Article 21 – The Wild Men of the Pyrenees

A very Happy New Year to you all. As we swing through January, let us cast our eye on the savage folklore of the Wild Man, especially within the context of the Pyrenees.


We have all felt him near us, when wandering out in the forests, around the mountains and across the meadows in our youth. I am not referring to any deity, but to a far more intoxicating figure in our collective imagination, the Wild Man.  Lurking in a variety of guises in folk tales, behind the masks in village celebrations, within the majority of Western traditional art, church sculpture and most appropriately in our minds when we are surrounded by foliage, the Wild Man and his consort the Wild Woman lie at the heart of our complex European relationship with the natural world. Figures which have been feared, despised, admired and even envied, they encapsulate the changing perceptions of our place within nature and the shifting ideologies that dominate our societies.


The Wild Man emerges out of characters we all have known and loved; each forest dwelling sage, sorcerer, ‘noble savage’, witch and hermit from folklore resonate with his presence. In Gilgamesh we find Enkido, fashioned from the very saliva of the Gods mixed with clay, providing an early link between the Wild Man and a wholly natural state of being closest to the divine. Enkido is created to humble Gilgamesh, and lives as a wild creature raised by animals until he is bedded by the sensual Shamhat, who tempts him away from the wild to live in ‘civilisation’, becoming the companion of Gilgamesh after equalling him during a wrestling match. Enkido acts as the flip side of the coin to Gilgamesh’s urban, cultured warrior-caste character. Wild, fiercely strong, loyal and deeply loved by Gilgamesh, Enkido helps the king during numerous adventures until he is killed, spurring Gilgamesh to undertake a quest to find immortality to escape his own death. Whilst a casual glance at this summary would find a simple example of ‘the other’ who becomes assimilated and ‘one of us’, look more closely. Enkido is the first literary Wild Man, the antithesis to the courtly wrangling, deceit, weakness and seduction of Uruk, possessed of immense strength, honesty and loyalty, whose own natural appetites (i.e. lust) allowed him to enter the court. Enkido also interprets dreams, fulfilling the role of seer, a role which is much more fully explored by future literary Wild Men in the Medieval West such as Merlin, and the folk figures of cunning men, witches and hermits.  Adam too was Wild; naked, living within nature, untroubled by feelings of guilt or morality, what a great irony that within the Christian tradition it was from a Wild Man that we sprung, and during Christianity’s most dominant social and political period the Wild Man was an official image of everything which a goodly, God fearing Christian should revile! What a tragic irony that such origins were lost on the Church, or more unpalatably, used to turn Eve – his consort, the Wild Woman – into a pretext for the subjugation and systematic repression for centuries to come. But let us turn away from polemics at this early point and return to the Greenwoods of Medieval Europe; the realm of pagan hangovers, liminal figures, monotheist neuroses and enduring folk figures.


An Assyrian relief possibly showing Enkido as ‘Master of Beasts’. Photo taken from:


The ‘Wodewose’, the Wild Man appears in numerous tapestries, Romances, paintings and most interestingly in the stone ornaments of church roof bosses, seat and doorway carvings across Medieval culture. The dichotomy of Medieval man’s attitude towards the Wild Man is worthy of mention and typifies the multilayered thinking with which we should more readily credit our ancestors. The Classical relation with wild humanoids living within nature was based on their extensive and, frequently sympathetic, collection of myths in which God and beast copulated, the woodlands were filled with personifications of nature such as satyrs, nymphs and fauns. In short, these creatures were seen as part and parcel of the supernatural pantheon, not always benevolent in nature but not necessarily figures of fear, and intrinsic parts of the landscapes of the Classical world. However, within during the Medieval period the Wodewose, shaggy, moss covered, primal and bestial, became associated with both a protectoral role of the woodland against encroaching agricultural reforms which began to break and clear forests for pasture, and also as existing outside God’s salvation, operating without adherence to the constant companions of Medieval man; guilt and fear of God. Officially it represented the antithesis of Christian man: uncivilised, beyond God (even unaware of God!), living as a beast in the land yet with some human characteristics – at least anatomically. Unofficially the Wild Man carried on a thread from pre-Christian myth and folklore, and gradually adapted within the mind of the rural peasantry as they to adapted mentally to Christianity. It survived as a mysterious figure who was connected and represented the land, sometimes angry, other times mischievous, and this mutation and survival can be seen on the carvings which bear the image of that perennial folk figure, the Green Man, in churches across the West. Young brings to light the merging of animal and man within the concept of the Wild Man: ‘[This] locates a being that is sometimes purely animal yet which on other occasions takes on markedly human characteristics. This liminality calls into question any fixity of medieval and early modern conceptualisations of humanity not only by making delineations of human and inhuman dependent on textual representation, but also by at times combining animal and human attributes in one being’. (Young, 2009, 41). They possessed extraordinary powers: ‘Caesarus of Heisterbach, in the thirteenth century, reports that he witnessed a wild man suddenly begin to grow until he towered over the entire forest.’ (Husband, 1980, 15).



‘The Fight in the Fores’ by Hans Burgkmair, depicting a mighty Wodewose and his club. Image taken from

Shapeshifters, dwellers in the deep dark wood, they retained a primordial connection to the land which the Church frequently attempted to dispel through portraying them as connected with demons and the Devil. They were also seen as teachers of magic wisdom, that which was of more use to the rural peasantry than the ‘magic’ of the Christian priest. Connections were drawn between them and madness, illustrated through Merlin going insane following the deaths of his brothers, and living wild in the forests of Celydonn. These flight into wilderness, madness and isolation, have been argued to represent surviving traces of shamanic initiation, portraying an inner journey, returning changed, re-aligned with nature, able to converse with beasts and look into people’s souls. In Valentine and Orson the Empress of Constantinople is accused of adultery and thrown out of the court, giving birth to twins in the wilderness. Orson (potentially etymologically linked to ‘Ursus’ son’) is stolen by a female bear and raised in the wild. At length, the wild twin is civilised but retains huge strength, then returns to the forest as a Wodewose. In these tales, it is the story of the homo silvaticus who obsessed the medieval imagination and who, when encountered in literature and art, was always asked: “Are you man or beast?”

Reflected in the perceptions and attitudes towards the Wild Man in art and literature were social conditions and constraints. Haydon White in his essay ‘The Forms of Wildness’ writes that their transformation from objects of loathing to figures of admiration and envy dovetail, not coincidentally, with the breaking down of the mechanisms of sublimation and societal control that occurred towards the end of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (White, 1972). This resulted in their later portrayal during as representations of simple living, honesty and health, much like Tacitus’ descriptions of the Germanic tribes in contrast to his own Rome. The Wild Man had become examples of virtue, honest healthy living, reverting back to images of pre-Fall man, the ‘noble savage’, and reflected Renaissance trends in investigating and admiring the earthly domain rather than concentrating on the heavenly one. Nature became a source of inspiration, and this is well expressed through Albrecht Altdorfer’s painting of St George, wherein the saint occupies only a tiny fraction of the canvas, the rest being taken up with foliage and great towering tree trunks. In these primeval forests the Wild Man was reborn as a figure of admiration and envy, living freely and simply, and inspired the following verse by Meistersinger Hans Soch:

And so we left our wordly goods

To make our home in these deep woods

With our little ones protected

From that falsehood we rejected

We feed ourselves on native fruits

And from the earth dig tender roots

For drink pure springs are plentiful

For garments grass and leaves we make

Our homes are made of caves and stone

And no-one takes what’s not his own’

(Hans Sach ‘Lament of the Wild Forest-Folk about the Perfidious World’)


The Wild Man and its family had become ‘exemplars of the virtuous and natural life’, and as cultural and social attitudes towards nature evolved further through the Renaissance and Romantic periods, they became then turned into gentler creatures still, the natural no longer being seen as bestial and brutish but instead as honest, divine and eternal.

But what of the Wild Man in the Pyrenees? Michel Raynal’s 1989 paper ‘L’Homme Sauvage dans les Pyrenees et la Survivance des Neanderthaliens’ (The Wild Man in the Pyrenees and the Survival of Neanderthals) provides evidence of numerous sightings, as well as an intriguing origin theory for the Wild Man himself within the Pyrenees. In the Ariege, the Wild Man is known as ‘l’om pelut’ (homme poilu/hairy man) or ‘iretgge’, which may be a corruption of ‘heretique/heretic’, and Piniès describes the movements of two Wild Men in the 12th or 13th century, who lived in the forest of Barthes, covered in hair and armed with a gnarled club each, residing in caves and capturing game. Eventually the villagers left some red shorts in the forest to attract the Wild Men or iretgges, and the they captured these two unfortunates and made them their prisoners (Piniès, 1978).

In Arles-sur-Tech Wild Men are known as ‘simiots’, and an account of their activities reads thus: ‘monstres affreux, aux dents fourchues, aux mains crochues, rôdaient la nuit sur les toits et descendaient dans les maisons par la cheminée en poussant de funèbres hurlements’ (frightful monsters, with split teeth and crooked hands, roam the night on the rooftops, descending into the ohuses down the chimney, uttering mournful howls) (Blanc 1979). In the Basque Country we see the Wild Lord of the Forest, ‘Basa-Juan’, who is covered with hair, like a bear. He eats herbs and game, is incredibly strong and walks around naked day and night (Cerquand, 1875 – 1882). He is also accused of haunting shepherd’s cabins, looking to make use of the hearth and steal their dairy products (Webster, 1879). He is also accused of carrying off you women, which links him to the Bear tradition of the Pyrenees – as does the bear of the Arles-sur-Tech festival, whose name is also simiot which appears to derive from simia (Latin for monkey).



