I was in the Basque speaking area of Navarra last weekend, up in the hills.
We went to visit a museum made by a very interesting guy called Iñaki Perurena, whose famous in the region for having Guinness World Records for lifting stones, among other things.
He has some amazing sculptures and lots of interesting paintings of characters from Basque Mythology on huge rocks dotted through the woods.
The Basques have a lot of strange characters that live in the woods. A much richer diversity than the simple fairy and leprechauns of Ireland, to be honest.
They have a type of Faun, mermaids, goblins, their own Santa Claus character, a cyclops, giants…
And…. another creature who you might bump into while walking the woods in such remote areas where houses are separated by large tracts of land, and visiting your neighbour involves a trek up a mountain.
Gizotso, is werewolf in Basque, and is said to be an extremely strong savage beast that lives in the woods and is made by sexual intercourse between humans and wild animals.
I’ve a long-held interest in werewolves, of course, and my kids speak Basque in school, but I’d not heard of this particular thread of the great tapestry of werewolf tales.
It’s fascinating how many different versions there are of this story. One of the things that unite all human societies are the similarities in our fireside tales of others who live just outside the light spread by our hearths. And the werewolf is perhaps the most ubiquitous of all, more than even the dragon.
At the same time, it’s disturbing how easily every society can alienate others and reduce them to the status of “savage animals.”
Perhaps it not so difficult to see how such stories of werewolves can spring forth in our imagination from simple ingredients such as deep woods, woodland dwellers, people we don’t like, and people we desire.
Of course, nowadays, nobody believes in werewolves.
Things are all set here in Pamplona for this year’s famed “running of the bulls” festival.
The barriers which will keep the bulls from the public on their way through the town are in place, the TV cameras are set up along the route, the stages are constructed in various plazas.
La Plaza del Castillo, with San Fermin figures over the band stand and the stage ready for concerts.
Bull Run Barriers along Santa Domingo and the Town Hall square, with some tourists taking in the scene.
Today is the day of the Peñas. This afternoon we were treated to a parade of giants, and this weekend many folk are getting a head start on the carousing. I’ll hear how hard the party is later tonight as the stragglers stagger home past my bedroom balcony.
Giants dancing along Calle Estafeta.
The corner of Mercaderes and Estafeta will have bulls rather than giants taking the corner come Thursday morning.
I’ve written about the fiesta before, but a few things are worth mentioning this year –
The new city council have taken the pains to put recycling dumpsters in place as the replace the vacuum refuse disposal system for the festival, which is a great thing for the environment, considering the enormous tonnage of trash produced during the festival.
They have also decided to spray hydrophobic pain on the walls of many streets to discourage the out of hand urination that takes place – believe me, I’ve seen some stuff, and it’s just ridiculous, so I hope it’s a help, so when we walk through the town with our kids in the morning, we’re not jumping streams of urine.
And as one of the characters says – if you want to run with the bulls, you have to stay more than one night. Study the route, figure out where you want to run, read about it, watch the videos of the previous runs, and get to bed early the night before. It’s no joke. You wouldn’t want your One Night in Pamplona to be your last night on the planet.