Here we have a reproduction of aHilarri, a Basque gravestone,from 1736 with commonly found symbols. Themythologyof the ancientBasqueslargely did not survivethe arrival of Christianityin theBasque Countrybetween the 4th and12th century AD. Most of what is known about elements of thisoriginal belief system is based on the analysis of legends, the study of place namesand few historical references to pagan rituals practisedby the Basques.
Mythological creatures andcharacters
One main figure of this belief system was the femalecharacter of Mari. According tolegends collected in the area of Ataun, the other main figurewas her consortSugaar.However, due to the scarcity of the material it is difficult to sayif this would have been the"central pair" of the Basquepantheon. Based on theattributes ascribed to thesemythological creatures, thiswould be considered achthonicreligion as all its characters dwell on earth or below it, with thesky seen mostly as an empty corridor through which thedivinities pass.
Here we have Anboto, a mountain where the figure of
issaid to have resided. There are a lot of mythological characters in Basque Mythology.And also all of them connected with Mari, it’s the most important:
Mariis considered the supreme goddess, and her consortSugaarthe supreme god. Mari is depicted in many different forms:
sometimes as various women, as different red animals, as the blackhe-goat, etc. Sugaar, however, appears only as a man or aserpent/dragon. Mari is said to be served by thesorginak, semi-mythical creatures impossible to differentiate from actualwitches. The group of witches nearZugarramurdimet at theAkelarre. That’s awitches meeting.
Aduris not a character but the abstraction of luck, destiny ormagic. It's said to be the power of soothsayers. In common languageit also meanssaliva. It's also the name of a river.
Ama Lur: Mother Earth. It may be a modern creation or maybe another name of Mari.
EguzkiorEkiis the known name of the Sun, considered adaughter of Ama Lur.
Gauekois an evil character of the night. There’s a very known sentence that hesays:“The day for the people of the day and thenight for the night creatures”. He goesaround the world at night and if he seesanyone who mustn’t be there he punishesthem.
Herensugeis the name of a dragon whoplays an important role in a few legends.
Erge is an evil spirit that takes men's lives.
Ilargiis the known names of the Moon, also a daughter of Ama Lur.
Jentilak: giants, sometimes portrayed throwing rocks atchurches. They are believed to be Pagan Basques themselves,seen from a partly Christianized viewpoint. A surviving jentil isOlentzero, the Basque equivalent of Santa Claus.
Lamiakor laminak: a type of nymphwith bird-feet that dweltin rivers and springs.
is notproductive anymore. The second argument isbased on the 12th century account, theCodex Calixtinus, of AymericPicaud, a French pilgrim, who recorded a number of Basque words andexpressions, saying about Urtzi:
et Deus uocant Urcia
("and theyname God as Urcia".) Since the remaining material Picaud recordedappears to be very accurate, this bears some weight.However, there are no legends at all related to such a god andPicaud remains the only explicit reference to date. This had led to thealternative theory that this may have been a generic term for "sky"and that Picaud may have simply "pointed at the sky" looking for theword for God and been supplied the word for "sky". This explanation isto some degree supported by the unexpectedabsolutivecase ending
, which neither inProto-Basqueor modern Basque appearsonproper nouns. To date neither theory has been able to convincefully.