Carnival in Ituren and Zubieta
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Carnival in Ituren and Zubieta
28 and 29 January
Last week of January
These two neighbouring towns in the area of Malerreka, to the south of the Bidasoa valley, pre-empt the official carnival dates and hold a unique carnival during the last week of January. The central act consists of processions of the Zanpantzar along the streets of Ituren on Monday and those of Zubieta on Tuesday. The Zanpantzar, a company of Ioaldunak (cowbells) involving the residents of both towns, parade the streets costumed in sandals, lace petticoats, sheepskins around the waist and shoulders, coloured neckerchiefs, conical caps with ribbons and a hyssop of horsehair in their right hands. You’ll be deafened by the rhythmic din of the huge cowbells attached to the lower backs of the members of the cortege, which clang in unison with the rhythmic movements as they walk.
In the section folkloric, Ituren counts on one of the most ancestral expressions of the carnivals in Navarre. Its representative figure is joaldun (word composed of joare  and the possessive suffix - dun personage that carries cowbells. Ituren and Zubieta - distant to each other in three kilometers, they are the original towns of joaldunak, although each town maintains specific shades in the form to make sound them and in the indumentaria of the personage. In the last years, the figure of joaldunak has extended to other towns of Euskal Herria.

The indumentaria of joaldun of Ituren consists of the following elements:

- Ttuntturo or cap conical, approximately of half meter of height, with tapes of colors and crowned with bird pens.
- Handkerchief of reddish tones to the neck.
- Shirt covered by a skin of ewe as a great vest.
- Strip in the waist, in that they lean, simultaneously that is hidden, the cords that hold the cowbells.
- White Enagua on the trousers that arrive until underneath the knee.
- Rubber Abarkas, footwear, subject with cords over the white socks.
- Two great copper cowbells (of an approximated capacity of ten liters each one) that hang of the waist and other two peque, as a adornment, to the height of the back.
- Hisopo, done with horsehair of horse, subject with the right hand.

The difference in the indumentaria of joaldunak of Zubieta is based in which this one both does not include the pelliza of skin with small cowbells on the shirt that are white and in which the handkerchief of the neck is smaller and of blue pictures.

Joaldunak marches past in two rows, with rhythmical and rhythmic movements, managing to make sound their cowbells in unison. The parade acquires a ritual aspect related intimately to the nature. One of both joaldun of the first row makes sound a horn intermittently and sends shouts that mark, so to speak, the rate of the parade.

Ituren and Zubieta celebrate the carnivals jointly. Its beginning takes place the week that begins the last Sunday of the month of January and the joint parade of joaldunak of both towns takes place Monday in Ituren and Tuesday in Zubieta, around the noon. Monday, joaldunak of Zubieta is received by those of Ituren in the district of Aurtitz and in this point the joint parade of about forty begins or fifty joaldunak (between eighty and one hundred cowbells) that, passing by the district of Latsaga, arrives at the one from Ituren and, after crossing all his population center, it finalizes in the seat of the town. On the following day, Tuesday, those are those of Ituren that give back the visit to those of Zubieta.

It is precise to warn that the application of the name to zanpantzar to joaldunak of Ituren and Zubieta has been carried out very recently (as of the decade of 1960) by people totally other people's to the towns of Ituren and Zubieta, as a result of trying to look for similarities or parallelisms of joaldun with other personages of folclore Basque, like Saint Pansard, Olentzero, etc. The denomination to zanpantzar does not have tradition some in both towns, that have not known nor used another name that the one of joaldun to denominate its historical personage, that is to say, joaldunak of Ituren and Zubieta.


The most indicated she is the one of the day of the Trinidad, As much the neighbors of Ituren as those of the towns of the surroundings go massively to the top of the Mendaur mount, where the hermitage of the SantĂ­sima Trinidad is located. After the mass, great part of the assistants enjoys the central hours of the day in the summit and adjacent places to the same one, specially in the zone of the denominated dam imprisoned Arritzulegiko. In the evening and night the celebration continues in the seat of the town.


Locality: ZUBIETA (31746)

Zone: The Pyrenees

In the Basque Country folk traditions are very similar to those in the rest of Europe, but the Basque language which is pre-Indoeuropean is of great importance to the study of this folklore. In our area the Carnival period makes references to some specific terms which give it a meaning which pre-dates the Lenten explanation. There are two specially important names: Ińauteri and Aratuste, both meaning ‘the time of pruning’, as corresponds to the tasks carried out in the month of February before the arrival of spring which brings with it the insects. These activities which possibly date from the Neolithic period clean the trees and fields of the larvae of insects. Let us see the relation between this pruning and Carnival.

