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Guest Grimr

Witchcraft in Basque Country

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Guest Grimr

I have always found the Witch lore of the Basque people in rural northern Spain/Southern France very intriguing. Since they were so isolated from the Romans and indo-european tribes they have a relatively intact (if not complex!) culture and language heritage. I thought I would share some of the information that I have found.

 

According to inquisition records dating around the early to mid 1600's, Witchcraft in the Basque regions was more of a handed down Tradition then "devil recruitment" common in the Celtic/brythonic lands during such. It is said that Witchcraft is handed down through families, often initiation taking place in early adolescence by the childs parents.

 

The Basque witches are reported to "worship" Mari and "The Devil" however those of us who may follow a more "Pagan-oriented" Trad Craft are all to familiar with the image of a Goat with a candle between the horns. it is interesting because the He-Goat was often seen as being the image of the God of the Basque Witches or Sorginak as they are called. In fact the term for Sabbat translates as "meadow of the he-goat."

 

What else is interesting is that Witches are reported to have been "marked by the devil" with a thorn, this mark would be a badge of the Witch forever.

 

Toads feature prominently within Basque witch lore, often being the familiar of choice, it has been noted that each Witch on their day of initiation into the witch cult was given a toad familiar and an ungent made from toads (The toad secrets an alkaloid through its skin).

 

 

I will post more on this as I am about to run out the door but interesting eh?

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Hello! :wavex:

 

While a lot of what you have written here is familiar to me, I was hoping you would be so kind as to forward to me where you gathered your information from?

 

I'm trying to find info on the witchcraft of my heritage (I'm Basque), and am having a helluva time finding anything other than claims of satanism, etc. and things on the Inquistion.

 

Any help you could provide would be great. :happydance:

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Guest Magdalena

Hi Grimr. My Nan was originally from the `Basque country` she was Spanish, hence my name (she named me), She moved onto `La Linea`My dad was the youngest of her children and the only one born in Wales, hence me being Welsh lol. She predicted the birth of my mum and dads five children correctly and was a very pyschic lady. So I find this thread very interesting and would love to know more. Thank you.

 

Anita. :0)

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Hi.

 

I don't know much about basque witchcraft but I thought I could tell you about a book claimed to be about basque witchcraft or similar. The book is Sorgitzak, Old Forest Craft by Veronica Cummer. It's published by Pendraig Publishing that normally publish trad craft books, but it does seem to have wiccan influences. The author of the book claims that she has gotten the information in the book handed down to her from the gods. Now, I have an alarmklock ringing in my head right there, but i do have the book. I haven't read it all yet and I don't really think it's my style, but nevertheless it might contain some useful information. I don't know if somone has posted about this book before.

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Guest Magdalena

Hi.

Handed down by the Gods? that does set alarm bells ringing. I have read a bit on wiccan not something that held my attention, a bit to extreme for me. I wish I could ask my family, but my dads sister lives in `Australia` his brothers have all died and my dad is in care home with dementia, maybe there is something in the library.

 

Anita. :0)

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Guest Grimr

I have read Sorgitzak and have met the author and found her to be quite lovely - I don't find the concept of traditions handed down by the spirits or the Old 'Unes that far fetched personally, in fact many of the old witches claimed to learn much of their ways through familiar spirits, faery queens, and dead ancestors (or just dead people in general) so the concept of traditionalism passed down via spirit form is quite in keeping with traditonal craft. Andrew Chumbley devotes an entire essay on the concept of inititation via the formal covine, as well as that of the "Lightning Flash" denoted by the Gods and the wisdom granted through divine gnosis.

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Guest Magdalena

Hi Grimr.

It is not for me to judge either the book or it's author as I do not know of either. The term God or Goddess or any kind of worship I do not adhere to. Spirits, dead ancestors and such is where my mind is open, also history handed down through time. So I shall read the book when I come across it.

 

Anita :0)

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Guest copperhedge

Grimr,

This is an area of great interest to me also for many of the reasons that you mention.

