Here we have a reproduction of a Hilarri, a Basque gravestone, from 1736 with commonly found symbols. The mythology of the ancient Basques largely did not survive the arrival of Christianity in the Basque Country between the 4th and 12th century AD. Most of what is known about elements of this original belief system is based on the analysis of legends, the study of place names and few historical references to pagan rituals practised by the Basques. Mythological creatures and characters
One main figure of this belief system was the female character of Mari. According to legends collected in the area of Ataun, the other main figure was her consort Sugaar. However, due to the scarcity of the material it is difficult to say if this would have been the "central pair" of the Basque pantheon. Based on the attributes ascribed to these mythological creatures, this would be considered a chthonic religion as all its characters dwell on earth or below it, with the sky seen mostly as an empty corridor through which the divinities pass.
Here we have Anboto, a mountain where the figure of Mari is said 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: ♥ Mari is considered the supreme goddess, and her consort Sugaar the supreme god. Mari is depicted in many different forms:
sometimes as various women, as different red animals, as the black he-goat, etc. Sugaar, however, appears only as a man or a serpent/dragon. Mari is said to be served by the sorginak, semimythical creatures impossible to differentiate from actual witches. The group of witches near Zugarramurdi met at the Akelarre. That’s a witches meeting. ♥ Adur is not a character but the abstraction of luck, destiny or magic. It's said to be the power of soothsayers. In common language it also means saliva. It's also the name of a river. ♥ Ama Lur: Mother Earth. It may be a modern creation or may be another name of Mari. ♥ Atxular and Mikelatz are said to be sons of Mari, among others. ♥ Basajaun: the wild man of the woods and his female version: basandere. ♥ Eguzki or Eki is the known name of the Sun, considered a daughter of Ama Lur. ♥ Gaueko is an evil character of the night. There’s a very known sentence that he says: “The day for the people of the day and the night for the night creatures”. He goes around the world at night and if he sees anyone who mustn’t be there he punishes them. ♥ Herensuge is the name of a dragon who plays an important role in a few legends. ♥ Erge is an evil spirit that takes men's lives. ♥ Ilargi is the known names of the Moon, also a daughter of Ama Lur. ♥ Jentilak: giants, sometimes portrayed throwing rocks at churches. They are believed to be Pagan Basques themselves, seen from a partly Christianized viewpoint. A surviving jentil is Olentzero, the Basque equivalent of Santa Claus. ♥ Lamiak or laminak: a type of nymph with bird-feet that dwelt in rivers and springs.
♥ Mairuak or Intxisuak are the male equivalent of lamiak in the Pyrenean region. ♥ Odei is a personification of storm clouds. ♥ San Martin Txiki, a popular local Christian character, is a trickster. ♥ Sorginak are both mythological beings that travel with Mari and real witches. ♥ Tartalo: the Basque version of the Greco-Roman Cyclops. The Urtzi controversy The existence of a Basque mythological figure, Urtzi, has been questioned in numerous discussions. The argument for Urtzi being a Basque sky god is based on two main arguments. The first main argument is that Basque has numerous meteorological terms which contain forms of the root ortzi. This has led to a popular modern interpretation of Urtzi as a sky god. It should also be mentioned that the modern Basque word for sky, zeru, is a loanword from Latin caelum and that the word urtzi or ortzi is not productive anymore. The second argument is based on the 12th century account, the Codex Calixtinus, of Aymeric Picaud, a French pilgrim, who recorded a number of Basque words and expressions, saying about Urtzi: et Deus uocant Urcia ("and they name God as Urcia".) Since the remaining material Picaud recorded appears to be very accurate, this bears some weight. However, there are no legends at all related to such a god and Picaud remains the only explicit reference to date. This had led to the alternative theory that this may have been a generic term for "sky" and that Picaud may have simply "pointed at the sky" looking for the word for God and been supplied the word for "sky". This explanation is to some degree supported by the unexpected absolutive case ending -a in Urcia, which neither in Proto-Basque or modern Basque appears on proper nouns. To date neither theory has been able to convince fully.
