Article 1 : Isolated and earth-based mythologies

The world was cold and flat, there were no mountains, no valleys, no seas, there was no heat, only a cold wind that blew over the grassy plains. Benzozia(the mother dragon) lived beneath the earth. She was a big snake with seven large jaws and fourteen large tusks.

Her sleep was restless. Benzozia repeatedly turned in her sleep, her body pressed against the earth and the earth cracked and split open: where once was lowland, was now a huge mountain range, these were the Pyrenees, the first mountains in the world. Benzozia breathed fire , it came out of the cracks and holes in the earth. The fire spewed out of mountains and valleys, it glided over the earth as luminous burning gas and moisture, it burned the earth and sky. It was hot, and clouds of dust and mist ascended into heaven. The water fell from the sky by Benzozia’s fire. The fire and water were fighting. Fire lost and wherever the water was hissed off new clouds were born. Trees and shrubs began to grow higher and higher. The fire retreated to the earth. Hot gases and liquids came out. The first people, the Basques were born from Benzozia’s fire.

The story about Benzozia is the emergence story of the Basque people .The word “myth” comes from the Greek word mythos, which means a spoken or written story. The purpose of a myth is to explain human experience. Many events in a myth are not realistic, the message communicated by the story is more important than telling about an actual event.

Because a lot of populations have myths, and often myths are associated with religion, the stories have been passed down through the ages to become the basis of a society. The study of mythology provides a way of understanding ancient cultures. The Basque Country, also known as Euskal Herria, is the birthplace of Basque mythology. Basque Country has always been relatively isolated, this is one of the reasons that there are quite a lot of mythology that has been preserved.

Mountain Anboto, People claim to have seen Mari here. Source: Luberri.net

Historically, Basque mythology seems to be less ‘pantheonic’(dedicated to the gods) than a lot of other mythologies There are few actual gods in it, but many spirits and creatures. This seems to be common among ‘chthonic’ mythologies. It means “earth-based.” As opposed to many of other mythologies, where gods live in the heavens or are ghosts of death, Basque mythology is very centered on what’s in front of them, what’s part of their land. Their spirits populate the earth in caves, in forests and in rivers. The sky is a way for them to travel, referred to generally as Osti. The moon is called IIazki, neither good nor evil, but she plays a role in guiding the spirits of the deceased. The highest god in the Basque mythology, is a goddess called Mari. She is friendly and helpful, protecting travelers and herds and giving good council to those who need it. Legends connect her to the weather. The goddess of thunder and wind, she is the personification of the earth, similar to the Greek Gaia. Mari drives a chariot of four white horses across the sky and when she appears, she is a beautiful woman adorned with rainbows.

Mari’s Sorginak.  Source: Wikipedia.com

She does not only appear as a beautiful women but also as a flaming tree, a white cloud, a rainbow, a gust of wind, a bird, a sickle made of fire, moving from one mountain peak to another. She lives underground, normally in a cave in a high mountain(Anboto). Where she and her other half Sugaar meet every Friday in the night of the Akelarre or witch-meeting, to conceive the storms that will bring fertility to the land and the people. Mari is served by a court of sorginak (witches). The Basque Country also has modern myths, created in the 19th century. Because of the suppression of Basque people, that started in that time the story of ‘The tree of Gernika’is an important modern myth. Gernikako Arbola is an oak tree that symbolizes traditional freedoms for the Biscayan people, and by extension for the Basque people as a whole. The swore to respect the Biscayan liberties under it, and the modern Lehendakari(the head of state) of the Basque Country swears his charge there.

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