Mythology in Ataun

Ancient proverbs, such as “Izena don guztie omen da…” (All that with a name must be) or “Direnik ez da sinistu behar, ez direnik ez da esan behar” (One must not believe they exist, one must not say that they do not exist) are a testimony to the Ataun people’s belief in mythology, which is a matter of great importance in Ataun.

The town has been devoted to agriculture and breeding livestock since time immemorial and, consequently, it is at nature’s mercy. And so it is that legends have always served as a tool for understanding the environment, facing natural processes and tackling or protecting themselves from dangers and, for want of another explanation, they have served to pacify or motivate the population.

The town is an excellent place for all this, with its mountains, caves and dolmens. As part of oral tradition, legends have, on some occasions, remained unaltered for years and, on other occasions, however, they have undergone many changes on their journeys from one mouth to another: a change of name, location, etc. Consequently, legends are universal and local at the same time. And now, in the shade of new technologies and industrialization, when the habit of telling stories at work or in a group has dried up, this cord has broken at practically all points.

In Ataun, however, Joxemiel Barandiaran made an enormous effort to ensure that this did not happen. He offered his treasure to the town copying the oral tradition down on paper so that the ancestral belief would not die out. And it is thanks to this that we know many mythological stories and spots in Ataun, which are made known every year through the representation of the Arrival of the Gentiles (Jentilen Etorrera) during the San Martín fiestas.


  • The magical world compiled by Joxemiel Barandiaran and represented by the people of Ataun”.“That is what the arrival of the gentiles is all about”, says one of its creators. This project, which has the Gentiles as the protagonists came about in 1981 with a view to attracting people to the fiestas in the San Martín district. In fact, the inhabitants of Ataun and Aia are frequently referred to as “gentiles” and the town has an abundance of stories about the gentiles. But these are not the only protagonists, there are others: lords of the wood, witches from Sanmartintxiki, lamias…

    The Arrival of the GentilesThe Arrival of the Gentiles

    Every year, a different legend from Ataun and its surroundings is related, making different protagonists known and immersing the town in the world of mythology. In this way, the following have been narrated: the story of the last gentile, the story of the golden sheet from the Agerre farmhouse, the legend of Torto de Muski, the secret of the wheat, the story of when the girl from Arbeldi fell in the Agaramunda cave to mention but a few. On the Sunday of the San Martín (November 11th) fiestas, at six o’clock in the afternoon, bonfires are lit on the mountains, the public lighting system is switched off and a show that joins the past with the present begins. The gentiles have arrived in the town. Out of San Martín Square come the mayor, the priest and the bailiff representing the town, with the person who makes the opening speech at the head, they join the gentiles, witches and other characters who come from Jentilbaratza and then they give the performance in the Auzoeta sports centre.