Tartalo In Basque mythology, Tartalo is an enormously strong one-eyed giant very similar to the Greco-Roman Cyclops. It is speculated that the name may derive from the Greek underworld Tartaros. He lives in caves in the mountains and catches young people in order to eat them. He also eats sheep. In Biscay, it's known as Alarabi. There is a story about him that appears to be derived from the Odyssey. ♥ Tartalo’s tale: One day, while two brothers of the Antimuño baserri (a kind of Basque farm) were hunting, a storm broke, so they decided to take refuge from the rain in a cave, which was Tartalo's cave. Soon after, Tartalo appeared with his flock of sheep. He saw the two brothers and said: "Bat gaurko eta bestea biharko" ("one for today and the other for tomorrow"). That same day he cooked and ate the eldest one, and then, he went to sleep. While he was sleeping, the youngest brother stole Tartalo's ring and then he stuck the burduntzi ("roasting spit" in Basque) in his only eye. Tartalo was blind, but not dead yet. He started to look for the boy among his sheep, but he put on a sheep's skin and escaped from Tartalo. But, unluckily, when he got out of the flock of sheep, the accuser ring started to shout: "Hemen nago, hemen nago!" ("Here I am, here I am!"). Tartalo got out of his cave and he started to run after the ring, hearing its shouts. The young one wasn't able to take off the ring, so, when he arrived to the edge of a cliff, he cut off his finger, and since Tartalo was near, he decided to throw it down the cliff. Tartalo, following the ring's shouting, fell off the cliff. Basajaun In the Basque mythology, the Basajaun is the lord of the woods. He lives in the forest and in the caverns. He has men appearance and all the body covered with hair and a long hair. One of its feet sole is circular as a veal hoof. Far of being aggressive is the genius protector of the sheeps and when they know that he is near they sake their cowbell. When a storm is coming he shouts and whistle from the mountain to tell the shepperds something is wrong. ♥ Basajaun Myths:
Long ago, only the basajauns knew how to plant, harvest and mill wheat to make flour. The basajauns kept this knowledge to themselves, but a Basque man worked out a plan to steal the secret and give it to the human race. The Basque man made a bet with the basajauns to see who could jump over wheat they had harvested. They laughed at him, because they knew that he would be no competition for them, and they laughed at his big shoes. They all jumped over the wheat easily, but when the Basque man tried, he fell on top of the heaps, and the basajauns laughed again. He laughed, and he laughed last and best. They saw the Basque man walking away home, with his big, shoes full of grains of their wheat. Fortunately, a man was passing by the cave of one of the basajauns, and he heard him singing: "If the humans knew this song They'd be well informed. When the leaf is in the bud Then you sow the corn. When the leaf falls off the trees Then you sow the wheat. When the February feast comes round Sow the turnip in the ground." Then, the Basque man told all the humans, and that is how cultivation spread through the world. The basajaun also exists in Aragonese mythology in the valleys of Tena, Ansó, and Broto under the names Basajarau, Bonjarau, or Bosnerau.
Olentzero Olentzero is a Basque Christmas tradition. According to Basque traditions Olentzero comes to town late at night on the 24th of December to give presents for children. The name Olentzero appears in a number of variations: Onenzaro, Onentzaro, Olentzaro, Ononzaro, Orentzago and others.
♥Olentzero’s Tale: There are many variations to the Olentzero traditions and stories connected to him, that changes from
village to village. The first written account of Olentzero is from Lope de Isasi in the 16th century. One common version has Olentzero is that he was one of the jentillak, a mythological race of Basque giants living in the Pyrenees. Legend was that they observed a bright cloud in the sky one day. None of them could look at this bright cloud except for a very old, nearly blind man. When asked to examine it, he told them that it was a sign that Jesus will be born soon. According to some stories, the old man asked the giants to throw him something to live without Christianisation. Having obliged him, the giants tripped on the way down and died themselves except Olentzero. Other versions of the Olentzeroren kondaira or "history of Olentzero" tell that as a new born he was abandoned in the woods and was found by a fairy who gave him the name Olentzero. He turned into a strong man and charcoal burner who was also good with his hands, carving wooden toys that he would carry in a big bag of charcoal to give to the children of the village. It is said that he died one day saving children from a burning house and that when he died, the fairy who had found him give him eternal life to continue giving presents to children and people. ♥Olentzero’s song: Similar to European Christmas carols, there are Olentzero kantak. Two very common ones are: *OLENTZERO JOAN ZAIGU/ OLENTZERO HAS GONE:
ENGLISH Olentzero has gone to the mountains to work with the intention of making charcoal. When he heard that Jesus has been born he came running to bring news Horra horra out Olentzero with the pipe between his teeth
he sits. He also has capons with little eggs, to celebrate tomorrow with a bottle of wine. Our Olentzero we can't be hungry we have eaten whole ten piglets. Ribs and pork loin so many intestines because Jesus is born have mercy. Olentzero brings
happiness and joybecause he has heard on the mountain of Jesus' birth. On this bright day heart, rejoice. outside and inside quickly loose the chill. BASQUE Olentzero joan zaigu mendira lanera, intentzioarekin ikatz egitera. Aditu duenean Jesus jaio dela lasterka etorri da berri ematera. Horra horra gure Olentzero pipa hortzetan dula
eserita dago. Kapoiak ere ba'itu arraultzatxoekin bihar meriendatzeko botila ardoakin. Olentzero gurea ezin dugu ase osorik jan dizkigu hamar txerri gazte. Saiheski ta solomo horrenbeste heste Jesus jaio delako erruki zaitezte. Olentzerok dakarzki atsegin ta poza jakin baitu mendian Jesusen jaiotza. Egun argi honetan alaitu bihotza kanpo eta barruan kendu azkar hotza
*OLENTZERO BURU HANDIA/ OLENTZERO BIG HEAD: The title translates as "Olentzero big head". An arroa is an old measure equivalent to just over 11kg. ENGLISH Olentzero big head robed in understanding is said to have drunk last night a wineskin of ten arroa Oh big-bellied pig! Tralaralala, tralaralala. Oh big-bellied pig! Tralaralala, tralaralala. BASQUE Olentzero buru handia entendimentuz jantzia bart arratsean edan omen du hamar arroako zahagia. Ai urde tripahandia! Tralaralala, tralaralala. Ai urde tripahandia! Tralaralala, tralaralala.
