Herensuge

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Herensuge

Herensuge is a demon or a dragon in Basque mythology.


Etymology

sugue means "snake".

The most well known names of this spirit in the Basque nation are: Erensuge (in Sara and in Zugarramurdi), Herensuge and Lerensuge (in Ezpeleta, Ainhoa and Tardets), Errensuge (Camou), Hensuge (Liguinaga), Herainsuge (in Ezpeleta), Edensuge (in Sara), Edeinsuge (Doneztebiri), Edaansuge (Uhart-Mixe), Egansuge (Rentería), Iguensuge (Zaldivia), Iraunsuge (Atáun), Ersuge (Ochandiano, according to the Dictionary of Azkue), Sierpe (Zubiri and Lequeitio), and Dragoi (Mondragón).god Sugaar is associated


Places

Herensuge's dwellings include: the cavern of Ertzagania (mountain range of Ahuski,, the supposed abyss of Aralar (Sanctuary of San Miguel), Murugain in Mondragón, Peña de Orduña.


Description

Herensuge is usually described as a snake or a dragon with seven or one head.


Stories

In stories in which it lived in the mountain range of Ahuski, the Herensuge used its breath to attract the cattle that grazed in the area. When it lived in Aralar, in Muragain and in Peña de Orduña, it fed on human meat. In stories told in Ezpeleta, upon forming its seventh head it bursts into flames and flies swiftly toward the region of Itxasgorrieta "region of the red seas", in the West, where it sinks. It produces a frightening noise when it flies through the air. In Alzay, they say that a son of the castle of Zaro (today in ruins) poisoned it. Then the snake was set afire and, engulfed in flames, flew to the Ocean, clipping off the tips of the trees of the forest of Itze "Arbailles" with its tail as it flew over them. In Mondragón there was a blacksmith who killed it with a bar of iron that he had previously made very hot in his forge. According to the legend of Orduña, there was an angel who cut off its head. The legend of Teodosio de Goñi is more explicit, explaining with detail how San Miguel put an end to the snake of Aralar.

The themes relating to Herensuge gave rise to the formation of various popular stories that were echoed by some writers, such as Chao in his description The serpent of Valdextre (" Biarritz between the Pyrenees and the ocean", p. 176 Bayonne) and Juan Delmas in his Historic-Descriptive Guide of the traveler in the Señorío of Vizcaya (Bilbao, 1864). Some of the themes centered around this spirit have intermixed with those of Sugaar or Sugoi, another spirit that adopts the form of a snake. In certain cases it seems that those of the Herensuge has replaced the others since they have an air of an older tradition in the country. In fact, the areas in which they speak of Sugaar appear encompassed, fragmented and/or confined by those of Herensuge, which is, possibly, an indication of its greater antiquity in the country.

Yet there is a Christian legend in which certain Navarrese knight, Teodosio de Goñi, while making penance for double parricide in the Aralar Range has to rescue a woman that had been given as ransom to the dragon. When the chains that tie his ankles have been bitten by the dragon and he sees no way of defeating it, the knight prays to Saint Michael to save him. In Heaven, the archangel is notified: "Michael, they call you in Earth" but he replies: "My Lord, I won't go to that fight without You". Finally, the archangel, with God over his head appears and cuts the head of the dragon, liberating Teodosio from his chains and ending his penance.

This legend is specifically associated to the monastery of San Miguel de Aralar. It has been interpreted in the sense of justifying the break away with the religion and customs of Pagan Basques and adopting Christianity and, specifically, the veneration for St. Michael. For the rest, it is very similar to other European legends of knights and dragons, of which is surely a local adaptation.


References

  • Ref. J. M. of B. : Ikuska, t. IV, p. 259-278; Basque Mythology, pp. 77-78, Madrid, 1960; Webster, Wentworth: Basque Legends, pp. 20-41, London, 1879.-J. M. of B.