Category Archives: Folklore

Basque Fact of the Week: Maialen Lujanbio, Bertsolari Champion

Bertsolaritza is the art of Basque improvisational poetry. Every four years, the best bertsolaris come together to crown a champion. (It has been five years since the last competition because of, you know, COVID.) The latest edition of the championship, called the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia, just wrapped up, with the final taking place on December […]

Basque Fact of the Week: José Miguel de Barandiaran Ayerbe, the Great Patriarch of Basque Culture

The Basques converted to Christianity relatively late compared to many of their neighbors, and before that they had a complex and fascinating mythology that involved a myriad of creatures and powerful beings that impacted the daily life of the people dotting the Basque coast. Much of what we know about that mythology – and Basque […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Lamiak, the Basque Mermaids and Nymphs

Mythical creatures abound in Basque folklore, decorating the Basque countryside, from powerful god-like beings like Mari and Sugaar to more “common” creatures like Tartalo and Basajaun, creatures people might encounter as they go about their daily business. The lamiak are another such being. Living in the streams and ponds of Euskal Herria, their beauty – […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Fire and Flame in Basque Culture

Perhaps one of the most defining things that separate humans from the rest of the animal world is our command of fire. Fire is essential to who we are and how we have developed as a species. Indeed, it has been suggested that our taming of fire, and our development of cooking, is what let […]

Basque Fact of the Week: The Black Hunter

“[We] never heard from him again; he never came back. However, ever since, many have heard his dogs whistling, while others have heard their sad barking. Occasionally, on clear nights with a full moon, the silhouettes of the priest, the dogs, and the hare can be clearly seen in their eternal wandering” (from Wiki Mitología […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Jaun Zuria, the White Lord

Last week, I introduced the House of Haro and the first Lords of Bizkaia. The mythical first Lord of Bizkaia was Jaun Zuria, the White Lord. Jaun Zuria is a foreigner, of Scottish ancestry. I find it interesting that the Basque legends rely upon a foreign figure to establish the Lordship of Bizkaia. Why invoke […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Sugaar, the Serpent-God Consort of Mari

Much of what the ancient Basques believed about the world around them has been lost to time. Without a written record, we don’t know what beings or deities they worshipped, certainly not to the same extent as the Greek or Norse pantheons. While it seems the Basques believed in a Mother-Earth goddess – Mari – […]

Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country

I just stumbled on to the Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country, which intends “to provide an overview of popular culture and lifestyles of the Basques throughout the 20th century up to the present day.” It covers a range of every day activities and aspects of every day life, from “House and Family” to “Diet” […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Basque Funerary Customs

During one of my visits to the Basque Country, we visited the hilerria, or cemetery, in Munitibar. I wasn’t clear what was going on, until they started digging up one of the graves. It seems that it was time to move my dad’s grandmother’s body. They dug up her grave — her son, my great-uncle, […]

Basque Fact of the Week: Basque Proverbs

Proverbs capture traditional wisdom and common sense, and every culture has their own set of proverbs. Back in 1994, Jon Aske posted a collection of Basque proverbs he had gathered from a variety of sources. With his permission, I collected them and posted the full list of Esaera Zaharrak on Buber’s Basque Page. These proverbs […]