During the Carnival the most important traditional element to be found is in the clothes that people wear. In the Basque Country, as in other parts of Europe , there are numerous people is fancy dress processions, as we shall see. But the most striking thing is that in Basque the words for ‘disguise’: zomorro, mozorro, koko, ńańarro, mumua etc., also mean ‘insect’. That is why the Basque language paints a very different picture of the Carnival. If the same word is used for ‘disguise’ and ‘insect’ it means that all the fancy dress costumes turn people into ‘insects, they ‘insect-isize’ people. In the month of February, Carnival time, there are no insects. They are stuck in a larval state. This is why everyone ‘becomes an insect’ by means of a costume. The disguises replace the spring insects which have been warded off.

The exorcising of the insects is seen when disguised callers come the door of the houses and they are given offerings of money, wine or bacon. This means that the “insects” have received their payment, and will not be able to come begging a second time. Some Carnival characters such as the Ioaldunas from the villages of Ituren and Zubieta in Navarra are used to protect against insects. Their weapons are a horsetail used as an aspergillum (holy water sprinkler) and great cowbells of 30 litre capacity.

It is well known the horse uses its tail to drive of flies and horseflies, but perhaps it is less well known that the cowbell has the same function. Greek cowbells made of cast bronze similar to those shown are engraved with horseflies, which in our opinion offers a clear explanation of the function of the cowbell, which is to scare off the flies so as to protect the face of the cow or horse grazing in the field. For this reason the costumes we are looking at are a clear expression of a power intended to exorcise the insects.

There are two insects that, in our opinion, have this great primitive power: the mosquito and the locust. In the Basque Country we also have the horsefly. Because of their diabolical nature, these insects are hidden in several metaphors. Thus, the fox is a metaphor for the mosquito; the hobby horse for the locust; the sword for the horsefly.

First I’ll speak about the hobby horse. This animal mask is made from cardboard and cloth and appear in many places in Europe. Here I will analyse, briefly, its presence and meaning in the Carnival celebrations of the village of Lantz . I mentioned that the hobby horse is a metaphor of the locust. I support this idea with evidence from de Old Testament: the book of Joel, the book of Nahum, and in the Apocalypse of Saint John where it appears as a terifying animal referred to as ‘a horse’. Also the common name for the locust, in many European languages is ‘horse’, or perhaps ‘mare’. In Spanish as well as in Italian and Sicilian it is caballeta. In Italian it is also saltacavaglia; in Rumanian it is calus; in Russian and Czech kobylka; in French sauto-pou chinchin, pouchinchin; in Basque larraputinga, etc.

In the village of Lantz we have three main characters: Miel Otxin, the giant; a straw filled man called Ziripot, and a hobby horse called Zaldiko. There is a fancy dress procession of Perratzailles –blacksmiths, and the costumed young people of the village known as the Txatxos.

The giant Miel Otxin, like all the giants of the Middle Ages, represents hunger. Giants, include in the Ogre group, are voracious and have and insatiable appetite. Their stomach reach from the roots of their hair to their toe nails. In Lantz they say that the giant is a bandit who robbed travellers on the roads around the village. They say, one day he was captured, tried and killed. Local people say that Carnival is celebrated in memory of this drama.

Ziripot with his clusmy movements can hardly walk. During the Carnival he is constantly charged by the hobby horse or Zaldiko. Zaldiko is made of a wooden frame which a young man wears attached to his waist. This young person’s face is blackened. The hobby horse races wildly among masqueraders and spectators, chases the girls and attacks Ziripot. They also act out a parody of the shoeing of the horse.

In Lantz, in this drama, the bandit Miel Otxin tries to flee but is caught and returned to the town. On Carnival Tuesday, they act a parody of a triak when he is condemned to death. They ‘kill’ him with two shots of a gun. His straw body is burnt on a bonfire while the Txatxos perform a traditional dance.

This is a summary of the farce of Lantz. Let us see how we can show the meaning of this ritual drama. Starting from the connection between the hobby horse and an insect such as the locust, fat Ziripot is also participating, in one way, as an “insect”. In our opinion the principal characteristic of this costume, an incredibly fat body and difficulty in walking, represents the insect in its larval state. From this we conclude that the hobby horse, which represents the fully developed insect, attacks Ziripot attempting to put an end to the larval stage which he represents. The plague of locusts represented by the hobby horse hat its consequence: hunger. Miel Otxin, the giant, is the symbol of revenous hunger. This is why is not allowed to escape, nor roam on the loose. He is kept safe because of the danger he represents. The parody of the trial and punishment, the gun shots and the noisy dance by the Txatxos end this Carnival act in Navarra.

