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buber.net > Basque > Astro > On Basque Astronymy: God and Moon in Basque
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On Basque Astronymy: God and Moon in Basque

by M. G. Ramos

Tr: Blas Pedro Uberuaga

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God and Moon in Basque

13. If we pass from the names of the sun to those of the moon, we observe a curious parallelism. The primitive name seems to be il, ila. Vinson is inclined towards this last form, basing his opinion on the fact that `month', that is `full moon', is expressed by ilhabete. But the dictionary of Azkue also registers the Bizkaian form ilbete `full moon'.

The names of the moon used today form four groups:

  1. Ilargi, with its variants ilargi, ilhargi, irargi [+], iratargi, iretargi, idetargi. Dechepare and Lizarraga employ the form ilhargui.
  2. Argizari, which has as variants argizagi, (in Lizarraga arguicagui) and argizai. Larramendi sites the form argizaila, which we don't find in the dictionary of Azkue. In regards to argizaita and argizaite, only the first of these forms figures in the cited dictionary, but with the meaning `clarity of the moon'.
  3. The Bajo-Navvaran ilazki, ilaski.
  4. The roncales goiko.

In the Aryan languages, the moon has been denominated almost always by relation to its function as measurer of time, from here that `moon' and `month' are expressed ordinarily by a common root. (Costa). Another such thing happens in Basque. Argizari is composed of argi `light' and izari `measure', that is `light-measure'. (Max Müller). In the Edda, the moon is called ârtali `year-teller'. By exception, in Latin luna (from *luc-na) means `brilliant'. (Max Müller).

Ilazki is the form that corresponds completely to eguzki `sun' (Vinson). As we have said, Apraiz established the parallel ilazki : ilargi :: eguzki : *egurki, deducing that its second element is azki=argi `artificial or secondary light'.

14. Much has been discussed about the roncales goiko(a) and over the supposed worship by the Basques of the god Moon. In Basque, God has the name Jaungoikoa, Jainkoa, although the primitive name was Urtci, a word that appears in the so-called Codice of Calixto II: ``Deum vocant urtci'', affirms the Norman pilgrim Aymeric Picaud, bearer of the Codice, in one of the chapters with which he augments it, relating the impressions of his trip to Santiago de Compostela. (Urroz).

Urtci would have properly meant `God of the thunder' or `God of the sky', because even in our days the form ortzi means `thunder; thundering cloud; heavens, sky; clarity of the sky'. The Roncales orzargi is equivalent to `light of the sky'; the Bajo- Navarran orzgorri is translated by `reddish sky'. [+].

The modern name of heaven in Basque is zeru, from the Latin *cæ lu.

15. If the Basques of the XII century still called God Urtci, the Slavs at some time also worshipped only one god, creator of the lightning. Perkunas, in Lithuanian is the god of the thunderstorm, and is used as a synonym for deivatis `deity'. The same meaning is attributed by Castren to the Finn term Jumala, which means `tonante'. (Max Müller). From the identity of the mythologic traits of the gods of the thunder of the various branches of the Indo-European family it is inferred that a god of the thunder existed in the Indo-European epic, in spite of there is no common name. (Macdonell).

Van Eys noted the affinity that connects the Thursday of the Basque week, ostegun `day of the explosion', with that of the Scandanavian and Teutonic, consecrated to the god Thor. Thor, son of the Earth, was the God of the thunder, who hit with his hammer the heads of the giants maleficent that occupied the cloud of the storm, causing to fly from his fierce blows the thunderbolt, in roaring explosion. (Urroz).

In the opinion of Urroz, orzegun, ostegun `Thursday', mean literally `day of the sky'. Ortzi also enters in the composition of ortzirale, ostirale `Friday'. Among the names of the rainbow figures that of orzadar `arc of the cloud', according to P. Fita; `horn or arc of heaven', according to Azkue.

16. Prince Bonaparte believed to have heard in Roncal that they called the moon goikoa `that of above'. (Arana Goiri). Since then, the lexicographers, including Van Eys, when explaining the term Jaungoikoa `God', decompose it as Jaun-goi-ko-a, literally `the lord of the high'. (Costa). But the discovery of Bonaparte made some think of the possibility that Jaungoikoa might mean `lord of the moon'. For others it signified `the lord Moon' or `the lady Moon'. From there there have been those who deduced that the word in question a clear vestige of remote ages in which the moon constituted, the same as between the Accadians of the Caldea, the supreme deity of its mythology. (Costa).

But Arana Goiri comes saying that the roncales didn't refer to the moon as goikoa `that of above', as Prince Bonaparte believed to perceive, but gaikoa `the nocturnal', because for `night' they say gai, in place of the gau of other dialects. However, the dictionary of Azkue registers the term goiko `moon' and adds: ``It is not gaiko. Goikoak ezdu argitzen=`the moon will not give its light' '' is the phrase cited by Azkue, who took it from a manuscript from London.

Whatever the roncal name for the moon was, it doesn't appear probable that it intervenes in the composition of Jaungoikoa, the modern name of God, but of relatively modern origin. (Arana Goiri). According to some, this term is due to the Christian sentiment of the Basques, and was formed no earlier than eight or nine centuries ago with Basque roots, although lacking the most elemental rules of syntax. Unamuno said: ``The little primitive and spontaneous character of this denominacion, the reaching to us such a complete and intact compound, the inclusion in its first component the notion of lord or dueno ( jau, jabe), which supposes a certain level of culture, make me believe, if the rest of the dates that appear from this study are taken into account, that it is a word of recent introduction, perhaps due to the Christian missions.''

On the contrary, Cejador sustained that the religion of the Lord of the high is very ancient and was not born among the Semites, but was abandoned among the Iberians, that is, the Basques, before the Hebrews knew it by revelation.

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