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buber.net > Basque > Astro > On Basque Astronymy: The Grammatical Gender of the Celestial Bodies
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On Basque Astronymy: The Grammatical Gender of the Celestial Bodies

by M. G. Ramos

Tr: Blas Pedro Uberuaga

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The Grammatical Gender of the Celestial Bodies

45. Did the nouns in Basque have a grammatical gender? Astarloa regards as useless weight the distinction of gender, of which lack Basque nouns. Uhlenbeck agrees with Schuchardt in supposing that at one time they had it. He sees a proof of the primitive differentiation in the feminine form of the second person singular in the present of the transitive verb.

46. Among the nouns that lack sex, as for example the names of the stars, it is curious to observe that for the Germanic people the moon was primitively of masculine gender, and the sun feminine. In the mythology of the Edda, Mâni, the Moon, is the son, and Sôl, the Sun, the daughter of Mundilföri. The same occurs with the Gothic mêna, sunnô, and the Anglo-Saxon môna, sunne. In English, Chaucer, in the fourteenth century still alluded to the sun as feminine, in phrases such as this: ``to fynde the degree in which the sonne is day by day, after hir cours abowte.'' That in English sun and moon have changed gender is due to the influence of classical models. (Max Müller) [+]. Even in our days, the German Sonne `sun' is feminine and Mond `moon', masculine.

In Sanskrit, the well-known names of the moon, such as Kandra, Soma, Indu, and Vidhu, are masculine. The Lithuanians also give the moon masculine gender, and the sun feminine. (Max Müller).

For the Acadians, the moon existed before the sun. (Max Müller) [+]. In the beginning times of the Caldea, the god Moon was the chief, the powerful, the sovereign of the gods, the lord of the spirits, the resplendent. In the time of the Babylon Empire, he had descended in standing, but even then a hymn of the city of Ur attributed to him these concepts: ``Lord, prince of the gods, only sublime in the heavens and on the earth! --- Father, illuminator, lord, God, protector, prince of the gods!'' (Costa). On the other hand, for the Semites, the sun came first and occupied the principal position among the gods. From here that in Acadia the moon was conceived as man and the sun as woman, while in Babylon the sun was of masculine gender and the moon as feminine. (Max Müller).

In the ancient mythology of Japan, the solar goddess fulfilled the most important role, while her brother, the lunar god, occupied an insignificant place. (Encicl. Espasa).

Among the Basques, the cult of the sun seems to have predominated. So much that, as we have said at the beginning, there are those that believe that the Basque owes his national name to the diurnal star, eguzki. Arana Goiri says: ``... the Basques, without doubt from the most remote times venerated the sun with a cult so extraordinary that it is, it can be said, the only that with that of the moon has conserved until the opening of the doors of History.''

47. The lack of ancient texts and the shortage of gramatic gender of Basque nouns [+] make it very difficult to determine the sex attriubuted to the sun and the moon, in the case that they were actually worshipped as gods. We can only call Basque folklore to our aid, and judging by it, both the sun the moon were considered of the feminine sex. According to Barandiaran, in Elosua and Placencia they recite at sunset the following verses:

Euzki amandria
Juan da bere amagana
Biar etoriko da
Denpora ona bada.

The grandmother Sun
Has gone to her mother.
She will return tomorrow,
if there is good weather.

Another variant, recorded as well by Barandiaran in the same localities and in Rigoitia and Cortezubi, substitutes the juan da by badoya, or that is that the action of the preterit is converted to that of the present, with the confirmative adverbial prefix ba-.

In Rigoitia they often recite the following verses:

Eguzki santu bedeinkatue
Zoaz zeure amagana
Etori zaitez bijer
Denpora ona bada.

Holy blessed Sun,
Go to your mother.
Come tomorrow
if there is good weather.

48. As to the moon, the children are directed to her as well, in verses such as the following, recorded by Barandiaran in Ataun and Ormaiztegui:

Ilargi amandrea
Zeruan ze beri?
---Zeruan beri onak
Oran eta beti.

Grandmother moon [+]
What is new in the heavens?
---In the heavens good news,
Now and always.

The same author says that in other places (e.g. in Zaldibia and Andoain) these verses are directed, with minor variations, to the insect called Marigori, Matxingoringo, etc.=`vaquita of Saint Anthony'.

49. Among the riddles collected by Azkue, there is one that says:

Miña-miña lurpeko,
andre adera ekiko,
Lope txapar-ondoko.

which Azkue translates literally as follows: ``It is spicy and underground, beautiful lady of the sun, Lope del de junto al matorral'' (sic). And the solution is: Tipula, iduzki ta otsoa = `onion, sun, and wolf'.

Here we see that the sun has lost some years, since from grandmother passes to beautiful senora. But, in any case, in doesn't allow agreement in the essential the folklore of all of the towns of the Basque Country that have been studied until now.

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