A place for giants
Start your visit in Aralar’s Natural Park Interpretation Centre, located in the top of Lizarrusti. There, you will get any kind of explanations, from routes and hikes to plans with kids (there is a zipwire!). If you want to spend the night, there is a shelter with the capacity for 34 people and a place to eat with everyday menu.
From here, you can start a route to the Lareo reservoir and fill your lungs with the purest air while a guide shows you the megalithic complex with menhirs and dolmens and tells you about the mythological beings and some of their legends. From this Interpretation Centre is also possible to enjoy a guided tour with performances for kids, that tells them a story of mythological beings and animals. Let Ramontxo, the ranger, guide you through the park and introduce you to gentiles, lamias and some other friends who live there.
To get a deeper knowledge of Basque mythology, visit Ataun and Barandiaran Museum. José Miguel Barandiaran was a priest dedicated to the ethnological and anthropological study of Euskadi, more specifically its mythology. He is without a doubt the father of Basque culture.
Aita -father- Barandiaran, lived for more than 100 years and devotedly collected old traditions, beliefs, legends and folk stories that, otherwise, would have been lost in time. The story of Tartalo, a mean genius with just one eye that kidnaps young men to eat them up. The story of Basajaun, who lives in the deepest forests and takes care of herds. When a storm or a wolf are on their way, he shouts to let shepherds know that they should hide their herd. On the other side, sheep warn his presence by shaking their bells all at the same time. Some folk tales show Basajaun as the first farmer ever; others, describe Goddess Mari changing her location constantly -sometimes in Aralar, sometimes in Aizkorri, some in Murumendi…- and also some other characters take place, always in our natural environment of mountains, caves and woods in Goierri.
LEXICON OF MYTHOLOGICAL BEINGS
Basques from pre-Christian times were huge, robust people. They lived in the mount and threw big stones to their enemies. They built menhirs, cromlechs that used to keep the garden, and many churches, bridges or houses in the Basque Country. Also known as Mairuak, they were pioneers of farming and taught a lot to the rest of beings. Gentiles are very popular in Indo-European mythology.
Lamias are beautiful creatures that live in rivers, with the physical aspect of a woman but the legs of a duck or a goat. They untangle their hair with a golden comb, enchanting any human being that passes nearby. They are also popular in Greek and Roman mythologies.
Tartalo is a mean creature with an only eye. He lives in caves and gets young men to eat them up. Its origin is the cyclop from Greek mythology.
He is strong and tall, with long hair touching his knees. He takes care of the herd and warns about storms by shouting. He protects the sheep from wolves and sheep shake their bells when they notice he is around. Some folk tales show Basajaun also as the first farmer ever.
Every night, witches held their covens. They get the shape of cats, donkey or beast and generally there is some missing part of their body (hand, leg or head). Between 15th and 17th centuries, a lot of trials against witches took place in the Basque Country. In those trials were a mix of popular stories, religion, neighbour disputes and politics.
Mari is the Queen of Goddess. She is generally described with the body and face of a woman, well dressed in red. She also appears as a tree, an eagle, a cow or woman of fire. Sugaar is her mate. She lives in those caves with many mounts around (Larrunarri, Murumendi…).
Zezengorri is a creature who lives in caves. He takes the shape of a cow or a bull and protects Mari’s dwellings. Some people think it is Mari herself. In southern Europe’s culture, the bull has always been present.
Sugaar is Goddess Mari’s couple. He is shaped like a snake and he is connected to phenomenon like storms and thunders. Among other things, he punishes those kids who are disobedient with their parents.
Gaueko is the lord of the night and he does not allow anyone working at night. He takes away those who stay up at night.
In some of the towns in Gipuzkoa and Navarre, the term Zozomikoteak is used to name the last two days and a half of March and the first two days and a half of April. That’s the time of the year when thrushes start building their nests.
It is a charm to protect every home. It is believed that any evil spirits that want to enter the house, will have to count, one by one, each hair of the cardoon flower before sun is out. When the sun -very similar to the flower- comes out, the night is over and the spirits become powerless.
To remove them, they put grains of salt on wheat on them, forming crosses and singing magic words. Then, they are thrown to the ground so that the warts burn down at the same time than the grains in the ground.
A candle is lit up, dedicated to someone accused of doing any kind of harm. The same way the wax on the candle burns up, the person will slowly consume.
With the blade facing up, next to a housedoor, it will protect the house from any lightnings.
These plants protect the houses, covering doors and windows on the eve of San Juan.
This is some kind of trial represented in Ataun, of unknown symbolism. There is a woman walking around the prisoner, accused of being a thief. The woman’s head is covered and she is holding a stick on her hand. The prisoner answers on his knees, in unstable balance, while the judge keeps marking the rhythm with the stick.