In Basque mythology galtzagorriak, meaning the red-pants, are a type of imps. According to the legend, a certain farmer who wanted a way to do less work, was advised to go to a shop of Bayonne and buy a box of galtzagorriak. He did that and, when he was back to his farm, he opened the small box. Little imps with red pants jumped immediately from it asking “what do we do, what do we do?”. He immediately put them to work: repair the fence, prepare the land, milk the cows, redo the ceiling… in few minutes the galtzagorriak had done all the jobs and asked again “what do we do now, what do we do now?” . The farmer ordered them to do many other things and again the job was done in minutes. But the galtzagorriak kept asking what to do. The more than pleased farmer had to say: ”nothing”. Frustrated the imps started to undo all the job. Eventually, the farmer managed to get them back into their box and, from then on, he decided to do his job by himself.
Sorginak are the assistants of the goddess Mari in Basque mythology. It is also the Basque name for witches, being difficult to tell between the mythological and real ones. Sometimes sorginak are confused with lamiak. Along with them, and specially with Jentilak, sorginak are said often to have built the local megaliths. Sorginak like other European witches, used to participate in the sabbat, called akelarre in the Basque country. These mysteries happened on Friday nights, when Mari and Sugaar are said to meet in the Basque country sacred cave to engender storms. Sorginak are often said to recite the following spell to travel to and back from the akelarre: Under the clouds and over the brambles, or variants of it. In many legends a failed witch (normally a man) says the spell inverted (Under the brambles and over the clouds) and arrives to the akelarre quite sick.
Other variants of this song are also known. Sorginak often are said to transform themselves in animals, most commonly cats.
These cats are sometimes said to bother pious women that do not wish to go the akelarre. Inquisitorial documents describe horrific practices of witches, like eating children or poisonings. But popular legends do not speak of these practices, instead mentioning kissing "the devil's arse" or an animal's genitals, occasional poisoning of crops, bothering modest women (in the shape of cats or other animals) and ointing their bodies with some product (possibly based on stramonium or other psychoactive plant) to "fly" to and from the akelarre and perform other supposed feats. While in the late Middle Ages there are a handful of references to witchery, they are mostly fines for accusing someone of being one. Throughout the Basque Country there are many places associated with sorginak, often also associated with Mari or other mythological characters. (Zugarramurdi caves…)
Lamiak In Basque mythology, the mythological heroes Lamias are often described with bird feet. Mostly female, dwell in rivers and usually comb their long hair with golden combs. They tend to be kind and the only way to anger them is stealing their combs. The Basque mythology explains their disappearance because of the founding of monasteries. Sometimes taking the form of a beautiful woman they attract men, and they can only be distinguished by their duck feet. They sometimes had children with them. In other legends they are half human and half fish. Others say they are merely the goddess Mari. ♥ According to the legend… Once a young shepherd of Orozko,in Bizkaia, called Antxon,was walking in the mountain with his flock when he heard a great song. He was so amazed that he forgot the sheep and went to the place the voice came from. By separating some bushes he saw something incredible. On a rock in the middle of the river sat the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She had long, blond hair, as long as her feet ...
