Akelarre (witchcraft)

Akelarre is the Basque term meaning sabbat or ritual meeting of witches. It is also found in Spanish with the spelling "aquelarre".


The most common etymology is that meaning meadow ("larre") of the he-goat ("aker"). An alternative explanation could be that it originally was "alkelarre", "alka" being a local name for the herb Dactilis hispanica. In this case, the first etymology would have been a manipulation of the Inquisition [J. Dueso, Brujería en el País Vasco. Orain, 1996. ISBN 84-89077-55-X] .

Nevertheless the black he-Goat or "Akerbeltz" is known in Basque mythology to be an attribute of goddess Mari and is found in a Roman age slab as a votive dedication: "Aherbelts Deo" (to the god Aherbelts) (see: Aquitanian language).

Places called Akelarre

*Akelarre: a field of Mañaria (Biscay).
*Akelarrenlezea: a large cave of Zugarramurdi (Navarre). Actually the witches met outside the cave in the place of Berroskoberro.

Other expressive names used for sabbat meeting places in Basque culture include:
*"Eperlanda": partridges' field (in Muxika, Biscay)
*"Bekatu-larre": sinful meadow (in Ziordi, Navarre)
*"Sorgintxulo": witches hole, a cave in Hernani (Guipuscoa). There is another Sorginzulo in Zegama and still another one in Ataun, both in Guipuscoa.
*"Dantzaleku": dancing place, in Ataun.
*"Atsegin Soro": pleasure orchard. This was the name by which witches themselves called the field of Matxarena in Errenteria (Guipuscoa), according to inquisitorial records.
*"Basajaunberro": site of Basajaun (the wild man of the woods), in Auritz (Navarre).
*"Sorginerreka": witches' creek, in Tolosa (Guipuscoa).
*"Edar Iturri": Beautiful Spring, also in Tolosa.

Zugarramurdi witch-hunt

In 1610, the Spanish Inquisition tribunal of Logroño initiated a large witch-hunt in Navarre that ended with 12 supposed witches burnt at the stake (5 of them symbolically, as they had been killed by torture earlier). It was possibly as a result of these major trials that the term "akelarre" became synonymous with the word "sabbat" and spread into common parlance in both Basque and Spanish.

See also

*Sorginak (Basque witches)


*"Brujería en el País Vasco", José Dueso, Orain S.A., 1996. ISBN 84-89077-55-X
*"Guía del Akelarre Vasco", José Dueso, ROGER Ed., 2000. ISBN 84-8490-001-0

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