There are aspects of the language isolation that also greatly interests me. As you probably know the word for "witch" also roughly translates as "priest/ess" in Basque, which as far as i'm aware, is the only language where this occurs. Rather universally the word "witch" has negative origins in its various languages and equivalents but in Basque there is an association with a Priesthood! Amazing!

Another point of interest, is that genetic archeology has presented some rather compelling evidence that the first inhabitants (first peoples) to live on the British Isles were people that migrated up from the Iberian Peninsula in the paleolithic (with later waves of migration in the neolithic). This also makes it very likely that these people were the megalith builders. People often erroneous refer to themselves as "Celtic" if they have ancestry in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland but there is no hard evidence for this. Many scholars now refer only to those whose ancestors lived on these Isles as "culturally celtic" because the celts that are believed to have invaded this island did not leave much of a genetic footprint. Like most invasions, they likely oppressed the people originally living here and their language and culture became pervasive. However, genetically the people of these Isles, the family's that have always been here, have changed very little genetically since the paleolithic (and therefore share genetic markers with the Basque people). Mainland Europeans have more variations because of geographical proximity I guess. Both the UK, Ireland and the Basque regions had long periods of geographical isolation.

I have been reading through the Basque legends with great fascination. There is much rich mythology and folklore here! However, there is so little written that i have been able to make access to!

 

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Guest copperhedge

I have read Sorgitzak and have met the author and found her to be quite lovely - I don't find the concept of traditions handed down by the spirits or the Old 'Unes that far fetched personally, in fact many of the old witches claimed to learn much of their ways through familiar spirits, faery queens, and dead ancestors (or just dead people in general) so the concept of traditionalism passed down via spirit form is quite in keeping with traditonal craft. Andrew Chumbley devotes an entire essay on the concept of inititation via the formal covine, as well as that of the "Lightning Flash" denoted by the Gods and the wisdom granted through divine gnosis.

 

deleting content, apologies.

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As an old witch once told me actual "witches" are as "rare as hens teeth".

I have been walking in spiritual and occult circles for nearly 20 years seeking others like me but i can count on my hands how many i have found out of THOUSANDS of people. My mentor is most certainly one. Although she would NEVER refer to herself as a witch, which many believe is common to those who actually practice the Craft. They simply don't see themselves as witches and find the word silly. My mentor's maternal line is peppered with "witches", her mother, her auntie (all very elderly now) her grandmother etc. However, she would not refer to herself as a "hereditary witch", she wouldn't even waste time defining herself or making such distinctions. Her grandmother, auntie and mother encouraged and nurtured her gifts and she had the additional benefit of being guided in using them from a very early age because they had also been on a similar journey not because the gift could somehow be taught. However, she always maintains that it is "spirit" that teaches her, "spirit" that bestows her the gifts. Just a few days ago she said to me that, if "spirit" left her, she would have nothing in terms of her Craft (she was explaining to me why she never fakes or contrives her practice...because she would be betraying "spirit" and if they decided to stop engaging with her, that would be that!).

From my experience the real initiation and relationship is always with and from "spirit" (or God, Gods, deity, demons, angels, ancestors, fey, Universal Consciousness or whatever we call those in other realms, lets not sweat the labels eh?). For me gnosis always come from this Source. When they communicate with me, it is if they speak to my very cells, not just via my intellectual minds' capacity to conceive of ideas. The communication often comes to me in metaphorical pictures, accompanied with an unspoken sense of the meaning. I can't explain it more fully than that. I would not refer to it as UPG however. I believed and experienced all this from childhood, then confirmed through my mother and later my mentor. It was a long time before i came across writing by Chumbley, Pearson and Jackson etc but by golly did i love reading about Underworld Initiation and contact with "spirit" in a way that resonated with me. Each experience is unique of course, but it was still wonderful to find those descriptions!

 

Copperhedge,

 

Your comments are both interesting and, based on what I know abot this board and its members, potentially antagonizing. Of course, everything that you have written here, assumedly has the words "in your opinion" embedded within, but anyway . . .