An engraving of a Simiot from the Valle du Tec. Image taken from (and more information available at)


As written in one of the very first Perennial Pyrenees articles on bears, one sees a great link between bears and humans within the Pyrenees, even so far as to suggest mythologically some manner of hybridisation between the two, resulting potentially in the folkloric Pyrenean Wild Man, with his shaggy fur, preference for caves, game and herbs. An alarming first hand account of some herdsmen in the 18th century also mentions the ‘bearishness’ of the Pyrenean Wild Man:

‘Il n’y a pas deux ans [ donc en 1774 ] que les pasteurs de la forêt d’Yraty, proche de Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port, aperçurent souvent un homme sauvage qui habitoit les rochers de cette forêt. Cet homme étoit de grande taille, velu comme un ours, & alerte comme les hisards, d’une humeur gaie, avec l’apparence d’un caractère doux, puisqu’il ne faisoit de mal à rien. Souvent il visitoit les cabanes sans rien emporter; il ne connaissoit ni le pain, ni le lait, ni les fromages ; son grand plaisir étoit de faire courir les brebis, & de les disperser en faisant de grands éclats de rire, mais sans jamais leur faire du mal. Les Pasteurs mettoient souvent leurs chiens après; alors il s’enfuyoit comme un trait, & ne se laissoit jamais approcher de trop près. Une seule fois, il vint un matin à la porte d’une cabane d’ouvriers qui faisoient des avirons, & qu’une grande abondance de neige tombée pendant la nuit retenoit; il se tint debout à la porte qu’il tenoit des deux mains, & regardoit les ouvriers en riant. Un de ces gens se glissa doucement pour tâcher de le saisir par une jambe; plus il le voyoit approcher, & plus son rire redoubloit; ensuite il s’échappa. On a jugé que cet homme pouvoit avoir trente ans; comme cette forêt est d’une grande étendue, & communique à des bois immenses appartenant à l’Espagne, il y a à présumer que c’étoit quelque jeune enfant qui s’y étoit perdu, & qui avoit trouvé les moyens d’y subsister avec des herbes ‘

(Two years ago [therefore in 1774] the herdsmen of the Yraty Forest, near Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port, often noticed an wild man who inhabited the rocks of this forest. This man was of great height, hairy as a bear, and alert as a chamois, of cheerful disposition, with the appearance of a gentle character, since he did harm to nothing. He often used to visit the cabins without carrying off anything; he knew neither bread, milk, or cheese; his great pleasure was to make the flocks run, and to disperse them by making great peels of laughter, but he never did them any harm. The herdsmen used to often set their dogs after him; then he would run off like a dart, and never let them approach very close. One single time, he came in the morning to the door of the cabin of workmen who were making oars, and which had retained a great abundance of snow fallen during the night; he stood erect at the door which he was holding with two hands, and was laughing as he looked at the workmen. One of these people softly slid [forward] so as to attempt to seize him by his leg; as soon as he saw him approach, he redoubled his laugh; then he escaped. It was judged that this man would have been thirty years old; as this forest is of great extent, and communicates with immense woods belonging to Spain, it is presumed that this might be some young child who was lost, and who had found the means to subsist on the vegetation.)

(Leroy, 1776)

Gomez-Tabanera (1978) records that in the 19th century a ‘mujer salvaje’ (wild woman) was identified in the mountains of Cantabria, nicknamed ‘la Osa de Andara’ (the she-bear of Andara), with hairy arms and legs like a bear and who fed on chestnuts, milk, fruits and berries and the occasional small goat (Gomez-Tabaera, 1978).


Raynal suggests that these Wild Man legends are linked to relics of Neanderthals:

Thought to be extinct since 35 000 years, Neanderthal Man was cold-adapted, as it can be conjectured from the proportions of its limbs, the shape of its nose, the protection of its brain by a prominent torus supra-orbitalis, etc. It is very likely that it was also hairy, as hairyness is the most common cold-adaptation. In the Pyrénées and in the Iberic Peninsula, traditions, folklore, artistic representations, and even recent enough sightings about Wild Men have been recorded. They are quite similar, if not identical, with modern accounts of Hairy Wild Men in the Caucasus, Mongolia, Tibet, etc, who have been supposed to be relic Neanderthal Men by several authors, mainly Porshnev and Heuvelmans. Ormières and Gomez-Tabanera have proposed a late survival of Neanderthal Men in the Pyrénées, an hypothesis which has gained new support recently after the discovery in Spain of a Neanderthal lower jaw in a level of late Würm III.’

(Raynal, 1989)

Certainly, it is feasible that some manner of early hybridisation between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalis (which through recent archaeo-genetic studies seems increasingly more common than previously thought) may have produced unusually hirsute offspring, or even late surviving Neanderthal pockets which haunted the imagination of modern -man, however one should be cautious when ascribing such bombastic theories to a world-wide phenomena.

Fete des Ors.jpg

The Fete des Ours at Prats-de-Mollo, wild men and women indeed! This annual festival is soon to be videoed for this project mid-February 2018. Photo taken from


At the risk of repeating oneself, the work of Rosalyn Frank and Fabio Silva (2012) provides a mixture of anthropological, ethnography and genetic research, focussing on the seemingly simple premise that Basque bear hunters have long held that the Basques believed themselves to be descended from bears. This interesting but seemingly isolated origin myth began to form links, and another legend was unearthed which told that the Wild Man is the son of a union between a bear and a woman, caught between two worlds of being. Many of the Wild Man folk costumes capture this, being neither human nor animal, but something in between, covered in branches, furs, bells, ashes and sackcloth. For example, we have names like ‘The Straw Bear’ in Britain and ‘Stohbär’ in Germany. In Prats-de-Mollo, France, a man is covered in soot and fur and acts as ‘the bear’, kidnaps a shepherdess, is captured and brought back to the town square, where it is ‘shaved’ into a human appearance. Here we see it shedding it ursine qualities and displaying its human origins as a Wild Man! Bones and bells jangle against animal skins, a ‘bear’ is captured, fearsome female figures in gruesome masks and veils march along rural tracks and huge beast men leer out at villagers from behind horned and hair covered faces.  Are these remains of a prehistoric bear cult, the ‘UR-sine’ cult? If so, then the recent reintroduction of bears to the Pyrenees presents a beautiful example of things coming full circle, the return of an animal to the lands where it was once revered as humanity’s progenitor, and the potential origin of the Pyrenean Wild Man.


BLANC, Dominique (1979) : Récits et Contes Populaires de Catalogne. Paris, Gallimard, vol. 1, pp. 133-136, 146.

CERQUAND, J.F. (1875-1882) : Légendes et Récits Populaires du Pays Basque. Paris, L. Ribaud, pp. 10, 70.

GOMEZ-TABANERA, José-Manuel (1978) : La Conseja del Hombre Salvaje en la Tradiction Popular de la Peninsula Iberica, in : Homenaje a Julio Caro Baroja, Madrid, Centro do Investigaciones Sociologicas, pp. 471-509.

HUSBAND, Timothy (1980) : The Wild Man: Medieval Myth and Symbolism. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

LEROY, Julien David (1776) : Mémoire sur les Travaux qui ont Rapport à l’Exploitation de la Nature dans les Pyrénées, London, pp. 8-9.

PINIES, Jean-Pierre (1978) : Récits et Contes Populaires des Pyrénées. Paris, Gallimard, vol. 1 , pp. 110-119.

RAYNER, Michel (1989): L’Homme Sauvage dans les Pyrenees et la Survivance des Neanderthaliens. Le Bulletin de la Bipedie Initiale, Bipedia no. 3. Available online here:

WEBSTER, Wentworth (1879): Basque Legends. London, Griffith and Farran, pp. 47-63.

WHITE, Hayden (1972): ‘Forms of Wildness: The Archaeology of an Idea’ in The Wild Man Within: An image in Western Thought from the Renaissance to Romanticism, eds. Edward Dudley & Maximillian Novak. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 3 – 38.

YOUNG, Helen (19??) : Wodewoses: the (In)Humanity of Medieval Wild Men. University of Western Sydney. Unpublished. Available here:


Article #20 Christmas Customs in the Pyrenees

Across in the Alps numerous processions involving the Perchten and Kampus figures take place during the twelve-day period of Rauhnacht, typically starting on the winter solstice, all designed to banish evil spirits and usher in a new yearly cycle. These celebrations are archaic and fascinating, and well recommended to anyone who has a taste for the primordial and rustic. An excellent thesis to consult on this matter is that of Dr Molly Carter, ‘Perchten and Krampisse: Living Mask Traditions in Austria and Bavaria’ (2016, University of Sheffield). The Pyrenees are, as usual, a lesser known element in this regard, however, they hold their own rural winter customs, and below we shall briefly address some of the most interesting that surround the Christmas period.