She was brushing it with a golden comb while she was singing a strange tune.Antxon could not remove his eyes from her. Then, the young girl stopped singing and turned around to watch the bushes. She saw the young shepherd,and she got scared and went into the river. Soon she got her head out of the water behind the rock,watching Antxon carefully... the boy was astonished, the play.Finally opening her big beautiful transparent eyes lamia asked: - Who are you? The shepherd kept silent .- Who are you? - Said the young girl again. -Antxon, Antxon- he answered at last.- What about you? The girl laughed and did not respond, going down in the water again. The shepherd waited and waited,and as she didn’t appear,he went home very confused. During the next few days he didn’t leave home, and could not stop thinking of the the girl, so he finally decided to go to the river. On the way,as he approached the scene, again he heard that song of the angels, and felt happy. The beautiful girl, like the last day,was there,brushing her blond hair sitting on the top of the rock next to the waterfall .... When she saw Antxon she stopped singing and smiled -Hello, Antxon she said. -I 've been waiting for you. - Me? He asked amazed. -yes,you.come here, Come. Antxon went to the rock, and stayed there for hours doing nothing, they didn´t speak, they only stared. - Would you marry me? -. Lamia asked the young man when the sun began to hide. -yes!- Antxon said. As a sign of commitment, the lamia gave him a ring that was in his finger instantly. After leaving the young man went back home .... -Mom, I'm going to marry said Antxon to his mother. -But, son ..., who are you going to marry ? "Asked his mother, surprised, because she didn’t know that her son had a girlfriend. - With the most beautiful girl in the world. She lives up in the mountain,near the river. -…But who is she? - Said the mother. -The most beautiful woman I've seen in my life. - What is her name? Who are her parents? -she's the most beautiful, the most beautiful woman... The mother came to the conclusion that her son had been bewitched. Immediately she went to the street, spoke with neighbours, with the grandmother, the uncle, with the priest .... all of them advised her all in different ways: If she’s a witch like this.. if she’s a Lamia like… Finally the oldest man of Orozko also gave his opinions: -If she’s a lamia, she will have duck feet, he said ... The mother returned home and made her son promise that he would look at his girlfriend´s feet . After much stress, Antxon
promised that he would do it. Suddenly, he had a great desire to see her again, and ran away into the mountains. His love was swimming like a dolphin with fish playing in the water,. He came quietly, he wanted to give her a surprise ... but wow! his girlfriend´s feet were not as the other girls´ around the world! -will I be-dreaming? Asked himself, incredulous ... The feet of the girl appeared to be duck feet, duck feet definitely! Antxon was paralyzed by the shock and then he went back to town with a broken heart. When he was entering home his mother was waiting,he noticed something strange happened. - And what, son? What happened? Have you seen her feet? She asked impatiently. -They are like ducks' feet ... said the young man,unhappy. It is a LAMIA! You can not marry her! Hear me!Humans cannot marry with Lamias. Antxon, with great sadness, got into bed and fell ill. With his headache he had dreams and saw his beloved's face and heard her voice calling .. "Zatoz, MAITEA, zatoz" ( "Come, dear, come"). But he never returned, because he died of grief. The day of the funeral lamia came to the house . She approached the bed, and covered him with a sheet of gold and kissed his cold lips. She followed the funeral procession to the door of the church, but as everyone knows, the Lamias cannot enter the church, and then she returned to the mountain crying for her lost love. And she cried so much that in the place where her tears fell there is a spring to remember the impossible love between the lamia and the shepherd. "
Tales around the world There are lots of very well known tales around the world. It’s curious to know different names for them. Here are some of them in English, Basque and Spanish. Children all over the world fall asleep while listening to these everlasting stories. ENGLISH Little red riding hood Thumbling Cinderella The lady & the beast 101 dalmatians dalmaziarrak SPANISH Caperucita roja Pulgarcito Cenicienta La bella y la bestia 101 dálmatas BASQUE Txanogorritxu Erpurutxo Errauskiñe Ederra eta piztia 101
AND HOW TO START A TALE :
ONCE UPON A TIME... ERASE UNA VEZ... BAZEN BEHIN...
AND HOW TO FINISH:
AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER... Y VIVIERON FELICES Y COMIERON PERDICES... ALA BAZEN EDO EZ BAZEN, SAR DADILA KALABAZAN ETA ATERA DADILA HERRIKO PLAZAN...
JOSE MIGUEL DE BARANDIARAN, “AITA BARANDIARAN” (FATHER, AS HE WAS A PRIEST), WROTE THE DICTIONARY OF BASQUE MYTHOLOGY IN 1984. IT WAS AN ESSENTIAL BOOK FOR BASQUE STUDIES.