Basque Fact of the Week: The Sun in the Basque Cosmos

As the brightest object in the heavens, the sun has always captured the fascination of those humans who gazed upon it. The Basques, of course, were no different. As the source of warmth, and thus its connection to nature and growth, it is central to several myths and stories. Much of what we know about what those pre-Christian Basques thought about the cosmos and the sun in particular comes from the work of Jose Migel Barandiarán.

Gigantic Rolling Wave Captured on the Sun, from the NASA website.
  • As the sun set, Basques thought that the sun was entering the bosom of the earth. While the sun was called grandmother, the earth was the sun’s mother. At sunset, Basques would say “Eguzki amandrea badoia bere amangana [Grandmother sun goes to her mother]” or “Eguzki santu bedeinkatue, zoaz zeure amagana [Holy and blessed sun, go to your mother].”
  • At least one story suggests that, at night, the sun travels underground. A brother, who had a rooster, saw a group of men hitting a rock with a stick. When he asked what they were doing, they said “Opening the day so that the sun can warm the world.” The brother responded “Go to sleep. This animal that I bring will be in charge of opening the day. When I sing kikiriki, get up and you will see how it is daytime.” They did so and indeed, when the rooster crowed kikiriki, the day had already dawned.
  • While eguzki is a wide-spread name for the sun, in some regions of the Basque Country they used iguzki, and related names such as iruzki and iluski. This leads to an interpretation that, originally, these words meant something like “hole of fire” and “hole of the celestial vault,” respectively, suggesting another view of the cosmos, one where the sun wasn’t an object but a hole through which sunlight came through the heavens and reached the earth.
  • As in many parts of the world, sunlight is a ward against evil, and many creatures, not just evil ones, flee in its presence. In the Basque Country, a number of symbols have arisen to represent the sun and help ward off evil: the thistle flower (the eguzkilore, the flower of the sun), the lauburu, and the fact that many tombs and houses were oriented to the east, toward the rising sun.

Primary source: Hartsuaga Uranga, Juan Inazio. Sol. Enciclopedia Auñamendi, 2020. Available at:

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