A man dressed as Olentzero, walking from village to village. Photo taken from


In the Basque country, boys fashion a guy-like figure known as Olentzero, placing him in the chimney corner, a scythe in one hand and his head a created from a cauldron. He is taken out when they go singing on Christmas Eve, and it is said that the name Olentzero has some etymological reference to Christmas Eve, perhaps acting as a personification of the season, some archaic memory of another, older representative of winter? His current role is to declare Christmas throughout the Basque country (despite being ‘banned’ by the Franco regime as a symbol of regional separatism) and leave presents next to each family’s shoes, the latter being neatly arranged in the centre of the room on Christmas eve. He is also said to descend from the mountains on a divine horse, presumably to make it around to each house in time during this single night. His post-Franco incarnation is a rather more sanitised and family-friendly version. Prior to his repression, Olentzero was in various Basque regions said to have either three eyes or blazing red eyes, and to cut the throats of children who did not go to bed or those who broke the tradition pre-Christmas fast with his sickle. He is commonly said to descend from a race of Basque giants, the jentillak, with some legends claiming that the giants, after throwing an old man from a cliff who did not wish to live through the Christian conversion, tripped and fell off the cliff themselves except for Olentzero, and other purporting that the other giants simply left and Olentzero was the only one who stayed and embraced Christianity.

On the night of the 23rd December in the Basque valley of Roncal (or ‘Erronkari’ to give it its Basque name), after the so-called ‘cock’s mass’ at midnight (the ‘Misa del Gallo’ also recorded as occurring in Mexico in 1843), rough and ready music is made in the street, great fires are lit in the snows, and bells and saucepans are struck, producing a clattering cacophony as the flames are whipped up by the night air. The men then retire home and, on the dawn of the 24th, they burn a log they cut earlier in the year specifically for this date. Does this perform a similar function to the Yule log, that tradition so beloved in Scandinavian and Germanic societies? The burning of a specific piece of wood in the dead of winter seems common across many European cultures, which may point towards a much older commonality in terms of tradition.

They then go out wassailing, half in Spanish and half in Basque:

‘Esta casa Buena, Buena casa,

Ochuneki ogi papur toba…

(‘This good house is a good house,

With this cold a bit of bread…’)

The night of Christmas eve, villages in this area perform mock raids on each other, staging pitched battles with sticks and announcing their attacks with pealing bells. Certainly, this is not the time of solemn Catholic observances in this valley!

On a more scatological note, one finds in the valleys of the Catalan and Aragonese Pyrenees (and through these regions in general), very remarkable phenomenon in the form of a humble log. This log, the ‘Tió de Nadal’, the ‘Christmas Log’ (more commonly known as the ‘Caga Tió’ or ‘Shitting Log’, for reasons that will become apparent), has in recent times been dressed with a miniature red berretina (sock hat), stick legs, a nose and a face painted onto one end, however in days gone by it was simply a rough, dead piece of wood or slice of log. This piece of wood is traditionally kept inside from the 8th of December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, fed (symbolically) nightly and wrapped in a woolen blanket to keep it warm. Come Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day, the timing varies), the niceties end, as the log is placed partially in the fire and ordered to defecate small presents. The children beat the log with sticks, sing songs and order it to fulfill its function, before leaving the room. Upon their return, the log will have magically secreted various small, edible presents (an unusual choice given the method if dispatch!) beneath its blanket.


Caga tio.jpg

The unfortunate log being beaten by children, in the hope it will produce presents for them. Photo taken from:


In Arudy, Béarn and Aragon, shepherds traditionally stationed their flocks around the church during midnight mass on Christmas Eve, taking one lamb inside, decorated with a ribbon and freshly washed, to offer it to the priest in return for a blessing. Similarly, in the Basque village of Labastida in Alava, groups of shepherds surround the church dressed in pelts, recite verses and perform simple dances to honour the midnight mass.


Danza de los Pastores en Labastida.jpg

The ‘Danza de los Pastores’ (Dance of the Shepherds) in Labastida. Photo taken from:


A darker tradition on this night can be found in the Ariege, where one must provide food for the dead on Christmas eve if one wants to avoid violent and frightening repercussions. This is to be achieved by leaving out a loaf with a knife stuck in the middle, whilst one is out celebrating midnight mass, thus allowing the dead to feed with impunity in deepest winter….


Alford, V., Pyrenean Festivals: Calendar Customs, Music & Magic, Drama & Dance (London: Chatto & Windus, 1937)

Amades, J., Festes Tradicionals de Catalunya (Barcelona: Editions Aedos, 1958)

Barandiaran, J., Dictionnaire Illustré de Mythologie Basque (Donostia: Editions Elkar, 1994)

Article #19 – Divination and Grasshoppers in Aragon

High in the Aragonese Pyrenees lies the small village of Abizanda, home of an impressive 11th century Lombard tower, a 16th century church, a puppet theatre, a museum of Pyrenean religious relics and curiosities (earmarked for a visit!), and a most intriguing ritual that comes about on Winter’s wane.

On the 12th of January, or the following Sunday depending on the year, at the hermitage of St Victorien (a 5th century Italian saint and, apparently, a governor of Carthage), the villagers and their curé gather together to celebrate the feast of St Victorien and also to preside over the unusual ‘ritual of grasshoppers’, a divinatory practise overseen by the cure himself!


Abizanda. Photo taken from


After attending a special mass at the local church, the villagers make their way to the hermitage chapel where the two main families of Abizanda lay out a large white sheet. On this sheet are placed offerings of charity, specifically thirty-two ‘galettes’ (a flat round bready cake), and around the sheet are set several jugs of local wine, to wash the cakes down.

Before they are consumed, however, the divination process must take place. The villagers stand around the sheet and watch carefully for the grasshoppers (and other insects) that are attracted to it. Observing the proportions of the various colours of the gathering insects, the men are able to divine the outcome of the following year’s crops. Whitish insects indicate that the cereal harvest will be the dominant one, green represent olives and black stand for wine. By observing the ratio, they predict which crop will have the superior yield in the months to come.

According to local legend, the predictions always come true, however, the origin of this ritual is lost. No mention of it appears in the local archives, and the cure alleges that the rite is simply a demonstration of the power of St Victorien. However, no mention of divination appears in this saint’s entry in that peerless compendium of Medieval saint-lore, The Golden Legend.


A handsome diviner! Photo taken from:


This example of entomancy is highly interesting, as within European folk culture the grasshopper is far less represented and revered than in other cultures (e.g. Chinese, Native American and Japanese), in which they represent good luck. There are some examples, however, such as in Germany where it warns of strange guests (Daniels & Stevens, 1903). The Athenians, according to Steele (1883) wore a golden grasshopper in their hair as an ornament to commemorate their springing directly from the Greek soil, straight from the sons of Gods. However, the use by the villagers of Abizanda of the grasshopper for divination purposes, especially given the accumulated connection with St Victorien (presumably the ritual predates his adoption as their patron), makes this a highly unusual practise, certainly within Europe and probably further afield!





Daniels, C. L. & Stevans, C. M (eds). Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World, Vol. II. Chicago, IL: J. H. Yewdale & sons Company, 1903.

Steele, J. D. A Brief History of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Peoples, With Some Account of Their Monuments, Institutions, Arts, Manners and Customs, (Barnes Brief History Series). New York, NY: American Book Company, 1883.

de Marliave, O. Magie et Sorcellerie dans le Pyrenees. Bordeaux: Editions Sud Ouest, 2006.


Article 18 – Count Estruch

As we draw nearer to Halloween, it is perhaps appropriate to relate one of the oldest vampire tales in European folklore, coming as it does from one of the rugged archaic castles that perch in the Pyrenees.

Surprisingly, Spain is not rich in vampire-lore, although of course it certainly is wealthy in many other areas of legends and tales so this story can be counted as a rare exception!

The legend tells of a certain Count Guifredo Estruch, who lived during the 12th century when there was still a Muslim presence in the south of Spain. The king of Aragon at the time, Alfonso II, was very worried about a collection of pagans in Emporda (Catalonia), who he feared might be tempted to ally themselves with the Muslims and create some rather serious problems for him. To prevent this, he decided to send Count Estruch, a noted war hero (allegedly), to occupy a castle in the region (Castle Llers, sadly destroyed during the Civil War) and convert the pagans to Christianity.



(Castle Llers, photo taken from:


Estruch’s methods seem to have been less than charitable, as the tale then goes on to describe an orgy of blood-letting, torture, witch-hunting, executions, and burnings; he certainly seemed to have preferred the sword to merely spreading ‘the good word’. Having murdered, raped and tortured his way around the region, even his soldiers seemed to tire of his antics, and one of them (a chap named Benach) poisoned him. Another version of the tale alleges that the Count died from a curse offered up on the dying breath of a witch he had tortured and burnt to death. Either way, Estruch died in an uncomfortable circumstance, and not undeservedly, in 1173, and he did not receive a Christian burial as his body mysteriously disappeared from the castle the night before the funeral.



(The Inquisition following Count Estruch’s example many years later. Photo taken from:


Some days after, several cows were strangely killed in the night, and locals said that when they were found they had been drained of all blood, and some were terribly mutilated, with their bowels torn out, and hearts lying shredded on the grass. The servants of the castle reported that the Count could be seen walking at night through the corridors and rooms, looking as if he were a young man again, strangely rejuvenated. Estruch also took to lurking in the local village, murdering young men and drinking their blood, as well as abducting young women. When these women were returned to the village, they would always be pregnant, but after nine months the child would emerge either stillborn as hideously deformed.

There are two candidates in the various versions of this tale for who bravely drove a stake through the Count’s heart, after locating his hidden coffin; a Jewish hermit, who used ancient rites derived from the Kabbalah, and an old nun. Strangely, it is never recorded as a local villager, whom one would think would have ample reason for doing just such a thing!

