Mari (goddess)

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Modern rendering of Mari by Josu Goñi

Mari, also called Mari Urraca, Anbotoko Mari ("the lady of Anboto"), and Murumendiko Dama ("lady of Murumendi"), is the main goddess of the pre-Christian Basque mythology. She is married to the god Sugaar (also known as Sugoi or Maju). Legends connect her to the weather: when she and Maju travel together hail will fall, her departures from her cave will be accompanied by storms or droughts, and which cave she lives in at different times will determine dry or wet weather: wet when she is in Anboto; dry when she is elsewhere (the details vary). Other places where she is said to dwell include the chasm of Murumendi, the cave of Gurutzegorri (Ataun), Aizkorri and Aralar, although it is not always possible to be certain which Basque legends should be considered as the origin.


Anboto is one of the mountains where Mari is supposed to live

It is believed that Mari is a modification of Emari (gift) or Amari (mother + the suffix of profession) by losing the first vowel. The closeness in names between Mary and Mari may have helped pagans adapt their worship of Mari to undertake Christian veneration of the Virgin Mary,[1] (Basque: Andre Maria, Biscayan: Andra Mari). The first known written citation of the "Dame of Amboto" was made by Charles V's chronicler Esteban de Garibay Zamalloa in his Memorial histórico español.[2]

Myths associated with Mari[edit]

Mari is the main character of Basque mythology, having a god-like nature, unlike other creatures that share the same spiritual environment. Mari is often witnessed as a woman dressed in red. She is also seen as a woman of fire, woman-tree and as thunderbolt. Additionally, she is identified with red animals (cow, ram, horse), and with the black he-goat. Mari is associated with various forces of nature, including thunder and wind.

Mari lives underground, normally in a cave in a high mountain, where she and her consort Sugaar meet every Friday (the night of the Akelarre or witch-meeting) to conceive the storms that will bring fertility, or sometimes disaster, to the land and the people. Mari is served by a court of sorginak (witches), and is said to feed "on the negation and affirmation" (that is, on falsehood).


Santa Marina, a saint revered in the Basque Country, is a Christianized version of Mari. Basque women still invoke Santa Marina's protection against curses and for aid in childbirth.

The most accepted syncretism is with the Virgin Mary; she is widely venerated by modern Catholic Basques.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This derives from articles in the Enciclopedia General Ilustrada del Pais Vasco Encyclopedia Auñamendi, which in turn cite Euskalerriaren Yakintza, Tomo I "Costumbres y supersticiones", by folklorist Resurrección María de Azkue (1864-1951). It notes that additional legends were recorded by Jose Miguel Barandiaran and Juan Thalamas Labandibar.
  2. ^ Esteban de Garibay Zamalloa, Memorial histórico español: colección de documentos, opúsculos y antigüedades, Tomo VII.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Luis de Barandiarán Irízar (editor), A View From The Witch's Cave: Folktales of The Pyrenees (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991). ISBN 0-87417-176-8
  • Toti Martínez de Lezea "Leyendas de Euskal Herria". Erein 2004