Taltos Notes

Tue Jan 7 06:38:50 PST 2003

On Tue, 2003-01-07 at 04:23, David Silberstein wrote:
> Some notes concerning the /taltos/.
> The following is an summary of a description of folklore surrounding
> the taltos in Hungarian culture.  It's an extract from a much longer
> compare-and-contrast of the taltos with similar entities from other
> European cultures, which I scanned in, complete with endnotes, for
> another listmember (waves to Holly) who was kind enough to send me
> her grandfather's translation of a webpage that was also about the
> taltos.
> I doubt this has anything to do with SKZB's take on the taltos in any of
> his stories, but I thought it was interesting nevertheless.

Thank you for this.  I'd seen the word 'Taltos' mentioned a few other
places as well and had been wondering about its orgins.

> Source: "Ecstasies : Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath"
> (Original Title: "Storia Notturna", literally: "Nocturnal History")
> ISBN: 0140158588 (PB), 0394581636 (HB)
> Author: Carlo Ginzburg ; translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
> (http://www.history.ucla.edu/ginzburg/)
> Chapter: To Combat in Ecstasy, paragraph 9
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> In the throng of witches and enchanters who populate Hungarian folklore
> there stand out, owing to their singularity, a number of figures who have
> been linked to Oriental, and probably extremely ancient, traditions. The
> most important is the táltos. This name, possibly of Turkish origin,
> designated the men and women tried for witchcraft as early as the end of
> the sixteenth century. [40] But the táltos strenuously denied the
> accusations leveled at them. A woman, András Bartha, tried at Debrecen in
> 1725, declared that she had been named leader of the táltos by God
> himself: because God forms the táltos when they are still in their
> mother's womb, then he takes them under his wing and makes them fly
> through the sky like birds to fight against male and female witches 'for
> the dominion of the sky'. [41] A number of later testimonies, collected
> almost down to the present day, confirm and enrich this fundamental
> juxtaposition. They also modify it: women táltos become increasingly rare.
> The táltos are chiefly men, marked since birth by some physical
> peculiarity, such as being born with teeth, with six fingers on one hand,
> or, more rarely, with the caul. 

Other than the stallion bit (which I cut), this doesn't sound like
Brust's taltos' at all.  However, the bit I left here does remind me a
lot of one group of people from Guy Kay's _Tigana_.  I don't remember
what they were called in the book, Dreamwalkers or something like that. 
They weren't exactly like the Taltos you describe, but they were close
enough for me to believe the part in the book is based on them.

I've also heard of the being born with a caul meaning special things in
other books.  For some reason I want to think its Card's Alvin Maker