Navarrese society in the 16th and 17th centuries
was characterised by cultural and political differences, by its belief in myths and legends and by the ancestral wisdom of women who used the power of nature to cure illness and disease. These factors favoured accusations of witchcraft
, which were usually unfounded. Nevertheless, mediaeval history links Navarre to witchcraft, covens, potions, exorcisms and persecutions.
operated in more than 60 towns and villages in Navarre, mainly in the mountainous north
, the heart of occult beliefs. The isolation of the area favoured the conservation of devil worship theories and natural remedies, as can be seen from documents of the time. Nevertheless, it was purely malevolent imagination that attributed simple folk healers the power of flight or having encounters with the Devil. This fantasy was heightened by the isolated, woody and often inaccessible places where the herbalists collected plants.
The map of witchcraft
in Navarre draws a line from Sangüesa and Lumbier to Amezkoa
(north of Estella), with the odd isolated site near Viana and Bargota
. The Witchcraft Route is divided into four itineraries
to provide a logical way of visiting the main scenarios of this phenomenon. They are places of great beauty that are impregnated with a mysterious halo that invites the visitor to enter the enigmatic world of the occult while enjoying gastronomic traditions
and the authenticity of something that has been able to preserve its essence.The Witchcraft Route:
- Itinerary 1. The first persecutions of witchcraft in Navarre: Roncal and Salazar valleys and the Orreaga-Roncesvalles area (Auritz-Burguete, Orreaga-Roncesvalles, Ochagavía, Burgui and Vidángoz)
- Itinerary 2. The frontier, superstition and witchcraft: Urdazubi/Urdax, Zugarramurdi, Baztán, Bertizarana, Cinco Villas (Zugarramurdi, Urdazubi-Urdax, Arraioz, Bera and Doneztebe-Santesteban)
- Itinerary 3. Mountains and caves, among mythology and witchcraft: Anocibar, Larraun and Araitz valleys, Leitzaran (Anocíbar, Alli, Areso, Intza and Olagüe)
- Itinerary 4. Witches in the area around Estella: Tierra Estella (Bargota and Viana)
Itinerary 1: Roncal and Salazar valleys and the area around Roncesvalles
. This route takes you through one of the areas where witchcraft was repressed most strongly. Documents witness a major raid on witches here in 1329.
Auritz-Burguete: in the 16th century, Licenciado Balanza, "the Navarrese Torquemada", extended the enquiries he had started making in the nearby Roncal and Salazar valleys to this area. The process ended with the burning of 5 witches in the village square. In the church of San Nicolás you can still see the "sambenitos" (verdicts) as a symbol of the infamous act.
Itinerary 2: Urdazubi/Urdax, Zugarramurdi, Baztán, Bertizarana, Cinco Villas
Outside the village, and before you reach Orreaga/Roncesvalles you come across the Wood of Sorginaritzaga, or Oak Grove of the Witches. Covens were held here in the 16th century that led to the persecution and the burning at the stake of nine people. Furthermore, in order to purify the place a Cruz Blanca (white cross) was erected here, a symbol used by the Church for divine protection.
Orreaga/Roncesvalles: another wood related to the rituals and magic of witchcraft is Basajaunberro. Its name is a tribute to a legendary character from Basque mythology, Basajaun. A pleasant stroll takes you through the thick forest while Basajaun watches over you.
Also related to the Collegiate church is the defence made of their neighbours of Auritz-Burguete by the canons when they were accused in 1575. Most of them were absolved.
Ochagavía: in this village, the mayor was even accused of getting together with witches. Muskilda was the site of suspicions and persecutions against witches, culminating in a series of trials held in Ochagavía In 1539 that affected the mayor of the valley. Witnesses said that he met with witches from de Ochagavía, Jaurrieta and other villages at the spot where the chapel of Muskilda stands. They would hold covens that included dances , in which made magic spells and curses.
Burgui: in the 16th century a long trial against witchcraft took place here in which a man and three women were accused, according to the testimony of several young girls who did not seem to have acted as innocently as their age might indicate. Their nocturnal meetings to invoke the Devil took place at the pond near the river.
Vidángoz: starts it's annual festivities in August every year with a touch of magic, recalling the tradition of witchcraft I the valley through the celebration of the Descent of the witch. This is a good opportunity to experience the solemnity of a coven, although with a festive touch!
. Witches, inquisitors, bonfires, potions and magic. A route marked out by history.
Zugarramurdi: a place with an international reputation for witchcraft, because the biggest "witch hunt" took place here. Its cave, known as Sorginen Leizea (witches' cave) and the Berroscoberro meadow were the scene of Devil worship and sacrilegious acts that ended up with carnal communion between the Devil and his devotees. Constant accusations led the Inquisitor Valle-Alvarado to take 40 suspects to Logroño. A trial was held there on 7th and 8th November 1610. Seven alleged male witches were condemned to die at the stake and the effigies of another five who had already died were also burned. The Witches' Museum in the village is a fascinating place to learn about this phenomenon.
Itinerary 3: Anocibar, Valleys of Larraun and Araitz, Leitzaran
Urdazubi-Urdax: its old monastery played an important role in the phenomenon of witchcraft. Local people and visitors came to the church in search of advice and spiritual comfort. It was also the place where the enquiries of the inquisitors Valle-Alvarado and Salazar took place, which ended up in the cruel Auto e Fe de Logroño de 1610. At that time the monastery was governed by Fray León de Aranibar, a cruel instigator who was famous for believing all the claims of witchcraft.
