that the original form of Hungarian writing was rovásírás, what we would – incorrectly – call runic writing? (Technically, the term “runic” is correctly applied only to Germanic runes. Hungarian writing is now internationally referred to as Szekler-Hungarian Rovás). The latest research seems to indicate that this was very ancient, with roots going back to Sumerian ( third and second millennium B.C.) , and was probably the source from which European runes were derived.
Hungarian rovásírás was carved on strips of wood, from right to left, because it is easier to carve that way. It had symbols for all the sounds of the Hungarian language, as well as for numbers. Chinese yearbooks of the 6th century mention the Hungarians’ strange custom of “making incisions in small wooden tablets when making arrangements.” When the Hungarians settled in the Carpathian Basin and converted to Christianity, the language of the Church and of literature was Latin, and they began using Latin letters. The myth that the Church ordered all rovásírás destroyed, as it was considered “pagan”, is a 20th century “urban legend”, whose originator himself acknowledged the hoax.
Although pushed into the background, Hungarian rovásírás was maintained, and was often used even by the clergy. A clear majority of surviving examples of Szekler-Hungarian Rovás all have religious content. Rovásírás had a renaissance at the time of King Mátyás (15th century), when it became fashionable again.
As late as the 19th century, Hungarian cattle records were still kept in Rovás script, as were some tax assessments. Wood being perishable, these records disappeared. But a few examples of Hungarian rovásírás survived in Transylvania. It is now continually increasing in popularity, and efforts are being made to adapt computer programs to write Szekler-Hungarian Rovás script. Since it uses many ligatures (running letters together), this is not an easy task.