As a complement to this Carnival drama, some Basque sword dances also correespond to insect metaphors. Basque sword dances are called in Basque Ezpata-dantza, and the dancers ezpata-dantzaris –In Basque Country there are two forms of sword dance. In one, which is seen in Zumarraga, Legazpi and Markina and in the Corpus Christi processions in Gipuzkoa, two, three o four dancers armed with a dagger in each hand covered with and handkerchief are followed by a largish group carryng linked long swords. Another type of dance is seen in the villages of the Merindad de Durango in Bizkaia. The villages of Berriz, Garai, Iurreta, Mańari, Abadińo and Izurtza have this type of dance which is performed by eight young men face to using sword and staves in a mock battle. The movements are very spetacular, with the dancers leaping high.

You can see, the dancers are wearing white shirts and trousers and white espadrilles with red ribbons, a red band -gerriko at the waist, and a red beret on their head. It is also traditional to wear a velvet waistcoat with an immortelle flower embroidered on the lapel.

Today the dancers are performed in front of the local authorities. Formerly the young dancers performed on the eve of the Patron Saint’s Day before the elders of the village, who had to give their approval of the performance. The dances begin with the dancers filing out accompanied by the local flag. Then there is an exhibition of dances by, one, two, and four dancers. One dance is called ‘short swords’ o Ezpata-txikiek in Basque, another known as the ‘grat game of swords’ or Ezpata joko nagusia, a dance with long staves –Makil-dantza and to finish one of the dancers is raised horizontally above the ground, as though he were dead in a dance called Txotxongillo. In addition, and perhaps related to the previous dance, there is also a ribbon dance Zintza-dantza.

Now let us speak about some symbolic aspects of these dances. Firstly, the name ‘sword’, ezpata in Basque, is the generic name of these type of dances and ezpata-dantzari the dancer. The word ezpata has two meanings in Basque, one is ‘sword’ while the other is ‘horsefly’ (Stomoxys calcitrans or Hippobosca equina). In our reseach, we have tried to solve this question leaving to one side the obvious meaning of the sword and analysing how far we can take the metaphor of the horsefly.

The question we are raising is that if we omit the evidence offered by the sword, the name of ‘sword-dancer’ take us to the metaphor of the dancer=equals a horsefly. From this point of view these (groups of) dances would be ceremonial dances performed to ward off the dangers that the insects bring in the spring under the leadership of the horsefly.

The series of dances commences with a violent waving of the flag, like a variant of the movements of the handkerchiefs in English Morris dances; or the presence of horsetails in the Carnival, it is a powerful instrument for shooing away insects such as the horsefly, for example. The cme the dances in which the young men show their physical strengh, by hiah kicks and leaps. But there are two dances in which we can capture the symbolism of the horsefly. One of them is the Ezpata joko nagusia -‘the great game of swords’ where the dancers take a sword with both hands using it as though it were a sharp point. These are exercises of attack and defence. In the attack the dancer projets the sword as though it were the proboscis of an insect. This could not be done with real swords because the edge of the sword would cut the fingers of the left hand. After the waving of the flag, the choreographic movements of Zortzinango dance imitate the flight of a fly. The repetitive tune of the dance reminds us of the buzzing of the fly.


 ZUBIETA (31746)

The Pyrenees

 Date: 28/01, 29/01

These two neighbouring towns in the area of Malerreka, to the south of the Bidasoa valley, pre-empt the official carnival dates and hold a unique carnival during the last week of January. The central act consists of processions of the Zanpantzar along the streets of Ituren on Monday and those of Zubieta on Tuesday. The Zanpantzar, a company of Ioaldunak (cowbells) involving the residents of both towns, parade the streets costumed in sandals, lace petticoats, sheepskins around the waist and shoulders, coloured neckerchiefs, conical caps with ribbons and a hyssop of horsehair in their right hands. You'll be deafened by the rhythmic din of the huge cowbells attached to the lower backs of the members of the cortege, which clang in unison with the rhythmic movements as they walk.