 

For example, the first few lines of this post imply that you don't expect to find any "actual" Witches here. Maybe, that is not the message that you wish to convey or the way you wish to convey it, but even from the perspective an "elitist" like myself, the tone is somewhat snobbish. Perhaps, for clarification, you could provide the definition of a Witch that you are subscribing to, so that others can compare and share their perspectives.

 

The part about Witches not actually referring to themselves as Witches is correct in my experience. It's more descriptive for Others, than defining for me. I think we have had a conversation about this before. What I garnered was that the members here understand the negative historical connoctations, which makes the label all that much more appealing to their rebellious nature. Embracing the word, Witch, is empowering.

 

I am sure you will find many folks here willing to engage conversation about gnosis and their deep spiritual connection to other realms. My Path is ancestor-based and by choice I don't move much outside of that circle of influence; however, I believe (hope) that your post sparks from further discussions in this regard, especially for the benefit of our new members.

 

Jevne

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As an old witch once told me actual "witches" are as "rare as hens teeth".

However, she always maintains that it is "spirit" that teaches her, "spirit" that bestows her the gifts. Just a few days ago she said to me that, if "spirit" left her, she would have nothing in terms of her Craft (she was explaining to me why she never fakes or contrives her practice...because she would be betraying "spirit" and if they decided to stop engaging with her, that would be that!).

From my experience the real initiation and relationship is always with and from "spirit" (or God, Gods, deity, demons, angels, ancestors, fey, Universal Consciousness or whatever we call those in other realms, lets not sweat the labels eh?). For me gnosis always come from this Source. When they communicate with me, it is if they speak to my very cells, not just via my intellectual minds' capacity to conceive of ideas. The communication often comes to me in metaphorical pictures, accompanied with an unspoken sense of the meaning. I can't explain it more fully than that...

 

I believe this a what a friend of mine refers to as the difference between knowing and KNOWING. And it does not translate into English (or any other spoken language). This is one reason why so much is written iin the language of symbols and/or mythology. It is the difference between knowing something on a logical cognizant level and knowing it in every part of your being - not just the cells, becuase they will die and decay with the body, but knowing it in the "soul" or whatever one calls it. I also agree that personal power is not actually personal, but comes from a/the source. There have been some disagreements about that on here, but for me personally any power I have is due to my ability to connect with and manitulate this energy. That does not mean it is there simply for me (or anyone else) to "use" and discard at will, but it is where any power of mine comes from, and if I were to break faith with it, that would be the end of my witchyness. I believe that many people have been able to tap into this "energy" and thereby do spells, but for me magic is a by-product of the path, it is not the path itself.

 

M

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Guest copperhedge

Copperhedge,

 

Your comments are both interesting and, based on what I know abot this board and its members, potentially antagonizing. Of course, everything that you have written here, assumedly has the words "in your opinion" embedded within, but anyway . . .

 

For example, the first few lines of this post imply that you don't expect to find any "actual" Witches here. Maybe, that is not the message that you wish to convey or the way you wish to convey it, but even from the perspective an "elitist" like myself, the tone is somewhat snobbish. Perhaps, for clarification, you could provide the definition of a Witch that you are subscribing to, so that others can compare and share their perspectives.

 

The part about Witches not actually referring to themselves as Witches is correct in my experience. It's more descriptive for Others, than defining for me. I think we have had a conversation about this before. What I garnered was that the members here understand the negative historical connoctations, which makes the label all that much more appealing to their rebellious nature. Embracing the word, Witch, is empowering.

 

I am sure you will find many folks here willing to engage conversation about gnosis and their deep spiritual connection to other realms. My Path is ancestor-based and by choice I don't move much outside of that circle of influence; however, I believe (hope) that your post sparks from further discussions in this regard, especially for the benefit of our new members.

