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4. The Great Bear (Ursa Major)

The Great Bear (Ursa Major)

Actually I know very little about how Tamas Bacsi got his knowledge. In those times there was not just one master, but several people, wise men and women, who had obtained knowledge. One knew everything about herbs, the other about how to heal animals or people, or they could tell the future by listening to the leaves of a tree. I did understand that had his knowledge from different sources. He did have a master or a person who had left a deep impression on him, because at home he had some objects that were not magical, but he said: “These come from a wise man.” The only thing I know about this man is that he was a shepherd.
He had, for example, a stick which made a very strong impression on me because it looked so magical to me. It was as big as a walking stick, and it was completely carved with ancient runes, the ancient Hungarian writing, that I could not read. Being children we only knew the ABC's and the Roman and Arabic numbers. Tamas always said about these runes: “This is the real Hungarian. What you are learning from the church is imported, that is not Hungarian.” Sometimes he held the stick in his hands, like a rosary, and then he felt it with his thumb, and sang. He caressed the signs and turned the stick very slowly, so he was feeling all the signs, which were cut in a spiral around the stick. When he arrived at the bottom of the stick, he did the same thing reversed going up. I found that very fascinating.

The old rune signs
The old rune signs, by Joska Soos

Actually it was a kind of shepherds staff that ended in a double snake head at the top. At the bottom, about ten centimeters from the point, three frogs had been cut. I know that the frog is very important in shamanism, because it stands for our amphibian state, but at that time I was not aware of it. I do remember that, as a child, we went fishing with a kind of basket. Of course, we caught more frogs than fish. Like all boys, we tortured the frogs by pulling off their legs. When Tamas heard of it, he said: “You can absolutely not do that. Otherwise the soul of the tortured frog will go into your belly and create pain or sickness.”
Since that time I had great respect for the frogs, because he had told us that. The other boys stopped doing it because they were afraid to get sick by the spirit of the tortured frogs in their belly. But I did not act out of fear. I had respect for the Old One, and he knew better than I did.
Thus, at the bottom of the stick, there were three frogs, and at the top a double headed snake. To him it was a very valuable ritual object that he had gotten from his master from whom he had learned the most.


