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Basque folklore and mythology



Eguzkilore, which in Basque means the Flower of the Sun (eguzki=sun and lore=flower), is a very emblematic symbol of Basque mythology. It is the flower of the wild thistle, carlina acaulis, that grows in sunny and rocky flanks on the mountains. It represents the sun as protector from evil spirits and storm. It is commom to find it at the entrance of the houses, hang at the door.

Legend has it that the so called Lamiak (Basque mythological characters) used to go out at night in order to take away the children from their homes. However, if they wanted to enter, they had to count the number of petals of the flower and say it loudly. Since they didn’t know how to count, they could not get into the houses through the night. The day after, at the sun’s first rays, they would escape. Hence, this is how people used to protect themselves from evil spirits traditionally, using the eguzkilore.



Zanpazar or zanpatzar is the emblematic figure of carnaval, held in the villages of the Basque Country. Traditionally, young people who participate go door to door to receive funding to enable them to organize a meal. At the end of the round of visits, the figure of zanpazar is burned. During the tour, there are various exhibition dances, notably kaskarot-martxa, common in the festivities of the people of the French Basque Country.



Among the different Basque mythological characters are featured lamiak or laminak, female beings with webbed feet, often described as beautiful sirens. It is said that they sometimes helped humans, although humans also helped the lamiak. According to legend they carried children away, so families, to protect themselves, used amulets, among which the Eguzkilore, cited above.



Although sorgin (“witch” in Basque) can be either a man or a woman, it has been the latter that have traditionally played this spiritual role in Basque communities. They were the ones who knew the secrets of procreation and birth and therefore did the work of birth attendants and midwives. Likewise, they knew the secrets of plants and their medicinal uses, and thus also played the role of healers. Owing to their connection with the spiritual world they also served as directors, oracles and priestesses.

Reminiscent of pagan rituals, they met several times a week for akelarres (aker = goat, larre= meadow, in Basque), during which they worshipped the devil, represented by the male goat. These meetings were held at night and in remote locations, where they practiced the magical arts, in the presence of the devil.



This is a Basque-Navarrese character of the Basque Christmas tradition, a mythological coal miner who brings gifts to Basque homes on Christmas Day and represented as a fat, ragged man, stained with coal and a good eater.

Originally it was said that he was a pagan giant who converted to Christianity, who later became a coal-miner who lived in the mountains and didn't like children. Starting in the twentieth century, Olentzero became one of the traditional elements of Christmas, like Papá Noel or Santa Claus.


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