 

Jevne

 

Well i am certainly not intentionally trying to be antagonsing but neither do I particularly believe that others perception or interpretation of me, is my responsibility. Especially, when i feel i have only phrased my comments in terms of my own personal opinion and/or voicing the subjective opinion of others. I really don't mind if others disagree with me or indeed consider me to be erroneous and misguided. Do we really exist in a world where we all have to agree and use the same terms in exactly the same way? Or can we not respectfully hold different and even opposing views and seeking clarification without getting personal? I hope so.

 

If you want my honest opinion (and my honest opinion wasn't overtly expressed in my first statement, because quite possibly as a forum open to members worldwide and with 7 billion human beings on the planet, it is statistically possible for there to be a great many actual "witches" on this forum) but honestly? No i wasn't expecting to find many "actual" witches on a forum like this. (but in making that statement please allow for my different definition of "witch")

 

"Trad Craft" has become envogue in recent years, (as has Wicca bashing) so my assumption was that there would be a fair few people, maybe even the majority, who would not match my definition of a "witch".

 

Here is where we diverge on meaning, however. i do not believe that whether or not i anticipate finding "actual" witches on a forum like this implies any elitism.

 

I don't ascribe any greater value or worth to those that do or don't have the abilities that are associated with "witchcraft" (according to my definition). To be honest, i am often bemused by the many who do want to define themselves as witches because in my opinion it has never been and likely will never be an easy life. Some of the beliefs and practices of "witchcraft" pretty much see you meeting a great many diagnostic criteria for the DSM-IV and ICD10! I work in psychiatry and if i described half of what i do, hear and see at work, a great many of my colleagues would think that I was suffering symptoms of mental illness! And that isn't even the half of it, practicing a Craft and being born with abilities makes life very complicated in many areas.

 

Now as to my definition of a "Trad witch" again, i have my own definition, no more valid than anyone else's, but mine nonetheless. Semantics are incredibly problematic in this respect. But we all have to navigate that problem equally.

 

For me, the word "witch" is way beyond my capacity to "reclaim" as something positive. Besides, i don't need to for any psychological or self esteem building purposes so there's no value in that kind of thing for me and i'm not an ex-Christian so i don't need to rebel against anything. I only use the term at all because when i first stumbled across occult communities, this was the definition i fitted, in relationship to that community. Words are practical things. Of course they have an etymology and historical usage which often informs modern usage but in terms of spirituality and occult practices one has to simply accept how these words are used. With this in mind i accept the general usage of the word "witch" in the occult and neo-pagan communities, as well as in the wider world and choose not to use it to label myself with that word generally. I use the phrase "witch" only in terms of it's usefully in occasionally helping me communicate with and/or find others like me. So i use and accept the word witch in a few ways 1. as a phrase to describe people like me (those with inherent magical and extrasensory ability, who have the natural ability to communicate with spirit and walk in other worlds and belong to every country, religion and culture of the world since human civilisation began) however, i use this word with great reticence 2.those that follow a particular way of life and ascribe to particular beliefs in an alternative religion and post-christian era 3. a word used by people looking to define themselves with a counter/sub culture movement, be rebellious, kooky, "alternative" and cool.

 

As i said none of the actually magical/gifted other world walkers and spirit communicators i know really refer to themselves as "witches". It is my opinion that with the resurgence of occultism and interest in magic and occult religion over the past century or so a fair few of these such people dabbled in these communities and toyed with such labels. In my experience most of these people have subsequently gone back underground and don't really interact with such communities anymore. They certainly aren't many of them publishing books, for example.

 

 

It is absolutely the right of this (or any other) community to be self regulating....far be it from me to challenge your beliefs and terminology. I can see that it would not be welcomed and that is entirely this communities prerogative. I wondered if i would find like minded people here was all, and i couldn't know that without actually putting a toe in the water. But i won't hang around "antagonsing" anyone and appearing troll like.

