Thursday, October 25, 2012

Goosebumps in Spain - The Witchcraft Route in Navarre

If you're interested in taking intriguing journeys, we propose four unique routes by car around the most "mysterious" towns in Navarre in Northern Spain. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, witchcraft was much more common than you could ever imagine... Some 400 years later, you can discover what traditions and curiosities remain alive in these lands.

The first of the routes (about 35 miles) winds through the areas of Auritz/Burguete, Orreaga/ Rocesvalles, Ochagavia, Burgui and Vidangoz, where several witches were burnt at the stake for having supernatural powers. Along the route you will find "enchanted forests", such as Basajanberro or places like Muskilda, where witches used to gather together to hold their covens. One of the best times to take these routes is in the last week of August, as in Vidangoz, in the dead of night, there is a performance of the "Descent of the Witch), a dance around a bonfire to welcome Maruxa, the local witch.

Zugarramurdi Caves

The second itinerary (about 20 miles) includes the villages of Urdazubi/Urdax, Zugarramurdi, Bertiz, Arraioz and the five villages known as the Cinco Villas. You will find this route particularly interesting, as in Zugarramurdi you will be able to visit the Witchcraft Museum and then feel the magical aura in the famous local cave where devil worshipers used to hold their feasts and orgies under the moonlight. Another attraction not to be missed is the medieval palace of Jauregizarrea in Arraioz, where women accused of witchcraft were incarcerated and tortured in 1612. 
But let's take a closer look at the witchcraft museum in Zugarramurdi:

Witchcraft Museum in Zugarramurdi
History is such that the memory of Zugarramurdi will always be associated with the Inquisition; in the Middle Ages about thirty women from the village were tried or punished in a ruthless way. Why? Jealousy? Political or cultural differences? Many efforts have been made to try and clarify what happened back then. On the one hand, the isolated north of Navarre encouraged the conservation of theories of devil worship and natural remedies that could have been confused with witchcraft. On the other, the struggles between clans (agramonteses and beaumonteses) favored envy between the two major noble family factions that led to many false accusations.
The route begins with a general presentation of the area of Xareta (Sara, Ainhoa, Urdazubi/Urdax and Zugarramurdi), showing the green-hued landscape that was home to the magical world of witches and covens. The visitor can then enjoy a film titled "La caza de brujas" (witch hunt), which sets out to cast some light on the process of the Inquisition in 1610.
On the first floor we can discover the birth of the myth called MarĂ­a Ximilegui. Although she took part in covens after her arrival in Zugarramurdi she later repented and told the authorities what went on every night. That is how the biggest witch hunt ever conducted in Spain began.
The second floor contains the myths, the matriarchal society of the time and the figure of the herbalist. A series of exhibitions and audiovisuals reveal the ancestral wisdom of the women of the time, who used the power of nature to apply remedies to illnesses and evils.
After learning about the history, there is nothing better than a visit to the cave of Zugarramurdi that was home to those unbridled rituals and feasts. Let your imagination fly. The festivities are revived every year on 18th August, when the zikiro-jate is held, a collective meal whose star is roast lamb on a stake.
If you would like to discover the beautiful countryside around the area there is a 5-mile path that passes by the caves of Urdazubi/Urdax and those of Sare, in France.
The museum, located in the old hospital of the village not far from the famous cave, deals with the world of witchcraft and portrays the society of Navarre in the 17th century, with all its myths and legends. 

Xavier Castle, Navarre, Spain

The third route (about 55 miles) leads through the valleys of Larraun, Leiztaran and Araitz. This is the actual location where the movie "Aquelarre" (Witches Coven) was shot. Finally, the fourth route winds through the villages of Viana and Bargota (about 6 miles). Bargota is apparently the birthplace of one of the most popular figures in Navarran witchcraft, the sorcerer Johanes, who as well as being a cleric in the church of Santa Maria, was also a witch doctor, and was said to be able to cure headaches and travel on clouds... The town celebrates a varied program of activities in this theme every Summer.