SAGITTARIUS: the „official” constellation of the IOAA2019

For the Hungarians, like any Northern hemispheric people, Sagittarius is best seen in summer nights, especially in August. Thus, since the 13th IOAA will be taken place between 2-10 August, we chose it as the official constellation of our Olympiad. However, our graphic artist interpreted its standard figure, rather as a Hun archer, in the very typical “backwards shooting” position.

More than thousand years ago Hungarians were basically nomad people, living on keeping animals (pasturage), very close to the Nature. Thus, they had many tales, legends about the stars and constellations. The earliest detailed study of the ancient stellar and constellation names were collected and published by Ede Toroczkai-Wigand (1869-1945) in 1915 (Old Stars). On the course of time, there were several trials to collect more ancient telltales, legends amongst countryside poor people. The pasturage is still an existing profession, those people form a relatively closed, separated subgroup of the Society, they pass the basic knowledge from generation to generation – and as its part, the beliefs and legends, too. The latest study of the still-existing old starry tales and related beliefs of pastorage culture done by István Gyarmathy, during the last few years, amongst Hortobágy Plane pastors. He submitted the results to UNESCO, as a suggestion to include them into the World Cultural Heritages.



What is interesting in the oldest Hungarian names of Sagittarius: generally it was not an archer. Its endured names were like “Turkish cart”, “Beggar’s wain”, or “Limping Beggar”.

The explanation of the “Turkish cart” name can be easily understood: the Sagittarius is  always seen at low altitude in South, from where the intruder army came in the 16th century.

The other names have some story (all versions are connected with a “beggar” and had close relation with another constellation: the Scorpius). For example, one of the most common stories is the following: Once there were a limping beggar, who was living together with a nice woman (=Antares). However, his nice wife turned to be unfaithful to him, and wanted to leave him alone – the beggar wanted to catch her up, and went behind her, but he did not want to leave his wain, and so he pulls the wain with himself all time. Sagittarius is the wain, and the beggar is located at forehead (Western edge) of the constellation. He is never enabled to catch his nice woman, always drops behind her (as they move on the sky from East to West).

One possible explanation of why the beggar is “limping”: people called the twinkling stars as “limping” – many stars, which located close to the horizon longer time, were called by  Hungarian people as “limping”… We have many such star names.

There is another different and interesting explanation: the ancient Hungarian name of the beggars (‘kudus’) is more surely related with the name of God of the Sun at some North-Balkan nations (‘Khrus’ or ‘Khurus’) which modified (misinterpreted and transformed) version was spelled as ‘kudus’ , and this was later thought to be ‘koldus’ = beggar. Some ethnographic studies found a Winter pray in the South Hungarian areas: “Kudus, bring back the Sun for us” which could be related with the location of the Sun near the Winter solstice, in Sagittarius. This is clear, that ‘Kudus’ should not mean a poor beggar (=‘koldus’) but more surely an all-powerful person, like a god.


The author wishes to express his thanks to Prof. Dr. L. Szabados. and Mr. S. Keszthelyi for their valuable comments and basic information from their historical astronomy collection.