 

 

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I believe this a what a friend of mine refers to as the difference between knowing and KNOWING. And it does not translate into English (or any other spoken language). This is one reason why so much is written iin the language of symbols and/or mythology. It is the difference between knowing something on a logical cognizant level and knowing it in every part of your being - not just the cells, becuase they will die and decay with the body, but knowing it in the "soul" or whatever one calls it. I also agree that personal power is not actually personal, but comes from a/the source. There have been some disagreements about that on here, but for me personally any power I have is due to my ability to connect with and manitulate this energy. That does not mean it is there simply for me (or anyone else) to "use" and discard at will, but it is where any power of mine comes from, and if I were to break faith with it, that would be the end of my witchyness. I believe that many people have been able to tap into this "energy" and thereby do spells, but for me magic is a by-product of the path, it is not the path itself.

 

M

 

This. As always, Michele, you express how I feel about things so much better than I ever could.

 

 

As for "witch" many people I have come across use it simply for lack of a better term. In this day and age where we are pressured to label or name ourselves even in our own minds it's no surprise more and more people adopt this term because they can't think of another to adopt. I wouldn't say we could judge who is truly a "witch" and who isn't by who uses the term and who opts out of it. However I think it speaks volumes as to how it is used.

 

 

 

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Guest copperhedge

This. As always, Michele, you express how I feel about things so much better than I ever could.

 

 

As for "witch" many people I have come across use it simply for lack of a better term. In this day and age where we are pressured to label or name ourselves even in our own minds it's no surprise more and more people adopt this term because they can't think of another to adopt. I wouldn't say we could judge who is truly a "witch" and who isn't by who uses the term and who opts out of it. However I think it speaks volumes as to how it is used.

 

 

 

 

Well semantics and definitions of "witches" aside. Basque Witchcraft is still incredibly fascinating and i look forward to hearing Grimr on where he has got to in his exploration of the topic! (if they ever come back on the forum that is?).

 

 

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Copperhedge,

 

Thank you for clarifying your thoughts and perspectives for the benefit of all. Much obliged.

 

Jevne

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Well semantics and definitions of "witches" aside. Basque Witchcraft is still incredibly fascinating and i look forward to hearing Grimr on where he has got to in his exploration of the topic! (if they ever come back on the forum that is?).

 

If I remember correctly Grim was logged on last night.

 

M

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I too do not find this concept so strange. If one interprets it as divine or simply spirit communication, it seems a reasonable explanation to me. Just because one does not believe in divinity doesn't mean the author's method is 500% terrible. Maybe she met an entity that she interpreted as deity and you or I may have interpreted as a spirit. ;)

 

There's also always that pesky mountain lore about witches being initiated by "the devil" and learning their witchery from him. :grin_witch:

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Guest copperhedge

;) And I feel that perhaps some trad witches stand by that lore!

 

Yes but equally, it could just be a simple case of another Horned God being christianised and becoming known as a devil. The image of a devil will have been so much better known over so many centuries that lore easily incorporates it.

 

Not everyone of course, but I have read rather more about that connection in my research into trad witchery than anywhere else.

 

Copperhedge - I've really enjoyed all of your posts on this thread, and nowhere do I feel you came off as snobbish. Perhaps one point where I beg to differ is the identification of the self as "witch" being for newbs and/or "non-real witches." I think attempting to define real and unreal witchery treads upon dangerous territory, like trying to define "real men" and "real women." (The answer in the latter cases is that hey, all women are real women, and all men are real men. There are no fakers. We each have the agency to create our own identities.) You can say that the practice of some witches is not very spirit-involved, which I feel would be valid. From my short time on this board it seems that much of trad craft involves some level of actual mediumship, which many (though by no means all) Pagan and Wiccan witches are incapable of and/or disinterested in. Personally I like the term and do find it empowering - it describes all of what I do, as I am not simply one thing or another. But we all have the wherewithal to create for ourselves our own identities. Perhaps for some it's posturing, but some of us gotta fake it 'til we make it. I wasn't immediately able to sense energy within and without of shield circles when I first started my practice, but that didn't stop me from casting them.

