Worship of Basque ancestors

Throughout history, the Basques were closely linked to the house (etxe) which means, for them, more than a simple dwelling and in the case of the farms (baserria), a series of possessions. It is a space where the family carries out a good part of the daily activities and is attached to their ancestors. So there is a whole series of beliefs and rites about the relationship with the deceased loved ones. They are referred to as ancestor worship.

Basque ancestor worship

Ancestor worship

Obviously, this conception has radically changed today. The house was a sacred space that we had to conserve, protect and pass on. In this sense, a key issue was the fire in the home.

In distant times and even closer, the house served as a family cemetery. With the arrival of Christianity, burials changed their place, so much so that in each parish church, each house and family had a floor space (IARLEKU) which was an inseparable part of the hearth. Here the ancestors were remembered (laying of offerings and wax ARGIZAIOLAS (wax baskets) and their souls were invoked. In some localities, the path between the houses and the church also had a sacred character due to having been l itinerary followed during the funeral.

From this set of interactions is born a cult of the family-domestic type towards the souls of the deceased. When people died, souls separated from the body, taking the form of shadows, lights or gusts of wind to go and live underground. At nights, these souls, through caves, peaks or other paths returned periodically to their first homes. They could be called upon to help their still living families. In all these family traditions, in the attention to space in the church and the house tomb in the cemetery, was the main role of the mistress of the house (ETXEKOANDRE).