Arraioz: this village was not spared accusations of witchcraft either. Indeed, in 1612 feelings were running high as a result of old scores and family feuds between local clans. The women accused here were locked up in the old mediaeval towers of Jauregizar and Jauregizubiri (or Casa-torre Zubiría), where they were subjected to "torment" by the civil authorities. A century later, the Inquisition of Logroño issued a decree condemning some magical rites that were still performed in the area, and threatening their perpetrators with excommunication.
Bera: Preachers in the early 17th century reinforced the rumours of witchcraft, extending the phenomenon through the villages of Cinco Villas, Baztán and Bertizarana. One of the most aggressive preachers was the parish priest of Bera, where statements from several women and children were used to put many people from the area on trial, people who allegedly took part in aquelarres (covens) in their villages.
Doneztebe-Santesteban: the first testimonies about witchcraft in Navarre appeared in the Malerreka valley in 1328. However, it was In the 16th century when several trials were held against witchcraft. María de Ituren led the nocturnal encounters in mount Mendaur, the highest in the area. Covens were held, with ointments made from herbs and toads. Chapels or crosses were built in order to purify the accursed places where these rites took place. Today you an see the chapel of the Holy Trinity on top of mount Mendaur or the chapel of San Miguel above Doneztebe-Santesteban, which was blessed and inaugurated on St Michael's Day in 1611 following the visit of Inquisitor Salazar to the town
. A route through northwest Navarre, where secular mythological beliefs and strange religious practices in natural settings led to fears and persecutions of the practice of witchcraft.
Anocibar: in 1575 this small village in the Odieta valley was the scene of one of the most famous and terrifying witchcraft trials in Navarre. The main suspect, Mari Juana de Anocíbar (alias Sandua) must have been an epileptic. The secular association of this illness with possession by the Devil are well-known; indeed, as a child her parents took her to a number of churches so that she could be exorcised. However, neither her denial of these alleged visits nor her repeated professions of faith saved her from her accusers, among whom were her nephew and the abbot of the church. She was finally burned at the stake.
Itinerary 4: Tierra Estella
Anue: the alleged misdeeds of Mari Juana spread through the nearby valleys of Ultzama and Anue. Among the many accused here were the saddler of Lizaso and the lady innkeeper of Olagüe. The main testimony of the prosecution was that of a 5-year-old child who said he had seen them riding goats and flying in the direction of Pamplona, where they got together to worship Beelzebub.
Alli: the Aralar mountain range and its surroundings are linked with deeply-rooted beliefs and ancestral rites. These traditions, which survived in some remote places, gave rise to persecution because they were considered (being unfamiliar) with heathen and devil worship. The cave at Alli, called 'Beelzebub's cave' was used for meetings of the people of valleys of Larraun and Araitz. Illuminated by the bones of unearthed creatures, they held ceremonies of witchcraft. To purify the place, the Lord of Andueza ordered the construction of a Holy Cross near the entrance to the cave.
Intza: the fields of Urritzola are located near this village, a spot where witches arrived by flying through the air after greasing their bodies with magic potions. Dances and covens like the ones painted by Goya took place in the middle of the night in the open field, presided over by a man with two horns. The scenes described are particularly lustful, although probably exaggerated by the imagination of those 16th-century country folk, brought up in the hills and meadows...
Areso: witnesses claimed that witches got together in the cave of Uli in Areso, near the sheep trail from Lizarza to Ezkurra. A chapel of the Holy Cross was built there at the time, confirming the Church's desire -as in many other places - to consecrate any spot previously used for pagan or devil worship.
. The frontier zone with Castile, near the seat of the Inquisition's Tribunal in Logroño, accounts for the most southerly cases of witchcraft in Navarre.
Viana: where the origins of witchcraft blend in with Judaism. The town had a thriving Jewish community, widely hated because of their curious customs and the prosperity of their businesses. They were blamed for any shortages suffered by the Christians. Everything was the fault of the bad faith of the Jews and witches, and of the 'poisons' they made, for which they needed the blood and hearts of Christian children... The Salobre meadow (lake of La Cañas) where witches from the entire area held their covens. These were attended by the well-known warlock of Bargota the queen of the coven, a blind girl from Viana who was called "La Ciega Endregoto".
Bargota: this village gave witchcraft in Navarre one of its most famous figures, Johanes (XV-XVII). He completed ecclesiastical studies in Salamanca, where he was introduced to the arts of witchcraft. Once in Bargota, he worked as a clergyman in the church of Santa María and also developed his skills as a sorcerer, although he never used his knowledge maliciously. It was said that he could take his head off when he wanted, or that he could move through the clouds... In 1599 he was called before the Inquisition for acts of magic and casting spells. However, he only received a light sentence and penitence through prayer. After serving his sentence, he continued as a priest in Bargota until his death. It is believed that Johanes had a very special patron who protected him anonymously, apparently a person who was very high up in the Court, and who Johanes had helped in the past. Every July, Bargota becomes the capital of witchcraft for a week, in which several activities are organised around the theme.