What is particularly noteworthy about this story, apart from the fact that it seems to be Europe’s oldest cohesive vampire myth, is that the legend persisted in local folklore through mothers warning their children about the Count (presumably if they were poorly behaved), and women whose children were stillborn were said to have been seduced by the Count (this seems rather unfair, compounding a rather tragic event with a reputation for undead affairs, but peasant life is not known for its charity!).

There is an interesting suggestion (not my own) that the legend derives from a confused memory of Cathar persecution in Catalonia, many of which were indeed convicted and burnt as heretics in Occitania during the Albigensian crusade, and equally many fled to Spain, in particular to Catalonia which, like Occitania previously, had a more tolerant attitude to ‘spiritual deviance’. Who knows what other legacies this mysterious group may have left in the area?

Article #17 – Entheogens in the Pyrenees

Whilst walking up in the high forests I came across a lovely little example of Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric, the archetypal mushroom of the European forests. The toxic and hallucinatory potential in these little red and white caps is well known, and prompted me to think what use they may have had in these mountains, and what other floral, fungal and faunal tools might have been used in the past to numb, transport and intoxicate, tying into the wider ethnobotanical research of the Perennial Pyrenees project.

There is a Catalan expression ‘Estar tocat del bolat’ (To be touched by the mushroom), which generally refers to those whose behaviour is a bit off, eccentric, or even bizarre, but in a friendly or even affectionate sense. This does seem to indicate some manner of folk memory of the use (and effects) of entheogenic mushrooms, although it may not refer to one species in particular. I have so far found no specific references to a tradition of consuming Fly Agaric (which, with a little preparation, is possible without poisoning oneself), however the writer of the Anthrome blog (address given at the end of this article) does mention encounters with old and young men ‘who live in the Pyrenees Mountains, which separate France and Spain, who even today turn themselves over to the intoxicating effects of this mushroom some time each year, when it appears in the fall in the birch and black pine forests’.


Amanita muscaria 

Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric.  Photo taken from


One interesting feature of consumption of Fly Agaric reported by is that one is (apparently) affected by ‘macropsia’ and ‘micropsia’, in which objects appear larger or smaller than they are in reality. Mushroom-lore from Siberia speaks of ‘mushroom men’ whose frames are small and compact, sometimes lacking necks, who run along twisting paths and guide the shaman towards the otherworld. Cliff drawings found in the region appear to confirm the appearance of these Fly Agaric men. Given the widespread appearance of Fly Agaric throughout European folklore, habitats and potentially ecstatic consumption for animist ritual purposes, these ‘little men’ who answer the mushroom’s call may bear some link with the almost universal presence of ‘little people’ in European folklore, potentially even in the Pyrenees, or indeed the subterranean folklore of these mountains, where small crevices could be perceived to be great stone caverns or doorways if under the influence. It is always hazardous to paint with immensely broad brush strokes, especially when dealing with the undocumented archaic past and the transmission of myth and ritual, however, a little speculation never hurt anyone, and further research will be done on this by Perennial Pyrenees in time.


Psilocybe hispanica

Psilocybe hispanica growing happily on some dung. Photo taken from


Amanita muscaria is however by no means the sole entheogenic fungi to be found within the Pyrenees. Fifteen known species of the Psilocybe mushroom are known in Spain, three of which are hallucinogenic properties (Psilocybe semilanceata, Psilocybe hispanica and Psilocybe gallaeciae), and one of which grows specifically in the meadows and pastures of the Pyrenees:  Psilocybe hispanica. This mushroom grows on dung (i.e. it is coprophilic), and is particularly common in Aragon. A particularly striking potential representation of this fungi in connection with esoteric or sinister practices comes in the form of a 17th-century medallion from the Valle de Tena (Aragonese Pyrenees), which depicts the devil with several toadstools (Guzman, 2003). Given that the Psilocybe mushrooms (with Psilocybe hispanica in particular) are so commonly found around that area, and there is an alleged strong local tradition of witchcraft in this valley, it is possible that this depiction hints at a relationship between the devil, or witchcraft, and these hallucinogenic mushrooms. Another alleged medallion displays the Devil as an imp, surrounded by a horseshoe, and at his feet grow more of these toadstools. This would not be surprising, as the link between other poisonous and hallucinogenic herbs and the ‘witch flights’ or perceived Sabbaths is well known and explored (i.e. Carlo Ginzberg, Michael Howard, Dr. A. Gari etc.). The Basque term for these hallucinogenic Psilocybe fungi is sorguin zorrotz which means ‘witch’s beak’, which may refer to the small upper part of the cap and its link with consumption by local witches, despite no mention of this tradition within Inquisition records.

Selva Pascuala 

Selva Pascuala – note the alleged mushrooms in the bottom right and the accompanying bull. Photo taken from


A far older reference to Psilocybe hispanica comes from the Spanish interior. The 6,000-year-old rock art of the cave site Selva Pascuala (Pajaroncillo, Castilla-La Mancha) depicts in one mural some objects which match the morphology of Psilocybe mushrooms. At first, they were taken to be Psilocybe semilanceata, however they are placed next to a bull, which given the coprophilic nature of Psilocybe hispanica has caused some experts to revise their opinion and claim that the mushrooms in question are indeed Psilocybe hispanica (New Scientist, 2011). This is doubly interesting, as not only might it point towards some manner of ritualistic consumption of these fungi in prehistory, a tradition which may have continued in some manner throughout the centuries in the Pyrenees, but the fact that they grow more or less explicitly within the Pyrenees and that the site is located far from this mountain range might indicate some manner of importance placed on this specific species, easily identified as it is by its preference for dung, and it may have been specifically searched for and prized. If the identification of the mural is correct, it is the earliest known depiction of psychedelic fungi use in Europe, and the third found so far in prehistoric rock art.


Goya witch flight

Goya’s ‘Linda maestra’ (1798). It may be that Atropa belladonna helped these two believe they were indeed whizzing around on their brooms! Picture taken from


Another Pyrenean plant that is incredibly hard to find throughout the rest of the Iberian Peninsula is the infamous Atropa belladonna or Deadly Nightshade, long linked folklorically to witchcraft, spirit flights and poisoning. Ginzberg argues that along with opium poppy, monkshood, hemlock and other plants, Atropa belladonna was mashed into a salve and applied to ‘private areas’ (for greater absorption into the bloodstream) to encourage hallucinations or waking dreams of flight and diabolical interactions (Ginzberg, 2004).



The much-maligned European Toad, the subject of numerous sinister myths and folklore. Photo taken from


The final example given in this brief article comes not from a plant, but rather an unfortunate amphibian, the toad. These creatures produce a toxin in their parotid gland called Bufotoxin which causes (amongst other things) hallucinations and an increased heartbeat. Some references to the use of this toxin by five witches in Fago (Aragon) have been found in Inquisition records when they were tried in 1657: ‘The accused said that she had a toad and they whipped it with heather branches, they took what they had made it squirt out, they rubbed themselves with it and went wherever they wanted’ (Fericgla, 1996) In Catalonia there was a peculiar hangover of the use of this toad, at least up until around forty years ago. A popular form of dispensing justice was known as ‘sandbagging’, where a miscreant was beaten with a stocking full of sand, thereby dispensing punishment and avoiding involving local law courts. If the crime was more severe than pick-pocketing, stealing etc., then an unfortunate toad was also stuffed into the stocking. The apparent effect of this was that, not only would the accused be beaten black and blue, they would also get the Bufotoxin on their skin, which would leave him or her dazed, seeing terrifying visions (stressful situations tend to exaggerate the effects of hallucinogens) and having little memory of the event afterwards (Goithyja, 2012). No mention is made of what happened to the toad, but it is probably fair to say he would not be returning to his pond…





Fericgla, Josep Maria, 1996 ‘Traditional Entheogenic and Intoxicating Substances in the Mediterranean Area’. Speech given in the International Conference on Entheogenic substances in San Francisco, USA, in 1996. Available here:

Ginzberg, Carlo, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (Chicago, IL: University of Chigaco Press, 2004)

Goithyja, Ayahuasca Glimpse 2012 (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corporation, 2012) 

Guzmán G. (2000). “New species and new records of Psilocybe from Spain, the U.S.A. and Mexico, and a new case of poisoning by Psilocybe barrerae“. Documents Mycologiques.  29 (116): 41–52.

Guzmán G, Castro ML (2003). “Observaciones sobre algunas especies conocidas de Psilocybe (Basidiomycotina, Agaricales, Strophariaceae) de España y descripción de una nueva especie”[Observations on some known species of Psilocybe (Basidiomycotina, Agaricales, Strophariaceae) from Spain and description of a new species] (PDF). Boletín Sociedad Micológica de Madrid (in Spanish and English). 27: 181–7. Available here:



Anthrome blog:

Sacred Earth blog:

New Scientist (2nd March, 2011):



Article 16 – Snake skins, oils and conjurors.

The Pyrenees is extremely rich in folklore relating to snakes, with tales and uses ranging from the medicinal to the maleficious. As in many European societies, this is in part due to its biblical connections and links with sorcery, not to mention the physical appearance and movement of the beast, all of which conspires to make the snake both feared and mistrusted throughout these mountains.


