At one point in time, prior to the formation of the Greek City-States, Europe was far from a unified society. It was composed of many distinct ethnicities, tribes, nomadic groups, and other people who did not fit within one of the above categories. Then as people began to band and empires grew, many of these small, diverse groups were forced to assimilate to the mainstream culture at the time. One of these first Diasporas came under the rule of Alexander the Great, around 340 B.C.E. In a short period of time, Alexander was able to conquer a majority of the European people, and force them to adapt to his ideals. Then came the famous rise of the Roman Empire, which dominated people throughout Europe, and even parts of Africa and Asia. Though the Empire, extending over a period of 500 years sometimes allowed smaller groups to maintain their distinct culture, these small groups could not keep their relevance without assimilating to the Roman perspective.
However, other groups fought long and hard to maintain their identity. They believed that this was what they stood for, and they would not let it be taken away from them so easily. Amongst these groups were the modern day Irish, the Normans in Northwest France, as well as the Scandinavians. These groups were large enough to fend off Roman influences, or at least to strike deals with them (usually in the form of paying tribute in order to be left alone), but one much smaller group has been able to maintain their extremely unique identity not only through these European conquests, but also through civil war, Inquisitions, and authoritarian rule within their home country – borders which they find to be arbitrary.
In Northeast Spain and Western France there lies an area referred to as Basque Country. Technically, some of the Basque people are of Spanish nationality, with the main metropolis’s in Bilbao, Santander, Pamplona and San Sebastian, while others live within the borders of France, namely Bayonne. However, this border distinction is irrelevant to the Basques, who consider their country, though not official, to extend these boundaries. Throughout the ages, the Basques have somehow managed to stay isolated from mainstream French and Spanish society.
In fact, most Basques continue speak a language referred to as Euskera, which is completely unrelated to any other known language, and linguists have found it similar only to a very ancient form of Finnish. When Francisco Franco attempted to unify Spain in the Spanish Civil war, he bombed the Basque Country, though the people still resisted. Even to this day, the official Spanish government located in Madrid is in a constant struggle with a Basque independence group referred to as the ETA to gain political control over the land. The ETA, in essence, is fighting for a free Basque country that will consist only of this group and lead a peaceful yet socialist state.
Aside from the inherent belief that a group of people may pick their political and spiritual path as they so desire without having some foreign government impose it upon them, why have the Basques fought so hard to resist and external influences? And how has such a small group succeeded where many larger groups have failed?
Many scholars believe this success to be a result of an ancient Occultist path that is known to very few outside of the Basque country. Though there have been several ‘Basque Witch Trials’ beginning during the Spanish Inquisition and continuing essentially to this day, much about Basque Witchcraft remains unknown. These Practitioners have done an exceptional job of passing down their knowledge orally and through the use of Euskera, as mentioned, a language that few are familiar with.
What we do know is that Basque Witches are more of priestesses within the country, who worship Mari as their deity. Their meetings are open to all of those who are truly of Basque heritage, though while many other Spaniards and French have moved into the Basque territory in recent years, they have had to keep these meetings and rituals more of a secret than they would like.
What do you think? Join the discussion:
If there is anything that you know or have heard about Witchcraft in the Basque Country, we would love to hear about it, so let us know what you think! Please feel free to share your thoughts on our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/7witchescoven.
I look forward to reading your responses.
J. Roslyn Antle, High Priestess
The 7Witches Coven