Carnival in Zubieta, Aurtitz and Ituren, Nafarroa
Carnival has begun in Euskal Herria. Most recently, the celebrations have taken place in the valley of Maldaerreka in Nafarroa, in the towns of Zubieta, Aurtitz and Ituren. It’s a carnival that has a large agricultural influence, since the joaldunak –their very own carnival character, - dresses in sheepskin. EuskoSare had the opportunity to witnessed this tradition in the small towns of Nafarroa.
The valley of Maldaerreka is located in northern Nafarroa, and this valley belongs to the towns of Zubieta, Aurtitz, and Ituren (the neighborhood of Aurtitz officially belongs to Ituren); these towns are geographically located one after the other and it’s only a kilometer and a half that separates them.

The customs and traditions that these towns have are tied to agriculture and sheepherding, and this is very obvious during carnival. An old tradition still exists where the three towns celebrate carnival together, and they do this on the last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of January. This year, EuskoSare witnessed this tradition up front. One of the customs that is celebrated and is very extended throughout Euskal Herria: gathering “puskak” (things); some of the neighbors go from house to house gathering “puskak”, in other words, food for supper.

Going from one town to the next by foot
Around noon on the Monday of the joaldunak, the neighbors of Zubieta set off on foot towards the next town, to Aurtitz, where the joaldunak of the town get together, and after having walked through the town, they all eat together. Immediately, they reach Ituren and they enter the town with the joaldunak of Ituren; and all together they sound the “joareak” through the streets. However, on Tuesday, it’s the people of Ituren that repay the visit after having passed previously through Aurtitz.

The joaldunak leave the streets many times during the entire year: on the eve of the Three Kings they walk the same route mentioned above between midnight and 6 am; during carnival; during the festivities of their patron saint (only in Zubieta); and on Joaldunen Eguna (Day of the Joaldunak) which is celebrated on the third weekend of September (only in Ituren).

Joaldunak: a tradition belonging to Zubieta, Aurtitz, and Ituren
Those that are “joaldun” are those persons wearing “joareak” or cowbells hanging from their waists. It is not known exactly since when this tradition has been celebrated, put it is estimated that its history goes back many centuries.

In regards to the costumes, those of Zubieta dress in thick sheepskins and petticoats. However, those of Aurtitz and Ituren wear petticoats, two sheepskins and two small cowbells in addition to the pair of big cowbells. That pair of joareak or big cowbells are tied to the waist with a long cord; on their head they wear the ttuntturro, in other words, a hat in the shape of a cone that the characters of carnival in Nafarroa wear, and in their hands they carry the azote. Although the majority of them are men, women and children also sound the joareak.

The joareak tend to be made of brass or metal and have a coat of copper. Each joare or cowbell weighs 3 or 4 kilos; each joaldun has to clang 8 kilos in total.
In ancient times, the joaldunak would carry the sheepskin and joareak; the ttuntturro and the petticoats are elements that have been added on in the last 100 years.

It is said that in the old days the sheepherders used the joareak to protect the sheep from the wolf; together with the joaldunak of Ituren and Aurtitz, the character of the bear exists; it represents the character that scares the wolf who is about to attack the sheep. On the other hand, others believe that the joareak serve to strip evil spirits away, and also there are some that believe they were used to interrupt the meetings that the witches held.

The steps of the joaldunak
The joaldunak take a step or a short skip so that they can make their joreak clang. When they begin to clang altogether with the echo of the cowbell sounds, the entire valley is taken over by the sound.

In recent years there have been many variations; the joaldunak of Zubieta and Ituren make the cowbells clang once per step or skip; on the other hand, those from Aurtitz produce the clang with each step they take.

Joaldunak Associations
It’s been two years since associations have been created in these three localities in order to protect the identity of the joaldunak; that is how the associations “Zubietako Joaldunen Elkartea, Aurtizko Joaldunen Elkartea, and Iturengo Joaldunen Elkartea have come about. Together with the associations, the city halls of the towns of Zubieta and Ituren are working together to salvage their own identity of this custom. In these three localities there is an increasing worry for the creation of other groups of joaldunak that have been emerging in some areas of Euskal Herria; their hope is to educate that the joaldunak and the tradition of clanging the joareak originated in Zubieta, Aurtitz, and Ituren, and they are working intensely to maintain that identity.

The joaldunak of these three associations participate in various events and festivities that are celebrated throughout Euskal Herria.

The very entertaining disguises
The other protagonists of carnival are the different disguises; the neighbors of these towns have the tradition to dress up in costume; in whatever material or old tools that will work, some of those are related to agriculture and the ancient trades. Some of the disguises travel on carriages through the town; meanwhile the disguises tend to mock modern day society.

More information:
To get in contact with the associations of the Joaldunak, contact the city hall of Zubieta (948 450 161) or the city hall of Ituren (948 450 302)






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