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Wily Women, “Witches” and Women’s Language in Basque History, Fiction and Song

Event Type
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, European Union Center
4080 FLB and online
Jan 26, 2023   4:00 pm  
Begoña Echeverria
Originating Calendar
European Union Center Events

In 1610, Basque “witches” were burned at the stake in Logroño, Spain, falsely accused of crimes such as worshiping the devil and making potions to harm enemies or their crops. The victims were posthumously exonerated, yet the legacy of the “witches” lingers in the Basque imagination and language (“Euskera”). In this talk, Echeverria discusses the historical facts about the persecution of Basque “witches” in the early 17th century and reads excerpts from her novel based on that history, The Hammer of Witches. She will also share excerpts from her 2021 work, “Witches” and Wily Women: Saving ‘Noka’ through Basque Folklore and Song.” This book is a passionate defense of noka, the second person pronoun in the Basque language (“Euskera). It shows how noka became marginalized as speech used by and to “witches” and unconventional women, thereby leading to its loss over time. But it also uncovers the vibrant sociolinguistic life noka had led over 500 years of Basque history, and provides unique insights into Basque culture, language and gender that may otherwise be lost when noka disappears. To increase awareness of noka and the surprising stories it tells, Echeverria will also share traditional and original Basque songs that use noka, including those about sorginak—Basque “witches” who may be tricksters, but not handmaidens of the devil. 

About the speaker: Begoña Echeverria is the daughter of Basque immigrants to southern California. A native Basque speaker with a PhD in sociology, she is a Professor at UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. Her ethnographic work on Basque language schooling has appeared in academic journals in education, sociolinguistics, and anthropology. She has also published work examining gender, identity and language use in Basque song, biblical texts, and folk tales.

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