 

Oh I totally agree! But i guess i'm applying a little post-structuralist/ co-constructionism to my personal experience of the word. I no longer find it a helpful word because of some of the issues that i discuss above and that isn't to say that anyone on this forum (or anywhere else for that matter) who refers to themselves as a "witch" therefore automatically isn't. After all, in joining this website, I have accepted that term for practical reasons myself! In my personal experience many of the people I have met practicing a Traditional Craft type practice and who actually are (rather than those who have just decided it's the new cool thing) don't refer to themselves as a "witch" at all. Some of them maybe once did, but for many it has become such a loaded word and put them in a community with some deeply silly people, so they have stopped using it. I don't think it's a matter of faking it all. Actually, it's pretty hard to fake "Trad Craft", it still boggles me that anyone would want to! It's much easier to fake the energy work in a more ceremonial practice, because you can be an adept ceremonialist without ever connecting to or being aware of energy at all (just move elegantly and learn the right words). But i'm not condemning those people either, it is clearly doing something for them, or they wouldn't do it. I'm just saying that i wouldn't refer to them as "working with energy" when they are actually not. For me "Trad Craft" is about what you actually do, and have the ability to do, not what you are interested in or what you label yourself as. No eltism there or judgement, just my own personal interaction with a term.

 

 

 

 

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For me "Trad Craft" is about what you actually do, and have the ability to do

 

Speaking for the forum, this exactly what we feel Traditional Witchcraft is.

 

No eltism there or judgement, just my own personal interaction with a term.
Good. 'Elitists' are usually laughed of off the forum.

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Much of the knowledge of Basque Witchcraft derives from the writings of Pierre de Lancre, who was appointed by King Henry IV to investigate the Pays de Labourd, a Basque-speaking territory in southwest France.

 

The Parlement of Bordeaux almost immediately restricted de Lancre’s mandate to investigating witchcraft.

 

I have relied heavily on H.R. Robbins’ “The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology” for this article.

 

Unfortunately, I have somehow mislaid Julio Caro Baroja’s “The World of the Witches”. Baroja, himself of Basque origin, was a prominent academic. He discussed meeting people who suggested modern Basques still practiced witchcraft. I cannot remember if he mentioned the Basque words for “witch” or “witchcraft”.

 

H.R. Robbins stated when discussing witchcraft in the Pays de Labourd: “Apparently this heresy had been introduced into Labourd from Bearn at the end of the fifteenth century (since the Basque words for witchcraft were borrowed from Romance languages):” (p 299)

 

The Spanish Inquisition had argued in 1494 “that if the sabbat [spanish, aquelarre = field of the goat] were true, the witches or jorguinas were apostates. (Robbins p 476)

 

Secular courts held trials for witchcraft in Navarre in 1526 and 1527 and in Biscay in 1528.

 

Secular judges reacted quickly to a panic in Navarre in 1610. They burned the victims to preempt interference from the Spanish Inquisition.

 

Forty witches had been burned in the Pays de Labourd, Bearn, which adjoins the Spanish frontier in 1576.

 

De Lancre boasted that he had burned 600 witches before his tenure expired in 1610. He had concluded that every one of the 30 000 inhabitants of the Pays de Labourd was a witch – including priests!

 

De Lancre had already burned three priests before the Bishop of Bordeaux intervened to rescue five other priests from jail. (p41)

 

We need not detain ourselves with the claims of the Basque speaking witches interrogated by de Lance.

 

Robbins shrewdly observed: “Under torture, many confessions, very likely suggested by de Lancre were recorded (and translated into French). (p41)

 

De Lancre’s objectivity is an issue. He wrote “questioning about what a witch has done is merely a trick to trap him into confession.” (p40)

 

I don’t doubt that de Lancre was unbalanced. He claimed that on one occasion, when he was sound asleep, “a black mass was celebrated in his bedroom.” (p41)

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Unfortunately, I have somehow mislaid Julio Caro Baroja’s “The World of the Witches”. Baroja, himself of Basque origin, was a prominent academic. He discussed meeting people who suggested modern Basques still practiced witchcraft. I cannot remember if he mentioned the Basque words for “witch” or “witchcraft”.

 

I know where mine is. I'll look.

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