Monday, March 14, 2016

MopDog Monday: How to get sick in Hungary

Today, we talk about folk medicine.
No, I am not talking about ancient wisdom handed down to our ungrateful generation by our wise and close-to-nature ancestors on how to cure nasty diseases (although my great-great-grandmother, who was a midwife, swore that vernix kept her skin smooth and wrinkle-free).

I am talking about things people tell you not to do, OR ELSE.

For instance:

UTI (Urinary Tract Infections)
Known in Hungarian as: Felfázás (literally: "catching a cold from below")
Exactly what it sounds like: People will tell you that if you walk around barefoot on cold ground, or sit on a cold surface, you will get a UTI. Every time my mother or grandmothers saw me doing any of these things, they reminded me of this looming danger by calling "Felfázol!!" ("you'll catch a cold [from below]!"). It is a very common phrase to hear from Hungarian parents.
(Surprise: Turns out, it is actually possible that cold feet can trigger UTI in women who had it before)

by Andrea Dezso
Known in Hungarian as: Agyhártyagyulladás (literally: "brain membrane inflammation") (go ahead, try to pronounce it)
Traditionally, parents/grandparents will tell you that if you go outside with your hair wet, you'll get meningitis. In fact, family story claims that one of my great-aunts died this way. It is believed even today so much that when my first American hairdresser asked me (very kindly) if I wanted my hair dried or not, I stared at her in horror. Did she expect me to go outside with my hair wet? Was she trying to kill me?!

Cold hands
My grandmother, who is Swabian and probably was raised in the grand old tradition of scaring children straight shitless into behaving, also used to tell me a story about a little girl who wouldn't wear gloves in the winter and her hands shook so badly she couldn't hold a pencil ever again.

This entire post, by the way, was triggered by a #FolkloreThursday post with the image above, by Hungarian artist Andrea Dezso, who had an entire series of embroidery works with things her mother believed. It's pretty entertaining, take a look.


  1. I was told I would get pneumonia if I went out with wet hair. And that my face would freeze in a scowl forever if I made a bad face to my parents. And yet I've survived!

  2. I love folk medicine. These are great. And that embroidery by Andrea Dezso is amazing! The heart has me strangely captivated.

  3. In Poland, if we sit on cold surfaces, we're supposed to 'get a wolf'... I've heard it hundreds of times and I'm still not sure what it means. Probably something with urine too, like the urge to urinate more often, at least that's what has always made most sense to me.

    1. Interesting! :D We also have one that tells you that if you drink too much water you'll have a frog in your stomach...