The mythology of the ancient Basques largely did not survive the arrival of Christianity in the Basque Country between the 4th and 12th century AD. Most of what is known about elements of this original belief system is based on the analysis of legends, the study of place names and scant historical references to pagan rituals practised by the Basques.
A reproduction of a Hilarri, a Basque gravestone, from 1736 with commonly found symbols. Translated into English, it reads, "Maria Arros Sagaray died on the 19th day of April, 1736".
One main figure of this belief system was the female goddess Mari. According to legends collected in the area of Ataun, the other main figure was her consort Sugaar. However, due to the scarcity of the material, it is difficult to say if this would have been the "central pair" of the Basque pantheon. Based on the attributes ascribed to these mythological creatures, this would be considered a chthonic religion as all its characters dwell on earth or below it, with the sky seen mostly as an empty corridor through which the divinities pass.
The main sources for information about non-Christian Basque beliefs are:
Strabo, who mentions the sacrifice of male goats and humans
various medieval sources making references to pagan rituals, including the records of the Inquisition
19th and 20th century collections of myths and folk-tales, such as those collected by José Miguel Barandiaran, which comprise by far the largest body of material relating to non-Christian beliefs and practices
the modern study of place-names in the Basque Country
Mythological creatures and charactersEdit
The Urtzi controversyEdit
Urtzi may have been a Basque mythological figure—a sky god—but may have been merely a word for the sky. There is evidence that can be read as either supporting or contradicting the existence of such a deity. To date neither theory has been able to convince fully.
Zaïka, Natalia M. Approche textologique et comparative du conte traditionnel basque dans les versions bilingues de 1873 à 1942 (W. Webster, J.-F. Cerquand, J. Barbier, R. M. de Azkue). Iker-31. Euskaltzindia, 2014.