Alps snake

Alpine ‘snake’ drawn by 18th century Swiss ‘naturalist’ and traveller Johann Scheuchzer. Image taken from


Like the dragons of the Alps, snakes were reputed to be able to fly in the Pyrenees and could transmit their venom to humans with the merest touch. They also had a reputation as aiding clairvoyance, and several tales tell of a character who was able to guess the secrets of others because he carried a viper in his pocket, or in a bundle of sticks on his shoulder. In the Basque Country, there is a popular saying that having a living snake under one’s foot means you will never lose a game, and in Aragon, some used to keep the dried skin of a snake in their pocket to win at games of cards. Similar uses were made of unfortunate lizards and their tails, with one lizard in a hundred thousand being said to possess a double tail, which if captured and kept would grant its keeper success in any game and lottery they played throughout their life!


Other beneficial qualities of the snake included a reputation for healing, although rather strangely this was through a stone that the snake would always keep balanced on its head. In Serrablo (Aragon) you can still find the serpent stone (piedra de serpiente) which is still said to have curative powers, and in Troncedo (Aragon) the villagers still keep dried snakes, from which they make all sorts of broths, unguents and ointments that are used to treat illnesses and keep the evil eye at bay. These snake soups are also used in Puyarruego (Aragon) by women who give birth at home, to facilitate the process. When the woman is suffering too much during the birth, the midwife will place the dried skin of a white snake around her belly. It has been suggested that this connection between the snake, childbirth, and the relationship of skin shedding in accordance with the cycles of the moon all points towards some manner of link between snakes and lunar cults in antiquity, and also towards their own immortality as creatures, in that they never die simply shed their skin. Mircea Eliade was convinced of this lunar link, describing the moon as the basis of fertility and periodic regeneration, and stating that ‘There are a great many different women-snake relationships, but none of them can be fully explained by any purely erotic symbolism. The snake has a variety of meanings and I think we must hold its ‘regeneration’ to be one of the most important.’ (Eliade, 1996). He also feeds into this the link between the female menstrual cycle, and the snakeskin shedding, both of which traditionally are seen as having relationships with the lunar cycle; after analysing a variety of snake cults and mythologies he concludes that snakes are essentially lunar in character (Allen, 1978).


Gartersnake skin

Gartersnake skin. Photo taken from


Throughout many Aragonese and Catalan valleys, villagers would capture garter snakes at the start of summer, kill them and dry them, keeping their desiccated remains in the pantry. If any of their livestock became ill, they would mix a little of the snake’s dried flesh with the animal’s feed to cure them. From the Ariege to Béarn, one used to be able to commonly find a bottle with a drowned snake kept near the hearths. The liquid would be rubbed on any infected or poisoned spots, the theory being that the venom of the dead snake would chase away the venom already in the skin. According to legend, it was enough to simply leave a bottle with oil on the hearth and the snake would come along and drown itself in the bottle. The grease and fat from snakes was also used as a poultice, spread on course paper that could be reused and even reheated! It could also be spread on the breasts of a woman who was suffering pain during breastfeeding. In some areas, a freshly moulted viper skin was seen as an excellent remedy for sore eyes, and highly prized.

Unfortunately, snakes were also killed purely for the great joy of seeing them writhe in agony, much like toads and cats, due to their perceived links with witchcraft, especially during the celebrations of San Juan/Saint-Jean. In Ax-les-Thermes (Ariege), children would spend all day on the 23rd of June collecting snakes, only to toss them into a huge town fire during the night. As the flames began to rise, the snakes would try to escape them by climbing to the top of the fogairol (woodpile), only to fall writhing back into the flames, which caused great joy amongst the onlookers. In Axait, Gourbit and other villages, there was even a competition to see which of the snakes that sheltered at the top of the fogairol were the most beautiful, and when they would fall back into the fire!

In Bearn, only curés, it was believed, had power against snakes, for it was thought that these reptiles were the incarnations of the Devil. One particularly cunning curé lit a large fire to imitate Hell, and hundreds of snakes rushed into it because they were homesick for that diabolical realm. The same town also has a legend that associates snakes with witches, saying that when a man marries a witch unknowingly, he can tell by watching the side of the road, because snakes will follow the wedding carriage but only on the side where the witch sits.

Many villages had diviners who possessed special formulas and incantations that would give power and protection against snakes. These were said to be especially powerful on the first Tuesday of March, both the month and the day being said to be sacred to Mars (‘Mardi’ being Tuesday and ‘Mars’ being March), and on this day the master of a household would rise at dawn to escarnir los serps (‘summon the serpents’). This was still done in Luchonnais (Haute-Garonne) well into the 1950’s, where the elderly villagers would go into the undergrowth with a cane, using the stick to mimic the undulating movements of the snake, and chant the following words:


‘The first Tuesday of March,

The viper comes out of the bush.

May every creeping beast,

Pass its head under its spine,

So that the Great God sees it,

And me as well,

Before it sees me!


This prayer has many variations, but there is always an allusion to God, suggesting that divine assistance in necessary in subduing the devilish snake. In some valleys, this prayer was accompanied by the ‘Our Father’ and several rounds of ‘Hail Mary’. In the valley of Job (Midi-Pyrenees) the prayer went:


On the first Tuesday of March,

Every creeping beast raises its head,

First it is what the snake does,

Serpent, serpent, serpent,

You will not be able to bite me,

No more than I can kiss my elbow.


This last allusion to an impossible act is a humorous way of stopping the serpent from being able to bite the conjurer. In Plantaurel (Ariege), the prayer differs in a notable way:


On the first Tuesday of March,

The viper leaves her hole,

I see her, but she does not see me.


Finally, it is also worth mentioning the connection in Basque mythology between snakes and Sugaar/Sugoi, the latter a being preeminent character in the Euskadi legends and cycles. Sugaar is associated with thunder and storms, flies through the air trailing flames, and his name is said to derive from ‘male serpent’ (Trask, 1997). In order to create storms, he joins his (more famous) female consort Mari, however, aside from that his purpose and legends remain shrouded in mystery.




Allen, D. 1978.Structure and Creativity in Religion: Hermeneutics in Mircea Eliade’s Phenomenology and New Directions. New York: Mouton Publishing.

De Marliave, O. 2006. Magie et Sorcellerie dans le Pyrenees. Bordeaux: Editions Sud Ouest.

Eliade, M. 1996. Patterns in Comparative Religion. Nebraska: University of Nabraska Press.

Trask, L. 1997. The History of Basque. London: Routledge.


Article #15 – Pajuzu, the Aragonese Demon

This week’s article involves an unusual and largely unreported phenomenon – the possible residence of a Mesopotamian demon in the Aragonese Pyrenees! The only reference I can find to this creature with any real information is in Olivier de Marliave’s Magie et Sorcellerie dans le Pyrenees (Editions Sud Ouest, 2006, p. 247), but it is too unique a superstition not to write about, albeit briefly due to such scant reference.


The Aragonese Pyrenees, dwelling of the unique Pajuzu and his hailstorms. Photo taken from


Pajuzu is a little know demon from upper Aragon, who is responsible for creating the thunderstorms that rage against the mountains in this region.  Curés from the area are recorded as referencing this malefic creature during their prayers, recited in their exconjuradoras (little chapels devoted to warding off storms).

It is highly likely that the name Pajuzu is corrupted and imported form of Pazuzu, the chief Mesopotamian demon of the winds, who often appeared as a smiling man with wings, a dog’s head and eagle’s talons. Both Pazuzu and Pajuzu share this role in the controlling and creation of winds and storms. Interestingly, Pazuzu also wards off evil spirits (despite being one himself), and is sometimes seen as a protector spirit for humans against plagues and general misfortune.


The infamous Mesopotamian demon Pazuzu. Photo taken from


But how on earth would the memory of Pazuzu end up on the slopes of the Pyrenees in upper Aragon? It has been suggested by de Marliave that, similar to the apparent appearance of Eastern saints within the Pyrenees during the arrival of Christianity in the region, so too may have some more malevolent superstitions from the deserts also have crept in with this imported religio-cultural wave. More research is needed on this to provide evidence of a pattern for these apparent Eastern saint cults and the dates (and locations) of their being established within the Pyrenees. However, if true, then this is a further illustration that the concept of the Pyrenees being culturally isolated is a myth, further bolstered by the presence of the Cathars, whose own philosophy wound many threads of Eastern and Western thought together into a particular dualist gnostic thread.

This brief article closes with two examples of curés attempting to use Pajuzu to ‘get back’ at rival villages. The curé of Saravillo (Sobrabe) pleaded with God from his exconjuradora that Pajuzu would cast down a hailstorm upon the nearby village of Plan, and the mayor of Abiego begged for precisely the same action to be performed against his rival, in the village of Bierge, just a (hail)stone’s throw away! Pajuzu was evidently kept busy by those who needed a touch of meteorological revenge.

Article #14 – The Akerbeltz

I was moved to write this brief article after watching (finally) ‘The VVitch’, whose real star is none other than the devilishly charming billy goat known as ‘Black Phillip’. But Black Phillip is far from alone, he has many counterparts across Europe, not least in the Basque Country, where his alter-ego Akerbeltz lurks underground, in the caves and in the forests of that mysterious and archaic region, especially in Zugarramurdi where elves and witches meet.

Akerbeltz (‘Aker’ mean billy goat and ‘beltz’ means black – the Basque are nothing if not literal in their language), is a popular Basque folk spirit who can be seen represented at numerous processions and folkloric gatherings throughout the region, and he also has numerous servants in the form of elves. Unsurprisingly, given his manifestation as a goat, the post-conversion religious landscape of the Basque Country linked Akerbeltz with the devil, however more nuanced recent folklore studies have linked him with the role of protector of animals, the herd, and in some cases, houses, and ascribe to him the potential as being an echo of a far more primal, complex deity from the Basque pagan past. Several Roman inscriptions exist which refers to ‘Aherbelste’, believed to be a Romanised version of the name Akerbeltz, indicating a definite pre-Christian existence in the area, possibly as a god in charge of protecting livestock and general fertility. Folklorists have also suggested that he shares some characteristics with the great Basque goddess Mari, who surprisingly took the occasional form of a black billy goat.

