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WHO ARE THE BASQUES?

Euskaldunnauk

The Basques are an indigenous ethnic group with an ancestry to the ancient Vascones and Aquitanians. Basques are indigenous to and inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country, a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.

In Basque, people call themselves the euskaldunak, meaning a Basque speaker. Not all Basques are Basque-speakers. Therefore, the neologism euskotar, plural euskotarrak, was coined in the 19th century to mean a culturally Basque person, whether Basque-speaking or not.

It is thought that Basques are a remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region. Basque tribes were already mentioned in Roman times by Strabo and Pliny, including the Vascones, the Aquitani, and others. Since the Basque language is unrelated to Indo-European, it has long been thought to represent the people or culture that occupied Europe before the spread of Indo-European languages there. Basque genetic uniqueness predates the arrival of agriculture in the Iberian Peninsula, about 7,000 years ago.

In the Early Middle Ages the territory between the Ebro (Spain) and Garonne (France) rivers was known as Vasconia, a vaguely defined ethnic area and political entity struggling to fend off pressure from the Iberian Visigothic kingdom and Arab rule to the south, as well as the Frankish push from the north. By the turn of the first millennium, the territory of Vasconia had fragmented into different feudal regions, such as Soule and Labourd, while south of the Pyrenees the Castile, Pamplona and the Pyrenean counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe, Ribagorza (later Kingdom of Aragon), and Pallars emerged as the main regional entities with Basque population in the 9th and 10th centuries.

Pamplona

The Kingdom of Pamplona, a central Basque realm, later known as Navarre, underwent a process of feudalization and was subject to the influence of its much larger Aragonese, Castilian and French neighbours. Castile deprived Navarre of its coastline by conquering key western territories (1199–1201), leaving the kingdom landlocked. The Basques were ravaged by the War of the Bands, bitter partisan wars between local ruling families.

Weakened by the Navarrese civil war, the bulk of the realm eventually fell before the onslaught of the Spanish armies (1512–1524). However, the Navarrese territory north of the Pyrenees remained beyond the reach of an increasingly powerful Spain. Lower Navarre became a province of France in 1620

The Basques enjoyed self-government until the French Revolution (1790) and the Carlist Wars (1839, 1876), when the Basques supported heir apparent Carlos V and his descendants. On either side of the Pyrenees, the Basques lost their native institutions and laws held during the Ancien régime.

Since then, despite the current limited self-governing status of the Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre as settled by the Spanish Constitution, many Basques have attempted higher degrees of self-empowerment, sometimes by acts of violence. Labourd, Lower Navarre, and Soule were integrated into the French department system, with Basque efforts to establish a region-specific political-administrative entity. In January 2017, a single agglomeration community was established for the Basque Country in France. | More info

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The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people. The Basque country is located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Euskal Herria (The Basque Country/Euskadi) is the oldest documented Basque name for the area they inhabit, dating from the 16th century.

It comprises the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France. The region is home to the Basque people (Basque: Euskaldunak), their language (Basque: Euskara), culture and traditions. The area is neither linguistically nor culturally homogeneous and certain areas have a majority of people who do not consider themselves Basque, such as the south of Navarre.

Pre-Christian belief focused on a goddess called Mari. According to one tradition, she travelled every seven years between a cave on Mount Anboto and one on another mountain. The weather would be wet when she was in Anboto, dry when she was in Aloña, or Supelegor, or Gorbea. Whether the name Mari is original and just happened to coincide closely with the Christian name María or if Mari is an early Basque attempt to give a Christian veneer to pagan worship have remained speculative. At any rate, Mari (Andramari) is one of the oldest worshipped Christian icons in Basque territories.

Mari’s consort is Sugaar. This couple seem to bear the superior ethical power and also the power of creation and destruction. It’s said that when they gathered in the high caves of the sacred peaks, they engendered the storms. These meetings typically happened on Friday nights, the day of historical akelarre or coven. Mari was said to reside in Mount Anboto; periodically she crossed the skies as a bright light to reach her other home at mount Txindoki.

BasqueCulture1

Legends also speak of many and abundant genies, like jentilak (giants), lamiak (nymphs), mairuak (builders of the cromlechs or stone circles, literally Moors), iratxoak (imps), sorginak (witches, priestess of Mari), and so on. Basajaun is a Basque version of the Woodwose. This character is probably an anthropomorphism of the bear.

 

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