Basque beliefs and rites

The mythology Basque is the product of a whole evolution that starts from the beliefs and rites Basque from prehistoric times to lead to a development and the influence of fairground elements and the incorporation of myths from other cultures (impact of the conceptions of pastoral peoples, phase of Romanization and polytheistic contacts and cultures of antiquity) and suffering significant changes from the expansion of the Catholic religion.

Basque beliefs and rites

Basque beliefs and rites

Izena duen guztia omen da
Everything that has a name exists
Se dice que todo lo que tiene number exists Beliefs and rites since ancient times.

This is a complex theme that arises from mythical narratives and data provided by folklore, popular, ethnographic and linguistic traditions and customs. We must mention Jose Miguel de Barandiaran (master of a whole generation of archaeologists and ethnologists) and Julio Caro Varoja who have greatly contributed to the knowledge of Basque culture.

Among the geniuses and divinities of the earth, stands out MARI who is accompanied by a whole set of divinities who usually adopt an animal form.

The other important space is occupied by solar and lunar myths as well as the relation to the sky. Some of such myths have their presence all over the Basque Country, with local or regional variations.

A good part of these extend to other Pyrenean regions or are myths of a more important if not universal character which, here, took on a particular aspect.

To all this we must add the events of the souls of the ancestors, the rites and customs linked to domestic worship.

The pre-Christian mythology being well anchored, the introduction of Christianity supposed profound transformations.

Thus, legends explain that the coming from the East of a large luminous cloud (or a beautiful star) was the announcement of the birth of Kismi (Christ) and the end of the historical period of the Jentils (jentilak), beings to whom one attributed great physical and intellectual capacities but who were not Christians and who collectively committed suicide by throwing themselves into gorges or by disappearing.

The term "Jentil" in the Basque language comes from the Latin "gentilis", identified as a concept of paganism by Christians. In many areas of the Basque Country, the names given to prehistoric monuments have a connection with the Jentil (implying that these, with their exceptional physical strength, were the builders).

Thus, Jentilbaratza (Jentil garden for cromlechs; Jentilarri or Jentiletxe (jentil stone or jentil house) with dolmens.

It is the same with certain caves, Jentilzulo, Jentilkoba (Jentil hole, Jentil cave) and natural rocky accidents Jentil-Zubi, Jentil-Leio (Jentil bridge, Jentil window).

In some places, the building of churches and chapels is linked to the disappearance of ancient beings, including the Jentils, deities and geniuses.
However, this new "religion" did not lead to the destruction of old beliefs. Many of them continued alive and others were readapted to interested Christian interpretations, handed down from generation to generation.