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buber.net > Basque > Folklore > Basque Mythology: Akelarre
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Basque Mythology: Akelarre

The following was translated from an article originally in Spanish at the Encyclopedia Auñamendi.

[Akelarre literally means «field of the he-goat»]. The Akelarre is a plain of Zugarramurdi situated in front of the entrance to the cavern called Akelarren-leze «cave of Akelarre». It is believed that, in that spot and in that cavern, the witches of old met. In the vestibule of the cave, at a small height above the floor, a hole opens in the wall like a window, which, as the the neighbors of that locality say, is the hall where the devil, in the figure of a he-goat, received the witches. In the flat floor of the entry and of the vestibule, which preserve the remains of prehistoric homes, the devout of Aker -- or spirit in the form of the he-goat -- met to pay him their worship: adoration, offerings, telling of accounts, acceptance of orders.

The same cavern, on the east side, has another more extensive entrance called Sorguinen-leze «cave of the witches». Here, on the fourth day of the patron festivals of the town (15 of August), a traditional ceremony organized by the elderly of the area is celebrated annually. For this celebration, two of the elderly buy one or two rams in the morning of that day, kill them inside the cave and roast them on a fire which they light right there. At noon the old of the town gather in the cavern and the roasted meat is distributed and eaten with bread and wine. Each one pays their share. Later, joining hands or sharing handkerchiefs, they all form a long line and leave the cavern. Thus they go until arriving in front of the priest's house, where they dance, and then are directed to the plaza of the town and there dance the «sokadantxa».

Besides the Akelarre of Zugarramurdi, various places of fields are cited as meeting places of the witches. These include: Petiberro (Aezcoa), Larrune, Jaizkibel, Irantzi (Oyarzun), Pullegi (Oyarzun), Mairubaratza (crómlech) of Ameztoia (Oyarzun), Mandabiita (Ataun), Akelarre of Mañaria, Akelarre of Illarregui, Garaigorta (Orozco), Petralanca (Arratia), Eperlanda (Múgica), Akerlanda (Gautéguiz of Arteaga), Abadelaueta (Echagüen), Urkiza (Peñacerrada).

José Miguel of BARANDIARÁN

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