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buber.net > Basque > Astro > On Basque Astronymy: Basque Mythology
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On Basque Astronymy: Basque Mythology

by M. G. Ramos

Tr: Blas Pedro Uberuaga

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Basque Mythology

39. Does there really exist a Basque mythology? [+] To answer this question, we should have some idea of the primitive religious traditions of the Basques. It is believed by many, Campion among them, that the Basques professed a naturalist religion. But of it, we know little to nothing concretely, supposing that it consisted in the adoration of the elements and the celestial bodies. Menendez Pelayo also suspected that the protohistoric Basques were adorers of the celestial bodies and, especially, the moon, but he adds that maybe resten vestiges of this cult in the Basque traditions, without acudir to the problematic Jaun Goikoa, Moon god. (Urroz).

Arana Goiri says: ``Are there traditions concerning the religious cult that the Basque race observed thirty or forty centuries ago? None.'' For Vinson, the Basques converted to Christianity around the tenth century. The P. Lhande opinions that in the language of our times there does not exist a single term that permits arriving to the conclusion that there were ancient divinities among the Basques. Another Basque-French writer, L. Apesteguy, affirms that the Basque race is so saturated with Christianity that it did not conserve any of the religious forms that preceded it. From there it is deduced that it completely renounced its prehistoric pass in favor of the doctrines and disciplines of the Church. All of the dogmatic, liturgical and moral vocabulary is taken from the Church.

Unamuno also recognizes that neither in the customs nor in the language of the Basques do there remain marks of an indigenous cult or of religious beliefs prior to the introduction of Christianity.

As historic testimony, there remains that of Estrabon, who says in his Geografia that the vascones (?) reunited with their families on the nights of the full moon, to venerate with songs and dances an unnamed god. (P. Lhande) [+].

40. We will not repeat that said before about the adoration of the sun by the Basques, assumed by Arana Goiri, and about the Jaungoiko `lord (of the) moon', of Bonaparte and Vinson. Neither will we speak of the supposed Basque gods Asto ilunno deo, Baicorixo deo, Ilumbero, etc., of the votive stone tablets found in the Novempopulania, since such vestiges are more accurately signs of the relatively modern influence of foreign people and civilizations. (Urroz). However, in the opinion of Schuchardt, Asto iluno (name of a deity) is a synthesis of the Basque terms aste `week' and ilhun `night'.

The dolmenes of Eguilaz, Aralar, Aizgorri, and other places of Euskadi have been conveniently explored and studied, but by the fact that they have the entrance facing to the east, we cannot deduce with certainty that they were druidic altars, nor that the tribes that erected them worshipped the sun.

41. Neither in the swastika is it precise to see a survival of primitive paganism. The swastika, which for C. Jullian is the essential problem of Basque civilization, appears reproduced to the point of satiation, not only in the old steles discoideas of Basque cemeteries, but also in the furniture and façades of the houses. (Courteault).

Among the decorative motives of the Basque tombs, stars of six points, rosettas or daisies, and helices, that is, swastikas, are abundant. (Colas). All of them could be astral symbols. But it is also possible to suppose that these motives appeared about the stars responding to a need of the artistic spirit of the community, and far from being symbols of complex beliefs, they were simply rellenantes of the surfaces vacant/vacated by the lack of the forgotten anthropomorphic decoration. (Frankowski).

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