What Tamas also had learned from him, and what he passed on to us, was looking at the stars, especially the Polaris star and the Great Bear. It consists of four stars with a tail behind it. We had to look at the uppermost star, where the tail goes and and down again [this is the star Mizar]. He said: “What do you see?”
I said: “A star”
Look a little better, do you see something else?”
“Yes,” I said, “There is another little light point next to it.” Next to this star in the tail of the Great bear is another small star. You have to look very careful in order to see it. There were three or four boys and two girls, and only three of them could see the little star. The others didn't see anything. Tamas said that those who could see it have a good intuition, a good observation, a rationality that is coupled with a feeling for the metaphysical. This connection was very important to him.
When somebody can see this star, then this indicates another thought structure. You can't always see it, it suddenly pops up. I still look at it, and sometimes I think it is my own projection. Much later I came to know that this little star of the the fifth magnitude is behind and above the second star in the tail of the Great Bear, and it is called Alcor, which means test. [This comes from the 14th century Arabian name of Al Sadak.] In other civilizations it was also a custom to use this star to test for paranormal abilities in initiation rituals.
In Hungarian, and especially in shamanistic tradition, the Great Bear is very important. We give the the Great Bear three names, as with many other constellations: a profane, a sacral and a divine name. The profane name is The Wagon, the sacral name is The Great Bear, and the third, magical and mystical name is the Gönzöl.
The Hungarian etymologists have not been able to find where that word comes from. Literally, it means a person between the gods and humans, who brought us civilization. It is told that the Gönzöl was send from heaven to teach people practical things on the technical, psychological and psychical level. When people had learned all this, the Gönzöl went back to heaven in his fiery chariot in the direction of the Great Bear.
There is another version of this story in which he wanted to go back after he had accomplished everything, but people grabbed him and ate him to keep his knowledge here on earth. That was the holy or magical cannibalism. Thus, his chariot left without him, and it went to heaven where it is still floating around.
In Hungary there is also a village that is called Gönzöl. It is on an island in the Donau, between Estergom and Komarom, close to the border between Hungary and Czechoslovakia. There are written documents about this place since the twelfth century, but the village is much older. In that village was a family called Gönzöl, and the oldest of most apt member of the family was always the judge in that area. From far away people came to him to ask or hear his judgment, because he was a very just man because he had his knowledge from heaven.
In Hungarian there is another meaning of the word Gönz, when it is said: “he was the Gönz,” that means, he is dressed poorly. That is a reference to the Gönzöl who was shaman and walked around in ragged cloths. Gönzöl means mediator, a shaman who sent by heaven to help mankind. Therefore it was important that Tamas let us always look at the Gönzöl, the Great Bear.
I have another idea about that. In our times we speak of flying saucers, and where they might be from. With many people's cosmology we find that they considered certain constellations holy, because people went to them, or beings came from them. Maybe they should point their radio-telescopes in those directions to see if they have civilizations. I think that they were not gods, because god is only pure spirit. Maybe they were higher civilizations who came here and stayed and left behind a memory of the visit of the gods or ambassadors of the gods.
In Hungarian mythology, the Gönzöl is not a god either. He is an ambassador, although with the northern people of Siberia, he is called the son of god, or god's faithful servant.
I think that the observation of the Gönzöl or the Polaris star is based on realistic facts, but then too on the psychological or psychic level. Tamas also said that one does not have to look at the star itself to remain in contact with it, but you can put your thought with it when you are falling asleep. Even in the daytime. At that time we didn't know that the starry heaven was also present during the day time. But we had to try to remain contact even during the daytime.
That is a parallel way of thinking. You do not have to have the object in front of you in order to experience it. That is not necessary as we can have direct contact by synchronicity. Tamas Bacsi always said: “Why is it that you can get contact with your ancestors in the Milky Way? That is so far away. Look at your finger, and look at the tree over there, and look to the stars. What did you notice?”
“Nothing,” I said, “A finger, a tree, stars.”
“What you didn't notice is that looking at these different things takes the same time. There is no difference.” That is the simultaneity. That made a big impression on us, But it didn't make us think about it. Now I think that there is way of thinking that can comprehend the immediacy of everything, independent of space and time.. That is the state Tamas Bacsi called “Traveling without moving.”.
We often went with Tamas Bacsi to the lake, especially when the wind was quiet, and the surface of the water like a mirror. We were just sitting there and we didn't speak. He was looking at the water for hours, fascinated. When we asked him what he was seeing, he answered that he was looking at his master. He was in the presence of his master. He saw him in the reflection of the water. When we asked him what else he was seeing, he said: “Everything you want.” he said: “When your master appears, when you see the face of your master, then you can see anything you think about.”
The we asked: “How deep can you see that?”
Yes,” he said, “Even beneath the water, even the bottom you can see, and still deeper, all the way into the underworld, into hell.”
There were boys from the vineyard hills, and I myself had an aunt who lived over there. He told these boys: “You don't have to come down from the hills to the lake to see all that. Up on the hill is a deep water well.” That was a really deep well, about 60 to 80 meters deep, from which the water had to be hauled.
He said: “You can look at the reflection of the water in that well,” Of course, it depended on the light, what you were seeing. On a bright day you could see a light circle of about 50 to 60 cm in diameter, while the well itself was two and a half meters wide. Sometimes you saw a light circle of only 10 cm in diameter. It depended on the lighting and the angle of looking.
“Look at the reflecting point in the water,” Tamas said, “and think of somebody. When that person appears, you can ask him a question, or see what happens.” As children we looked at it as a fun game. We were standing around the well, and looked in it. Of course, all kinds of images came up. Actually it is a kind of psychological test. When you are looking in a bright circle of light, very deep inside a well, then something happens inside your head. You have the feeling of dizziness. That is why it is said that the deep pulls you down. When you are not afraid of the dizzies, and you keep mastery over yourself, then you can feel that inside your brain something is happening. It feels that your brain is turning like a spiral, very, very slowly, or very rapidly. Sometimes it reverses. Tamas probably learned this from his master too. Aside from the stick, this was very important, looking at the flat surface of the water. When Tamas looked at it, he was not only in contact with his master, but he was working himself. He never told me what he wanted to achieve, he only said: “Do you see the Milky Way out there?”, “The spirits of the ancestors are there, and one has to live his life in a pure and beautiful way in order to go there.” In Hungarian mythology, the fallen heroes and good people are not going to Valhalla, but to the Milky Way. It does not mean that it is a paradise, but life continues like on Earth, but more refined, sublimated. There are no passions, no money, no sickness, nothing of that nature. One is in spherical harmony. This was his thinking.
When I think about it, he was using the communication with his master to purify himself. It was a spiritual exercise to change one's inner being. Not only to gain knowledge or to experience something, but to work on his spirit, and to make it a better instrument.