The worship or presence of the billy goat in folklore and religious lore within Europe is far from rare – Thor’s goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstrone who pull the thunder god’s chariot, and the popular northern European tradition of the Yule Goat spring to mind. One only has to look at examples such as Dionysius or Pan (to take two more famous cases) to see that the goat (and many horned creatures) have served as models of fertility, protection, and passions within the pre-Christian European past, and often they too were transformed into devilish figures within the Christian mythos. In Akerbeltz’s case, he became linked with witches’ Sabbaths, known as Akelarreak (witches’ covens), named after the pasture lands where goats grazed.

Akerbeltz too is seen as a figure of fertility, however, aside from his protectorate role (discussed below), he also is linked to storms, being able to whip up tempests and call down hail storms at will. It is a belief in the Pyrenees that the Devil, witches and Akerbeltz could all go to a stable, cut off the billy goat’s beard, and use it to call down terrific thunder and hail storms! In Freser (Catalonia) a saying still exists: ‘A la casa han tosa la cabra, aquesta tarde tindrem pedra.’ (‘They have cut the beard of the billy goat, this afternoon it will hail.’)


Witches’ Sabbath, 1789, Goya – Akerbeltz in the early-modern era!

In his protective role, Akerbeltz is believed to care for domestic animals left in his care, and even cure them of disease in some cases. For this reason, many Basques traditionally have a black billy goat in their stable as a representative of Akerbeltz, to ensure their livestock are protected from any malevolent force or predator. This two-sided nature has also given rise to the legend that Akerbeltz possesses two faces, one for his benevolent role and another for his malevolent character.

Several legends surround Akerbeltz. At one point a priest enters one of Akerbeltz’s caves carrying a consecrated host. Whilst he was touching the gold cross he wore around his neck, a snake appeared from the darkness and tore his hands off, together with the gold cross. As the poor priest fled the cave an ominous voice could be heard from the depths, saying ‘Be thankful you were wearing your gold, if not I would have kept you here instead.’ The priests of Urepel have tried several times to pray Akerbeltz away from their caves but, apparently, he refuses to leave. Akerbeltz is also said to be fond of the caves near Balgorri, where his spirit is said to wander frequently at night. One can still see Akerbeltz celebrated in the annual Festival of Witches at Zugarramurdi, and some Basques say he can be seen or sensed during the summer solstice celebrations held high in the Pyrenees…


Field Report: Ariege Tour

Crossing the border of Andorra into France on a rather glorious summer’s day, the first stop on the itinerary was the village perche of Lordat, complete with the well preserved (but sadly inaccessible) ruins of its Cathar castle. The Chateau de Lordat is first mentioned in 970 AD in local registers and seems to have followed the rather typical existence of a castle belonging to the Count de Foix, controlling a small Occitan territory. However, it found itself at the forefront of the Albigensian crusade when in 1244 it was occupied by Cathars; sadly, little is known of their fate. The castle was abandoned later in the 14th century, and stands now as an elegant ruin, like so many of its kin, overlooking the valley below. From this vantage point, one can also see the Pic du St Barthelemy, beyond which lies the mysterious ruin of Montsegur, and it is possible to walk from ruin to another over this mountain (possibly a future venture!). Up here one is surrounded by the sounds of insects and birdsong, and the locale of the castle is unsurprising when one considers the enormous views that stretch almost 360 degrees around its towers.


(Lordat castle and the view down into the main valley. Photos taken by author.)


Onwards then to Tarascon-sur-Ariege for a mid-morning coffee break before plunging into the prehistory of the infamous cave at Mas d’Azil. Tarascon-sur-Ariege is often overlooked by tourists more intent on reaching Foix, but it is a charming little town, typical of the Ariege. It is situated at the confluence of the Ariege and Vicdessos rivers, surrounded by chalk cliffs and was once a thriving centre of commerce during the Middle Ages; so much so that the remains of the town’s fortifications from this period are still visible. Stretching across the river is a 12th century bridge, whose western side is dominated by the 14th century church of Sainte-Quitterie. The late-18th century Castella tower looms over this small town, home to the last blast furnace in the Pyrenees, and is situated on the site of a former feudal castle. One name from the list of notable Tarasconnais which may be familiar to readers here is that of the Cathar researcher Antonin Gadal, who dedicated his life to unpicking the mysteries of this faith and was instrumental in the nurturing of Otto Rahn’s research, a figure who reoccurs in this travelogue.



(View from the 12th century bridge at Tarascon-sur-Ariege at the confluence of the Ariege and Vicdessos rivers. Photo taken by author.)


After a coffee in the morning sun, it was a short drive to Mas d’Azil, whose cave is a world renowned typesite for the Azilian culture (c.12,000 years ago, and named after the cave itself), and also shows extensive evidence of occupation during the preceding Magdalenian culture (c. 17,000 – 12,000 years ago), which existed towards the end of the last Ice Age and is associated with the domestication of the dog. The main road runs right through this enormous cave, but thankfully there are other, more introspective ways to explore its secrets. Within its winding passages can be found a multitude of engravings, ranging from bison, horses, birds, reindeer, and fish, to painted human masks, genitals and a series of intercutting lines, dots and un-interpreted signs. Some of the paintings show evidence of what may be halter-like constructions on the heads of the horses and reindeer, which the original 19th century excavator (Eduoard Piette) believed was evidence of a very early form of domestication – potentially following the prior efforts with dogs. One of the most spectacular finds from this cave is the spear-thrower (Magdalenian) carved from antler in the form of a fawn or deer looking back on itself. Other examples of similar spear-throwers have been found the breadth of the Pyrenees, but this is undoubtedly the finest or best preserved.



(Mas d’Azil Cave, photo from:


What is truly special about this cave is its continuity of use for shelter, from these prehistoric occupants through to the more turbulent times of the Middle Ages, and there is even evidence of Huguenots finding refuge there. Given this pattern of occupation, it is not wildly illogical to suspect that during the Albigensian crusade, some Cathars fleeing the destruction of their homes and communities may have evaded their attackers in these passages, and if so who can wonder at what they must have thought when seeing these archaic paintings, flickering in the light of their torches. Indeed, if there were any rogue Cathars hiding in this extensive cave, would they have felt any connection with the past inhabitants through the use of art on the walls, a practise which Otto Rahn (and Antonin Gadal) suggested was implemented by Cathars in caves throughout the Sabbarthes area?



(The antler carved spear-thrower from Mas d’Azil. Photo from:


The final stop of the day was at the walled town of Foix, with its castle perched on an imposing rock, the capital of the County of Foix, primary seat of its Count, and a community well known for its Cathar sympathies in ages past. The town allegedly owes its origins to an oratory founded by none other than Charlemagne himself (which then became the Abbey of Saint Volusianus in 849), around which grew a township, however it was after the construction of the castle in the early 10th century that Foix truly began to flourish under the various Counts of Foix. The castle held such an excellent defensive position that it repelled repeated attacks by Simon de Montfort IV between 1211 and 1217 (the Albigensian Crusade), and it was only when in the late 13th century the Count of Foix refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Phillip III (‘the Bold’), King of France, that the subsequent expedition launched against it overcame the castle and town.



(Foix and its castle. Photo from:


Sadly, the weather by now was closing in, and so after a wet dash through the town to reach the castle and tour it, the most prudent course of action was to retire to a small brasserie, which thankfully had plentiful supplies of Leffe on tap, and soak up (no pun intended) the atmosphere of this mysterious Occitan town. Adjacent was an excellent second-hand and antiquarian bookshop, where two books on Otto Rahn were purchased and added to the Perennial Pyrenees research library (‘Le Mystere Otto Rahn du Catharisme au Nazisme’ by Christian Bernadac, Editions France-Empire 1978, and ‘Hitler et la Tradition Cathare’ by Jean-Michel Angebert, Editions Robert Laffont 1971). The purchase of these books raised a discreet eyebrow from the seller, but they were simply too informative to pass up!


(The books themselves, a glorious haul!)


One figure from Foix who is of particular note is Esclarmonde de Foix, a 13th century Cathar, daughter of Roger Bernard I, Count of Foix and sister to the troubadour Raymond-Roger de Foix. Known as being a great beauty, her name translates roughly to ‘Light of the World’, and she had a reputation for skill and knowledge of art, philosophy, religion and politics. After being widowed she turned to Catharism, so much so in fact that she took the consolamentum from Cathar bishop Guilhabert de Castres in 1204 and became a Cathar ‘Parfaite’ (priest), all with the blessings of her father and brother. It was she who ordered the rebuilding of Montsegur, the reconstructions of which were vital in enabling it to hold out so long against the besiegers. Her work included commissioning schools and hospitals throughout the region, helping countless Cathars and Parfaites to escape the oncoming crusaders and evading the bounty hunters and papal legates who wanted her eliminated, especially due to the fact that during the Albigensian Crusade she became a symbol of the local and Cathar resistance. During this period she lived as a fugitive, sleeping in caves and never knowing rest, and she is rumoured to have died in one of the caves in the Ariege or Aude. Esclarmonde is still spoken of fondly in the region, and has come to almost represent Catharism, especially during those dark days, where her actions lived up to her name.


