espartina Lapurdi   Mask espartina
Kaskarota, Kottilun Gorria, and Female Kaskarota - Zenbat GaraThe Basque province of Lapurdi is located on the coast north of the Pyrenees.  It is composed of 859 square kilometers.  The capital is Baiona.

One of Lapurdi's most outstanding manifestations of Basque folklore is found in its ihauteria of Mardi Gras celebration. Today this celebration takes place before Lent and has become linked to the Christian calendar.  This yearly event, however, stems from a pre-Christian tradition of preventing disease and plague by purging the locale of evil and, according to Urbeltz (2000), dangerous insects that had the potential to wreak havoc in an agricultural peasant society.  Other interpretations revolve around ritual to hasten the coming of spring and provoke abundance.  These two interpretations are not necessarily incompatible.

Participants, some of them masked, have various duties to carry out, and perform dances with noisy elements such as clashing sticks, clapping, and stomping.   In return for this service, the community gave the dancers some form of payment, traditionally food.  This custom was known as Zirtzil.   The procession takes the following order:

Banderari The flag bearer who carries the flag of Lapurdi
Kaskarotak Dancers who perform the ritual dances.   Until recently these were all young men.  The white skirt shown in the picture above was designed by Claude Iruretagoiena from Bezkoitze.
Besta Gorri The "tax collector" who caries a wooden sword and a small collection box.
Ponpiera Dressed in a costume resembling a court jester, he assists the Besta Gorri.
Kottilun Gorria Androgynous masked character responsible for maintaining order in the procession.  At one time scattered ashes, now confetti.
Jaun-Anderia Authority figures in the form of the Lord and the Lady.
Xigantea A giant carried by a participant that is said to have represented evil or hunger.  It was traditionally burned at the end of the ritual.

Lapurdi Ihauteriak - Zenbat Gara
Zenbat Gara performing Lapurdiko Ihauteriak

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Images on this and other Cyber Dantza pages Copyright © 2001  Lisa Corcostegui