He was also open for the knowledge of others, like the gypsies he often visited and for whom had great respect. As children, we thought that the gypsies were dirty, because they looked dark and smelled. Our mothers always warned us not to connect with the gypsies, and we obeyed. But Tamas said: “That is not true. It is that skin color that is dark. They come from a country where people have dark skin.”
He visited them often. About two kilometers outside the village was a big meadow where the gypsies set up camp for the entire year. The old people stayed there, and the young ones went away in the summer. They did all kinds of handicraft, like making copper pots, or repairing tools. I went there two times, inside their tent, to experience the strange atmosphere.
Tamas Bacsi went to this tent to meet a couple of gypsies, but what they were doing there I don't know. When first I was there, they remained silent and didn't say a word. Some of them smoked a pipe, others were chewing tobacco, were staring, or didn't do anything. He always got red wine to drink, not to drink a lot, but to create a nice atmosphere. Although they didn't speak much, he had a great respect for them, and he said that they were wise people, and that we can learn a lot from them. “Up there in the Milky Way,” he said “there is no difference between you and a gypsy. When you become bright, that is where you go.” he meant that in order to go the milky Way, your spirit has to be as bright as the Milky Way.

Hungarian Gypsy Camp from old postcard
Hungarian Gypsy Camp from old postcard

This taciturnity was very characteristic for Tamas Bacsi. He always told me that one can learn more from silence than from a long speech. That was also his method to teach us, and by that he forced us to open our eyes and ears, to be always open.
We often asked him what he was singing, and then he said: “You will know when you will do it yourself. Do what I do, and let the sound emerge from inside, from your belly, from your heart, your throat, but never from your head.”
The we started to sing quietly with our high pitched children's voices. He never said that it was good or bad what we were doing, just “Continue.” That was the way he taught us. He was the example, we had to identify with him. “Don't imitate me,” he said “but experience it until you start to vibrate inside.”
Sometimes he drew simple signs in the dirt of the soil, with his thumb, or with two or three fingers. We thought, “He is just doing something.”, but now I think it had some significance. They were magic signs, and sometimes we imitated it. He primarily did this when people came to him with a certain problem, or had a special question about something they wanted to know. He also drew magical signs on animals that were sick, especially on cows and horses, on the affected area. Sometimes he did this on the head, the chest, the back, and with cows on the udder when they didn't produce enough milk. Then he drew the sign and sang. That was a casting spell, but he never urged us to do that too.
When one draws such signs, as in Chinese or Japanese calligraphy, then they do have a fixed form, but the expression of that fixed form is a personal matter. That is a communication with oneself and with the primal rhythm. That I have experienced myself later on when I started to paint these magical signs. To my surprise I also found them on the shaman drums of the Eskimos, and the Aboriginals in Australia. This cannot be tradition of course. This is a universal psychological experience of creative rhythms which are related to different states of consciousness.
Sometimes Tamas worked on people with signs from their feet to their head. I remember that he did this with descriptive and calligraphic movements as if it was a painting or a tattoo. By means of these movements he tattooed those people, by way of speaking. This was not only advantageous, but it also healed those people, especially from psychosomatic ailments, as most diseases are.
Now I am convinced that the tattoos or the bodily paintings are a magical image of the lines of force and centers in man, and they have a symbolic and cosmic meaning. By these different forms and lines, you come into contact with the personal, collective, earthly, and cosmic streams and movements. By this one feels connected with oneself, with other people, the earth, the cosmos, and even the divine. Therefore I think that by making those movements he was working on the body and its aura. Because he rarely or never touched the body. Usually he kept himself at a distance of about 15 cm of the body, and with cows about 40 to 50cm. His movements looked like the movements of holy dancers in Thailand, or the mudras of Tibetan monks.
He used dancing movements, straight lines, horizontal or vertical, broken lines and spirals. Also, but less often, he worked on one point, with his thumb, or two or three fingers. Then he pushed and pulled back. He often told us that this did not come from himself, but he had learned that from wise people. Therefore one has to be open to the knowledge of others.
Although Tamas Bacsi was a blacksmith he didn't especially look like an oak tree. In general, the Hungarian people are not that tall, and he was precisely 1.65 meters tall. I know this precisely, because he always said: “I am just right to be a soldier.” In his young years, one had to be at least 1.65 cm to become a soldier. Half a centimeter less, and you were no good. I have that in mind very well.
He had broad shoulders, not that muscular. He did not look like the anvil he was using. He had the typical Ural-Altaic physiognomy, which a yellowish skin color without looking Chinese or Japanese. A round head with a flax-like beard and mustache, like the Mongols.
He was straight, but by his work, his head was tilted forward a bit. His eyes were brown-black, and his voice was rough and broken, like the voice of a samurai.
Usually he was in a double state of mind. Not in the sense that he was elsewhere, but he was in the here and now, and elsewhere at the same time. When he was working people or animals, or sometimes when he was walking ahead of us, then I noticed that he was there and at the same time somewhere else. That was typical for him. I still can see him before me: strong, moving, flowing and spherical at the same time, like the cycle of water, between the ocean and the clouds. A balanced human being.