Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Mari, Mari Urraca, Anbotoko Mari ("the lady of Anboto") and the possibly distinct Murumendiko Dama ("lady of Murumendi") was a goddess — a lamia — of the Basques. She was married to the god Sugaar (also known as Sugoi or Majue). Legends connect her to the weather: that when she and Majue travelled together hail would fall, that her departures from her cave would be accompanied by storms or droughts, that which cave she lived in at different times would determine dry or wet weather: wet when she was in Anboto, dry when she was elsewhere (the details vary). Other places with where she was said to dwell include the chasm of Murumendi, the cave of Gurutzegorri (Ataun), Aitzkorri and Aralar, although it is not always possible to be certain which Basque legends should be considered to pertain to the same lamia.


Mari lives underground, normally in a cave in a high mountain, where she and her consort Sugaar meet every Friday (the night of the Akelarre or witch-meeting) to conceive then the storms that will bring fertility (and sometimes disgrace) to the land and the people. Mari is served by a court of sorginak (witches), and is said to feed on the negation and affirmation (that is on falsehood).

Occasionally the figure of Mari is linked to the kidnapping or theft of cows, but the presence of Christian priests in those myths may indicate that they are actually Christian fabrications or distortions. In fact it doesn't seem that any kind of sacrifices were offered, at least normally, to Mari, in contrast to what happened with lesser spirits (lamiak, jentilak, etc.), who were given food as payment for their work in the fields.

In various legends Mari is said to have sons or daughters, but their number and character fluctuates. Maybe the most famous were her two sons, Atxular and Mikelatz. Atxular represents largely the Christianized Basque soul, becoming a priest after having learned from the Devil himself in a church in Salamanca and then having escaped. Mikelatz instead seems to have a more negative or wild character and is sometimes assimilated into the spirit of storms, Hodei or embodied as young red bull.

Another legend presents Mari as wife to the Lord of Biscay, Diego López de Haro. This marriage may symbolize the legitimacy of the dynasty, much in the style of the Irish goddess marrying the kings of that island as a religious act of legitimacy. In any case, the condition that Mari imposes to her husband is that, while he could keep his Christian faith, he was obliged to keep it outside the home. Nevertheless, once, apparently after discovering that his wife had a goat leg instead of a normal human foot, he couldn't avoid making the sign of the cross. Immediately after that sacrilegious act, Mari took her daughter, jumped through the window and disappeared, never to ever come back. This outcome can obviously be seen as delegitimizing the de Haro family, who, after all, had been placed as lords by the Castilian conquerors not long before.

Other legends are much simpler. For example, there is a legend that when one is lost in the wild, one only has to cry her name loudly three times to have her to appear over one's head and so find the right way.

The belief in Oñate was that the weather would be wet when she was in Anboto, dry when she was in Aloña. In Zeanuri, Biscay, they say that she would stay seven years in Anboto, then the next seven in a cave in Oiz called Supelegor. A similar legend in Olaeta, Biscay substitutes Gorbea for Supelegor.

Another legend from Otxandio, Biscay has it that she was born in Lazkao, Gipuzkoa, and that she was the evil sister of a Roman Catholic priest. In other legends, the priest is her cousin Juanito Chistu, rather than a brother, and is a great hunter. She was said to take a distaff by the middle and walk along spinning, and leaving storms in her wake.

In Elorrieta, Biscay, it was said that she would be in her cave, combing her hair, and not even a shepherd could draw near to her. It was also said that her malign power did not extend to those who were innocent of sin.

Folklorist Resurrección María de Azkue ties Mari Urraca to a legend about a princess of the Kingdom of Navarre, widow of a 12th-century nobleman who lived in the Tower of Muncharaz in the valley known as the Merindad de Durango. She vanished at the time of his death and was said to have headed for the cave of Anboto. According to Azkue, Iturriza tells this story in his Historia de Vizcaya; Labayru in her Historia de Vizcaya doubts it.

