBSCRIBE to the HIDDEN HISTORY Channel on YouTube here: https://youtube.com/channel/UCJkLU5LtpDT1HXDKzF-SpHQ

New book ‘Dark Secrets of Central Europe: A Tale of Three Cities’ reveals gruesome and sinister history

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GG2RR6H

Prague, Vienna and Budapest and the countries they are the capitals of, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary, represent a bubbling cauldron of ideas and beliefs. From obscure Christian sects and mainstream fundamentalists, to Talmudic mysticism, Islamic invasion and the ever-present hidden hand of paganism, this region is where east meets west. And the panoply of human existence and interaction has played out, often in gruesome fashion. Influenced by polities close by such as the Holy Roman Empire, German states and France and those further afield from Spain, to Iran and India, Central Europe is where synthesis has taken place. Both a wall and bridge for vastly different cultures.This volume came about after an odyssey to these three cities and the surrounding areas and explores the contradictions and curiosities of these iconic places. The journey takes in vampires, ghosts, brutal killings, war and plague. As well as magic, folklore and religion. Join me as I unearth the Dark Secrets of Central Europe in this Tale of Three Cities.

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GG2RR6H