The Kutunaks

The amulets (KUTUNAK) which were used against the evil of the glance (begizko) were of several types.

kutunak amulets

The Kutunaks

In Amezketa (Gipuzkoa), a small purse was hung around the neck of babies with, inside, a coin, a piece of charcoal, a piece of celery and a piece of the umbilical cord.

In Zeanurri (Bizkaye), we put chicken excrement and charcoal.
In Zegama (Gipuzkoa), it is said that the devil approached a baby, but this one wearing his amulet hanging around his neck, the devil, seeing that he had a small purse, said: "I cannot approach this ordeal and this celery”.
Other types of amulets were made of glass or coral and had the shape of a fist (gesture against witches), badger claw, small stones or glass balls (against hardness of chest).

Sortzen denak hiltzea zor
He who is born is indebted for death.

There has always been in the country Basque a special and deep respect for the dead as evidenced by many old traditions. When someone was dying in a house, the first neighbor was called first, the one in the first house on the right on the way to the church. The priest and the doctor also came, called by this neighbour. In some villages, if the agony was prolonged, a tile was lifted from the roof, thinking that this would facilitate the exit of the soul from its body.

After death, the closest neighbor called the parents and this same neighbor or someone from the house announced the death to the animals and more particularly to the bees. (Let us remember that bees were sacred animals for the Basque and we say "dead" when they die instead of "lost" (galdu) for the death of animals in general). The body was transported to the church by a special way that each house had. We couldn't use the communal roads, only this one, even if it was bad and longer. This path had various names: path of the church (Elizabide), of the deceased (Gorputzbide)…

Each house had its pit in the cemetery. From the 13th to the 19th century, it was inside the church, in the same place as the bench of the house (Jarlekua). Later, these pits were extended outside, as can still be seen today, especially in the north of the country.

In many places, babies who died without being baptized were buried at the bottom of the house or in the garden. This was done in Rioja (Alaba), Licq (Soule), Uharte (Lower Navarre), Kortezubi (Bizkaye), Aretxabaleta (Gipuzkoa), Sare (Labourd)… The strong link that existed between the house, the path of the deceased and the cemetery shows that the house was also a place of burial. For this, the house and the place of burial were inseparable and linked and were transmitted to the successors.

In other places, after the marriage of the heir, the newlyweds had to bring presents to the burial of the house. As a result, the spouse from outside entered the house before his death.
During the mass for the dead, the mistress of the house made a few offerings in her church pew. Also, as an offering, they burned the mattress of the deceased (at the time it was made of straw) at the first crossing of the path while saying a prayer and watering the fire with holy water.

Therefore, if someone passed in the way, knowing that in the neighboring house someone had died, also recited a prayer for his soul.
After the funeral and the burial the relatives and guests went to the house of the deceased (in some villages all those who were in church) to celebrate the funeral banquet. During the meal a parent praised the figure of the dead and then, calmly, passed the time and the atmosphere was smiling to end with laughter and jokes between all the participants.

That the deceased might occasionally appear was a common belief. This appearance could take several forms: lights, shadows, sounds, etc. In these cases, one asked what he wished and his request accomplished he did not reappear any more.