Tamás Henics

’Juhmérés’ - Measuring sheep’s milk in Visa – A Saint George’s day custom in Transylvania

All the photos in the book are made by the author.
Reviewed and vetted by István Pávai.
Translated by Sue Foy.
Graphics and typographical arrangement by Gábor Klebercz.

"With this little book I would like to relate the main moments of the ancient celebration surrounding the annual measuring of the sheep’s milk in the Transylvanian village of Visa. In Hungarian there are several expressions all referring to this same event: juhméres (sheep measuring), összeadás (putting them out – to graze), tejbemérés (milk measuring).

This is the ancient shepherd’s celebration held around St George’s day (April 24) - still observed in a few villages in Transylvania. A ritual for bidding farewell to winter and welcoming the spring, of man’s release in the renewed world. This event establishes an order in the community which is honored throughout the grazing season, lasting until September 29, Saint Michael’s day. This is the time of rejuvination, not only for the pastures and the animals, but for man as well. This custom is a complete expression of the spring renewal, culminating in dance and celebration. With respect to this tradition, only after returning to the same place several times for this event, did I notice that certain elements did not recur from one year to the next; or seemed to be in the process of dying out. It also became clear that many people in my environment hadn’t even heard of this tradition. Even more compelling was my chance meeting with a shepherd in Székelyföld – another region of Transylvania – who told me that they hadn’t held the sheeps milk measuring celebration in that area for a long time. The custom had been completely abandoned there, even though many farmers still keep sheep in the traditional way.

Having had the opportunity to be in the village of Visa in the Mezőség region (of Transylvania) for this very alive milk measuring event on many occaisions, I therefore embarked upon the task of presenting the main elements of this custom through the combined observations of all my trips to Visa and the help of my photographs."

Tamás Henics

Tamás Henics was born in 1965 in Szentgotthárd, a provincial town in Western Hungary. He finished medical school in Pécs and then worked in the United States as in medical research for several years. Presently he lives in Vienna with his family. We have gotten to know him, not as a doctor, but instead through his photographs. He is a dedicated documentalist and an important figure in the new Hungarian folk arts movement. The rich and unforgettable experiences of his childhood in Hungary’s Őrség region and a respect for tradition permeate his photographic work. Many times a year he travels to his favorite villages in Transylvania, where, with his camera, he continuously strives to preserve moments important to him, treasures of the traditions damned to atrophy and decline, the collective knowledge and memory of the people of the Transylvanian villages. His first book – with text in both Hungarian and English - bears witness to the level of artistry he has acheived.

Price: 4200 HUF