The following day brought similarly wet beginnings, but thankfully as soon as we left Foix the clouds cleared and glorious sunshine accompanied the drive to Mirepoix. En route an unexpected delight was spied, and demanded closer investigation. Looming out of the rock in Vals was the villages troglodyte church, the ‘Eglise Rupestre de Vals’. Surrounded by fields, houses pieced together from warm yellow stone and silence, this church rises out of a natural hillock, a small citadel among the rural pastures. The door leads one directly into the rock, with steps carved up and into the main body of the church. What lies within is truly surprising, and we were lucky to be the sole visitors within the site. This church has origins in the 10th century, and possesses some very fine Romanesque roof frescoes depicting the saints and Christ, all of whom stare down strikingly from the vault. In the upper floor of the church one finds the 12th century chapel of St Michael, and the church tower which dates to the 14th century and rears above the village. One could almost hear the ghostly voices of a long diminished congregation, under the watchful eyes from the frescos above. Outside, from the top of the hillock one can see across to the distant Pyrenees, including the peak of the aforementioned St Barthelemy, whose spire seems to follow the traveller across the Ariege, a perpetual reminder of its neighbouring site, Montsegur.

(Vals Church, its frescoes, and views. Photos taken by author.)


A short drive away lies the town of Mirepoix, with its impeccable Medieval square and cathedral. Another victim of the de Montforts in 1209, the town was destroyed by floods in 1289 and rebuilt the following year. The Mirapiciens who inhabit this town are lucky enough to live amongst one of the greatest surviving Medieval arcaded market squares in Europe, with many of the houses dating back to the 13th and 15th centuries and supported by great wooden pillars. Some of the joists which jut out into the square are carved with faces and animals, and the carvings on the Maison des Consuls (next to the cathedral) are a mixture of bearded heads, tortoises, women’s faces and fantastical beasts. A number of restaurants and shops (including an excellent bookshop where another volume was purchased – ‘Magie et Sorcellerie dans les Pyrenees’ by Olivier de Marliave, 2006 Editions Sud Ouest) line the square and surround the beautiful Cathedral du St Maurice. Construction began on the cathedral (then a church) in 1298 and continued in various forms (renovations, expansions etc. into the cathedral we see now) over the ensuing six centuries until it was fully restored in the mid 19th century. Inside one finds a riot of colour, thankfully well preserved, with blue vaulting and numerous wall paintings (and wall papers!) still surviving, and the second widest nave in Europe.


(The Cathedral of Mirepoix, its interior, and an example of the 13th century buildings that line the main arcaded square. Photos taken by author.)


Thankfully the sun was shining, making an excellent lunch all the more pleasant, and despite the high volume of tourism, there was an overwhelming sense of tranquillity in this picturesque Medieval square, with no more noise than the slurping of wine, puffing of cigarettes and gentle chatter.

Fortified, it was time to make our way to the final stop of the day and this miniature tour, the mountain castle of Montsegur. This site has been mentioned previously in Article #7, however, it has become such a symbol of the region and Catharism itself (not to mention other, more esoteric matters) that it is worth recapping. The fortress we see today is actually a post-Albigensian Crusade rebuild, the original having been destroyed by Rome, however, it occupies exactly the same site as its former incarnation. The commune itself was ruled variously by the Counts of Toulouse, the Viscounts of Carcassonne and finally the Counts of Foix, hence Esclarmonde’s ability to order its increased fortification. It is popularly considered the final castle to be besieged during the Albigensian Crusade, and in 1244 the Cathar occupants agreed to surrender. Not however before insisting on a delay and exchanging hostages to ensure that this delay was observed. Some have suggested that it was in order to celebrate a particular day or period sacred to the Cathar faith. Others insist that during this time, four Cathars escaped during nightfall, over the edge of the fortress and down the steep cliffs, carrying something of great value; this has led to intense speculation about the nature of the ‘treasure’, with some claiming it to be gold and jewels, others that it was a book or series of teachings that would ensure the survival of the Cathar dualist doctrine, and other still insisting that it was something far greater, possibly the Holy Grail itself. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is recorded that these four men did escape with something of value, but its destination and nature is forever a mystery. In March 1244 Montsegur surrendered, and in an extraordinary display of faith, 244 of the occupants refused to renounce their faith and were burnt en masse in the field beneath the castle. This event is remembered every year on March 16, and their names (collected by the Inquisitors) are displayed in the local museum.


(The view of the field before the castle, where the Cathars were burnt. This auto de feu may have had less success when we visited due to the weather! Photo taken by author.)


The connection (see Article #7) with figures like Antonin Gadal, Otto Rahn and others, as well as the enduring popular connection between Montsegur and some fabulous ‘secret’ (be it the Grail or a deep esoteric understanding of the universe) has meant that Montsegur occupies a special place in the hearts of many who travel there. Winding up the road to the village and castle, the heavens broke open and a tremendous storm shook the commune for the entirety of our stay here, preventing access to the castle and plunging the whole area in a dark and highly atmospheric mist. Stoically sitting the weather out with a beer or two, it was with great fortune that we spied the director and Montsegur resident Richard Stanley on the horizon, feathered hat and staff in hand, and briefly made introductions. Richard is responsible for the Otto Rahn documentary ‘The Secret Glory’ (as well as numerous other films during the nineties) and moved to this village many years ago after having been captivated by Rahn’s story. With the rain pouring down, it was easy to imagine Rahn in his small hotel room, writing furiously and leafing through his copy of Parzifal, and this encouraged us to leaf through the two newly acquired books on his life and findings, enjoy some local wine and talk long into the night.



(The view of Montsegur from its base and approach, taken during a more clement previous visit. Photo taken by author.)


The rain continued to pour down all through the night, cloaking the little valley in mist and, sometimes, hailstones, showing just how treacherous the weather can be in the Ariege. By the morning, it still continued to pour, rendering a visit to the castle both unwise and uncomfortable, and so we decided that a return trip was necessary when the sun could be depended upon. After an interesting and unexpected journey to the border which took us over hill and vale through a thoroughly Wagnerian landscape, we dropped down into Ax-les-Thermes and wound up towards Andorra, where the sun was breaking through the clouds. An enjoyable, if wet, jaunt through some of the more celebrated sites in the region, and an encouragement to explore deeper into this Cathar territory when the opportunity next presents itself!


Weekly Article #13 – From Charlemagne to the advent of the 19th century.

A late post this week, unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view!) an influx of work has delayed this post, but nothing can completely halt the flow of information from these mountains! Today we have the second half of the archaeo-historical story of Andorra, from the Franks to the opening up of Andorra to the world. This (along with the previous ‘history of Andorra’ post) will appear in the upcoming guidebook to the culture, history, and archaeology of Andorra which, fingers crossed, should be out in time for packing into Christmas stockings…

Charlemagne’s gift

During the 8th century, the Visigoths saw their kingdom crumble before the expansion of the Umayyad caliphate across much of Spain. In 732 the Umayyad governor led an expedition across the Western Pyrenees into Bordeaux. Later that year Charles Martel, the de facto leader of the Frankish Kingdom defeated the Moorish forces at the infamous Battle of Tours, and began the pushback the started what is known as the ‘reconquista’. He also founded the Carolingian Dynasty, which would produce perhaps one of the most famous kings in European history, Charlemagne. Charles Martel had several sons, and he divided his kingdom up between them. Pepin the Younger led a fierce eight-year campaign routing the Muslims from Narbonne in 759, dying in 768, and his brother Charlemagne continued his work, crossing the Pyrenees in 778 to attack the city of Zaragossa. This attempted siege failed and Charlemagne was forced to retreat, only to be ambushed by Basque forces in retaliation for his prior destruction of Pamplona’s city walls! This resulted in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, from which came the infamous romantic tale, The Song of Roland. The main passes of the Pyrenees (Roncesvalles, Somport and La Jonquera) were turned into vassal states by Charlemagne (Pamplona, Aragon and Catalonia respectively), and acted as a buffer against the Muslim forces, remaining stable for two centuries. Within this period, we find the legend of Andorra’s birth as a sovereign territory. According to national myth, Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people after their giving him assistance at in fighting the Moorish forces at Porté-Puymorens in Cerdanya. There is even a local legend that a house exists in the parish of St Julia de Loria where he stayed one night (for more information on this, see the parish’s chapter). Whatever the truth of this matter, Andorra certainly formed part of the ‘Marca Hispanica’ the aforementioned Pyrenean buffer zone that kept the Frankish kingdom safe from the Moorish armies.

The Child of Urgell & Foix

Charlemagne’s grandson, Charles the Bold, named the Count of Urgell as the lord of Andorra, and one of his descendants then gave the territory over to the Diocese of Urgell. However, in the 11th century the Bishop of Urgell became worried about the sabre-rattling behaviour of nearby lords and placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Catalan nobleman. Through an astute marriage, the Count of Foix became this Lord’s heir, and a dispute emerged as to who had control over Andorra – was it the Bishop, or the Count? Thankfully this problem was solved in 1278 through the signing of a pariatges, which gave shared sovereignty to both parties. It also gave Andorra its current political and territorial form, which remains unchanged today, and Andorra still pays an annual tribute to these co-rulers in the form of forty hams, forty loaves of bread and a measure of wine. This is also the period in which the six historic parishes of Andorra (St Julia de Loria, Andorra la Vella, Encamp, Ordino, Canillo & La Massana – Escaldes-Engordany is a recently created parish) were formalised. From this point on, Andorra has been co-ruled by French and Spanish powers (now heads of state), with the exception of the period of the French Revolution during which the French government renounced its claim to Andorra. This was however rectified by Napoleon.

