Joaldunak Basque Pageant

Trance just like the Joaldunak (bell ringers), appeared over the forehead of the mountain, like a fancy-dress clad army unit. As they neared, the dirge-like rumble of copper bells, strapped to their backs, grew louder, sending a wave of pleasure down the lane to the place the villagers have been huddled towards the rain to look at them move their properties.

Folks wolfed down final mouthfuls of pinxos (snacks), grabbed their glasses of tinto (pink wine) and hurriedly headed for the perfect vantage factors.

Out of the blue the Joaldunak have been beside us, shut sufficient to the touch. The ringing of their bells was virtually deafening; the brilliant colors and sheep-like shapes of their an identical outfits providing a stark distinction to a gray sky.

I stood in awe to witness an annual competition recognised by UNESCO as an occasion of ‘intangible cultural heritage’.

Joaldunak in Ituren

Joaldunak in Ituren (c) wikimedia/Jean Michel Etchecolonea

This personal Basque ceremony takes place in and across the village of Ituren on the penultimate Saturday in each September.

In conventional costumes which signify fertility, the 36-strong Joaldunak unison of males, boys, and one girl, aged 15 to 62; pulsated previous small crowds, shaking whips of black horse-tail hair of their proper fingers.

They have been led by considered one of their elders, Dambolin Nagusi, with a cow horn draped round his neck, able to sound his troop in to line: “We march for our ancestors, as they did,” mentioned Dambolin. “This competition is one thing very outdated, which was suppressed throughout Franco’s regime after they tried to do away with Basque traditions,” he mentioned, fervently, earlier than grabbing his conical hat and sounding his deafening horn.

He had led the Joaldunak to Sumbillanea, the house of Sagrario and Ignacio in Ameztia, to bless their residence and pay homage to Ignacio’s father, a late, nice Joaldunak.

Joaldunak parade

(c) flickr/Aiaraldea Komunikazio Leihoa

The poignant parade serves as an intimate warm-up to the spectacular three-day January carnivals in Ituren and neighbouring Zubieta the place the Zanpantzar (a gaggle of Joaldunak) reignite an historic ritualistic din by marching via the cities, ringing bells to awaken the Earth, scary away evil spirits and wild animals, and blessing the fields for a superb harvest.

Few vacationers have witnessed the occasion – I used to be amongst a handful of the primary. I typically discovered myself swallowing a gratitude induced lump in my throat, together with native sheep’s cheese washed down with the favored sloe-flavoured liqueur, Patxarran, which have been ceaselessly doing the rounds.


The following Day of the Joaldunak takes place between 12th – 19th September 2016.

Naomi was the visitor of Pyrenean Expertise.


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