Legends attached to the Lady of Murumendi, according to Azkue, include that she had seven brothers and was changed into a witch for her disobedience, that the weather would be warm (or that it would be turbulent) when she walked about. In Beizama, Gipuzkoa, they say that if she stays in her cave and if on the day of the Holy Cross appropriate spells are cast, hail can be prevented. They also say that she and her husband once went to church in a cart and that upon leaving church she rose into the air saying "Domingo, Domingo el de Murua, siete hijos para el mundo, ninguno para el cielo" ("Domingo, Domingo of Murua, seven children for the world, none for the sky").

Mari was associated with various forces of nature, including thunder and wind. As the personification of the Earth her worship may have been associated with that of Lurbira. Mari's consort was Maju; their children included the benign spirit Atarrabi and the evil spirit Mikelats.

Mari was regarded as the protectoress of senators and the executive branch. She is depicted as riding through the sky in a chariot pulled by horses or rams. Her idols usually feature a full moon behind her head.

Mari is the main character of Basque mythology, having, unlike other creatures that share the same spiritual environment, a god-like nature. Mari is often witnessed as a woman dressed in red. She is also seen as woman of fire, woman-tree and as thunderbolt. Additionally she is identified with red animals (cow, ram, horse) and with the black he-goat.

From: Wiki
Mari, "Queen"
The supreme and foremost goddess of the Basque pantheon. She is the goddess of thunder and wind, the personification of the Earth. The thunder spirit Maju is her consort, and the benign spirit Atarrabi and the evil spirit Mikelats are her sons. She protects the travelers and the herds, and gives good council to humans. She rides through the sky on a chariot pulled by four horses, or on a ram. Sometimes she assumes the shape of a white cloud or a rainbow. Mari ("queen") is represented as a woman with a full moon behind her head, or in an animal shape. Her symbol is a sickle. According to Walker, after the País Vasco was christianized, Mari was merged with Santa Marina, a woman saint that is invoked for protection against curse and tempests.

From: here
Mari, the Basque Goddess

In the mountains and forests of the Basque Country, there are many different kinds of creatures. We cannot see them, but we know of them from the many stories and fables that Basque people have told and written about them. When we go through our mountains and our valleys, from a wonderful corner of the imagination, they keep us company and take care of us.

Some people prefer to think that they do not exist, but according to an ancient Basque saying, “everything that has a name exists” (izena duen guzia omen da), and, indeed, the main characters of the following three stories have names very well known in the Basque Country. These are: Mari, the Basque goddess; Basajaunak (meaning Lords of the Forest, from the words baso, forest and jauna, lord) and Olentzero (from the word onentzero, time of the good one) the Basque Father Christmas.

Since the beginning of time a magical lady called Mari has lived in the Basque mountains. When she is inside the caves, Mari can take the form of different animals, such as a goat or a snake, but when she goes outside she turns into the most beautiful lady, with long golden hair and dressed in red and gold. She travels from one mountain to another by becoming a bright ball of fire flying through the sky.

Thousands of years ago now, people lived in darkness, frightened of the monsters and spirits that came up from the bowels of the Earth in the form of giant dragons, winged horses or fiery bulls. In despair, the people decided to ask Mari for her help.

"Mari, Mari," they begged. "We ask you, please, to protect us from the threats of the darkness." Mari gave it some thought and said: "You ask me to help you, my sons and daughters," she said to them, "and I will help you. A bright being I will create, and you will call her the Moon."

And Mari created the Moon.

At first the people were frightened of the Moon and hid indoors, but soon they became used to venturing outdoors in the moonlight. Similarly, the spirits and monsters were also very frightened when they first saw the Moon in the sky, but they also became accustomed to it and they soon started to leave their caverns again and attack men and women. So, the people turned to Mari for help again.

"Mari," they said, "many, many thanks we give you for having given us the Moon, but we need something more powerful because the monsters from the underworld are still attacking us."