During the late 8th/early 9th century, on Roc d’Enclar we see the construction of the church of San Vincente, and the evolution of the settlement from a simple self-sufficient occupation to a fortified one, complete with a religious centre, four large silos for grain storage, defensive walls and rock cut anthropomorphic burials (15 of the 52 previously mentioned). Below this rock, one finds a site that has only been discovered relatively recently (2007), and it is still subject to differing interpretations in terms of form and function.

A heavily fortified settlement, the Roureda de Margineda has offered up ceramics, bronze and iron artefacts, hearths, coins and a network of interior and exterior walls. There are broadly four phases of occupation, stretching back to the Bronze Age, which saw the construction of silos and some stone buildings with associated ceramics of the period being found in situ. During the 5th – 7th centuries we find evidence of presses which may be related to the viniculture on Roc d’Enclar above. However, it is during the 12th – 13th centuries that the site becomes far more visible, powerful and with the spatial layout that we see today. The site is structured into domestic units with several rooms, around a simple network of ‘streets’ and fortified walls, which was apparently occupied between 1190 and 1288 and was related to the power struggles for Andorra between Urgell and the Counts of Foix (aided by the Viscounts of nearby Castellbo), before the signing of the pariatges. There is a degree of uncertainty whether this site represents a fortified settlement, or a castle/fort, or even some form of extended trading/processing site linked to the settlement atop Roc d’Enclar. However what is certain is that it represents one of the best preserved Medieval archaeological sites in Andorra.

One of the hallmarks of this period in Andorra is the explosion of pre-Romanesque and Romanesque church/chapel building in each parish. The vast majority of religious buildings in Andorra can trace a major part of their construction back to the Romanesque phase, and the density of these chapels and churches built in this style throughout the country (over forty) is unmatched anywhere else. Many also have pre-Romanesque aspects. For example, the church of Santa Coloma (near Roc d’Enclar and Roureda de Margineda) is mentioned in a document written in 839, and its earliest features place it at the beginning of the 9th century, such as gabled walls that rise above the roof, simple flared windows and irregular fittings with lime mortar. Similar features can be found in the church of Sant Vincente d’Enclar. The Romanesque period (roughly 12th century) could be said to be over-represented in Andorra, with Lombard-style bell towers (both round, as at Santa Coloma, and square, as found at Sant Miquel d’Engloasters). The church of Sant Romà de les Bons in Encamp is another example, with its Lombardian apse, stone altar, and beautiful interior frescoes, unusually depicting scenes from rural life such as the droving of livestock, as well as the apocalyptic visions of St John. Canillo’s church of Sant Joan de Caselles is yet another jewel of the Andorran Romanesque, with its sturdy Lombardian square bell tower and stuccoed Christ in Majesty surrounded by murals of the crucifixion featuring Longinus and Stephanus as well as the Sun and Moon. Details on the best churches to visit in each parish will be provided in the following chapters.

The General Council

It was not until the early 15th century that Andorra saw an official form of internal government. In 1419, Andreu d’Alàs petitioned the Francesc de Tovia, Bishop of Urgell, and Count Joan I of Foix for permission to create what was to be the origins of the General Council of Andorra. Permission was granted, and this nascent body was called the ‘Consell de la Terra’ (‘Council of the Earth’). Simultaneously both co-princes granted that within the council might be elected members representing the primary houses or families of Andorra. This is popularly considered to be one of the oldest functioning parliaments in Europe.

These primary families (often the oldest) were known as fires, and were wealthy enough to pay the taxes demanded by the council, which in turn gave them rights to representation and inclusion in the political/legal processes of the council. The poorer families were known as casalers and did not enjoy such rights, and often did not own lands. One document places the ratio of fires to casalers before the 17th century as 179 against 600.

One of the most important sites in Andorra that dates from this period is the only surviving example of a Medieval fortification, the so-called ‘Torre dels Moros’ (Tour of the Moors), whose dating is debated between the 13th and 16th centuries. This former military tour is next to the Romanesque chapel of Sant Romà de les Bons in Encamp, and is built into the rock on which the chapel stands. Some suggest that it may date from the 13th century due to its proximity to the chapel, however, the pariatges of 1288 prohibited any castle building. Others believe that it dates to the 16th century and was erected in response to the incursions of the French Hugenots into Andorra during this time. The tower is square in form with four floors, and loophole windows that allowed projectiles to be fired. Its situation, like the chapel, is a commanding one, with a panoramic view of the valley below and therefore is in an ideal defensive location. The popular association with ‘the Moors’ is not an uncommon one, as many buildings with uncertain origins become linked in folklore to this force, not just in Andorra but across Spain too. As if to underscore this point, a water-tank is carved into the stone and is locally known as the ‘Baño de la Reina Mora’ (‘the Bath of the Moorish Queen’). Rainwater would collect in this basin and be distributed along stone gutters carved into the rock. The basin’s name derives from a local legend, in which under a full moon the ‘Moorish Queen’ came to bath in the basin. Of course, all the men of the local village stole up to spy on her, and such was her beauty that they became enchanted by her and stayed under her spell, hopelessly in love to the end of their days.

Throughout the next two centuries, the Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia passed between several different lords, and one of the Counts of Foix (Enric III) ascended to the French throne. However, throughout all these turbulent events, Andorra always remained stable within its arrangement of co-sovereignty and even gained some additional judicial privileges. Andorran citizens were, therefore, belonged to a neutral country, owing no military service, war contributions or obligation to aid in occupations of foreign territories, even during the war of the Spanish Succession that so affected much of Catalonia.  In 1715, the Bishop of Urgell Simeó de Guinda signed a decree that Andorra need obey no demands other than those made by the co-princes or the King of France. With the French Revolution, however, a constitutional crisis emerged.

The French Revolution & Napoleon

1789 was the first year in a decade-long program of revolutionary social and political upheaval in France. Four years later in 1793, the French revolutionary government executed the King of France (also a figurehead for Andorra) Louis XVI, and officially rejected the traditional Andorran tribute, declaring it a relic of feudalism and against the principles of revolutionary France. However, more importantly for Andorrans, France also renounced its role in the co-rulership of the country, leaving Andorra undersold control of Spain, an unpopular situation. In 1794, during the war with Spain, French forces entered Andorra and advanced to Soldeu in Canillo with intention of marching to and occupying La Seu d’Urgell. Desperate, several representatives of Andorra sped to Puigcerdà near Girona, where General Chabret of the French Revolutionary forces had his headquarters, and successfully entreated him to abandon this plan.

After the initial rise of Napolean I and during the Napoleonic Wars Andorra remained a neutral state, however, Andorrans petitioned the ruler to restore the pre-Revolutionary arrangement of ‘co-sovereignty’ which came back into effect in 1806. In an ironic twist, given the region’s previous role, Andorra became part of the Puigcerdà district between 1812 and 1813 after the French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it into four departments. However, this domination of Catalonia by the French was brief, due to General Wellington signing an armistice that prompted the French forces to leave Barcelona.

The Discovery of Andorra

This renewal of Andorra’s traditional co-sovereignty also coincided with a more general interest in the country from its neighbours. Andorra began to receive the first visits from inquisitive walkers and travellers, eager to explore this little-known Pyrenean refuge and write about it, and even a comic opera was written about the country by the (then) famous Fromental Halévy in 1848. Now forgotten, ‘Le Val d’Andorre’ was a huge hit and actually saved the Opéra-Comique in Paris from the ruin it was facing, playing 165 times. It was also performed in Leipzig (1849), London (1850) and Madrid (1852), however, it would not be performed in Andorra, and then only in part, until 2001. However, inspiration was not the only reason for visiting the country during this period. In Spain a violent conflict was raging, the Carlist Wars, and both liberal and Carlist refugees sought shelter in Andorra’s valleys. It was at this time that the Catalan Carlist Josep Ignasi Dalmau i Baquer, nephew of the Bishop of Urgell, wrote the first widely circulated book about the history of Andorra.

Between 1842 and 1876 the pre-industrial economy of Andorra received a boost in the form of the Rossell Forge (now a museum and industrial heritage centre), whose iron ingots became much in demand within Catalonia and created an alternative source of local income outside of the typical agriculture/stock breeding and, of course, smuggling. Further reforms came in the guise of a rich Andorran landowner, Guillem de Plandolit i d’Areny, who headed the ‘Nova Reforma’ movement. This movement aimed at reforming the General Council to give greater participation to the peoples of Andorra, increasing the number of councillors to 24 and each one to be elected by the ‘sindics’ (government officers). This was ratified by the Bishop of Urgell in 1866 and Napoleon III in 1869. At this point the main income in Andorra was derived from agriculture, livestock and some surreptitious smuggling – an industry that is the source of wry pride in locals even today! In Sispony one can find the Casa Rull and in Ordino the Casa d’Areny-Plandolit (where the aforementioned Guillem lived). Both are excellent examples of landowner class and aristocratic houses respectively and are described in detail in their parish chapters in this book. By the end of the century, the first telephone and telegraph lines had been installed in the country, and this truly opened up Andorra to the precursors of the tourism it enjoys today, which would move it away from a reliance on agriculture and livestock.