Szekely Kapu (Szekely Gates)
Background on Informant:
My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage.
“Growing up in Szekely tradition, this concept of the Szekely “kapu” gate was a phenomenon we saw everywhere.
It’s symbolism is as a kind of barrier between the family home and the outside world. Usually these gates are wooden and have important carvings that are meant to either be religious or represent something that the maker found important enough to etch in.
It’s a connection to the ancestral past, and what’s interesting to note about them is that because in the old days it was so common, you can observe differences from these type of gates in West versus where I grew up in the East.
But they are unique and an important connection to heritage, I know my parents looked upon it as sacred because it was supposed to be guard our ‘sanctuary’.
My parents and their parents before them were very religious so I remember ours had a giant Isten Hozott carved into it which means ‘God has brought you’.
The gates aren’t really created anymore but the ones left have beautiful legacies of rich culture and of course the folklore reflect in them. The carvings have immortalized the period they were created with paintings, visual imageries like crosses and doves, and of course like I mentioned before words of wisdom or associated with religion. But because of how old most of them are, they are fading from weathering.
People in my hometown take pride in them because it shows off our village identity and it’s our little corner of the world where we get to shine with our cultural traditions.
I think people still sell them, but it’s lost its sacredness and it’s mostly for tourism or decoration. My family still has ours up in front of the house, but it’s been up for so long that you can barely make out the carvings but still it serves as a reminder and protection of the past.”
Before this interview I had never even heard of the concept of the Szekely gate and was astounded at how much I was able to learn from it. From researching, I learned that often times these gates were made for the wealthy and as time went on it became a large part of lower households histories as well. It is fascinating how much pride the people of the Szekelyfold hold towards their cultural and folk identity.
I admire the beautiful carvings and art that are the gates and wish it were still around as much as it was in the past rather than just a relic. I love how much emotional connection the person I interviewed had and overall just the connection the gate has with ancestral past. I love how unique the carvings are and how it can be anything from flowers, to the sun, moon, and angels. It is also funny to note that oftentimes some of the houses are long gone yet the gates remain as reminders of what was. Overall, I learned so much about the beautiful tradition and past of Szekely kapu and hope to see one in the future.
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