"Very well," Mari said, "I will create a being brighter than the Moon. You will call it the Sun and from now on the Sun will make the day, and the Moon will make the night." And Mari created the Sun.

The Sun was so bright that it took people some time to get used to it, but they soon realised that, thanks to its warmth and light, wonderful things like plants began to grow, and the monsters and bad spirits could not stand the daylight. These nasty beings, however, still came out at night to harm people.

Yet again the people went to see Mari.

"Mari.” they said, "we are so happy and grateful for having the Moon and the Sun, but we still need something more because, although there is no problem during the day, when night comes the monsters leave their caves and keep attacking us.”

Once more Mari listened to these requests.

"Very well,” said Mari. “I will help you again, and this will end your problems. I will make a flower, the eguskilore (from eguski, sun and lore, flower), a beautiful thistle flower that resembles the shape of the Sun. You will put it on your front doors and it will protect you from the monsters of the night, as they will think it is the Sun and they will not dare to come close to it and will leave you in peace.”

It is then that Basque people started to use the eguskilore to guard their houses from bad monsters, spirits and other bringers of harm, storms and lightning. The eguskilore can still be seen displayed on houses around the Basque mountains.

Mari continued to help people on many other occasions, but also has punished those who misbehave, especially those who tell lies or steal. And when people need to find her, they just look for a bright ball of fire flying through the sky and follow it to whichever mountain it lands on.

From: here
III. Mari.
The most prominent mythical being of the Basque traditions, without any doubt, is a beautiful woman: Mari. She habitually resides in the interior of the Earth and emerges at the surface in specific epochs via various caves and caverns. She alternates, therefore, moving from one mountain to another before the amazed look of man. Mari is beautiful and dressed in elegance, the quintessential essence of feminine guile. At other times, she adopts the form of different animals, or becomes a ball of fire crossing the horizon. The quality of her personal affects, such as her household furnishings, is considered the equivalent of solid gold, as prime example of the magnificence corresponding to her station. Haughty and arrogant in the defense of her interests, she allows no mortal to enter her dwelling, so that none of her personal goods are unduly appropriated. Mari has powers that allow her to reduce the stolen gold to coal with the simple contact of day light; and she knows how to turn tell the coal to turn into gold, the good services. At times it is risky to approach her, including her cave. She does not put up with the shepherds building their cabins in the environs of Supelegor. One such was pursued by the Lady, transformed into a raven, and although he escaped with his life, he died shortly afterwards as a consequence of the scare. The geography of Mari's influence was at one time more extensive than it is today. The children of la Burunda called the leftovers of the meal with bread that the men brought when they returned home «pan of Mari of the mountain», basoko Mariren ogia. And, to the south of Urbasa, in Améscoa, this custom continued until very recently: they used to tell the children «Eat the bread of the old woman of the mountain» or also, «bread of the little grandmother of the mountain». There are also areas where the traditions of this spirit are still very much alive, but where they do not use her name. They call her, simply, the Lady, Damea. Theses stories, however, are usually very similar and refer to the same person. Mari's spouse is Maju or Sugaar and her children are Attarrabi and Mikelats. According to the traditions of Arbizu, she continues to appear from time to time, the Lady of Aizkorri. She moved from the cave at Putterri, in Aralar, to the mountains of Cegama along the slope of the mount. The legends of Mari have, on the other hand, a very significant religious connotation. Repeatedly, the refusal of Christian practices by part of the protagonist is demonstrated; the origin of her marginalized life is even attributed to this rebellion.

From: here
The female divinity of the ancient Basques was "Mari", the lady or gentlewoman who lived in the caves which reach deep down to the centre of the earth. Although she could take on different forms, she showed herself as a breathtakingly beautiful woman, and moved from one mountain to the next crossing the sky like a fireball. Any area which holds itself in esteem will have a model of the dwelling of Mari placed on its highest peak, for example the mountains of Gorbea, Anboto, Aketegi or the Aralar range...

From: here
Also see: Subterranean Goddess: Mari of the Basques -- essay on WitchVox

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