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Wedding cart and chattels. Eztai­gurdia

The dowry has been known as chattels in the Spanish-speaking area and arreoa, with different phonetic variations in the Basque-speaking zone. In the northern Basque Country (lying within France), hatuka was used and in Liginaga (Z) truzoa (fr. trousseau). Taking the chattels to the new home was known as arreoa eroatea in Bermeo (B) and dote-arreoa or arreotea in Markina (B). The rite of entry into the home was called etxe-sartzea (Donoztiri­BN) and the day on which it took place, hatukako eguna (Liginaga-Z).

The people interviewed in Artziniega (A) distinguished between chattel and dowry. They considered chattel to be what the bride brought to the marriage and which she had made with her own hands, unlike the dowry or set of money, livestock, sometimes farmsteads, etc., that the families of the bride and groom contributed. The belongings that the woman brought to the marriage generally included sheets, blankets, table and other linen. They sometimes included cutlery and other household furniture such as beds with their mattresses (Mendiola-A). In Murelaga (B) and in Zeanuri (B), the coffin sheet, that is, the shroud, was also included[1]. This practice has now fallen into disuse as all those things are bought or are wedding gifts (Treviño-A). In Valdegovía (A), it could also include some animals: cattle, horses or pigs. In the detailed descriptions provided further on, the composition of the chattels or trousseaus is set out for each location.

At the turn of the century, young women began to prepare their trousseaus at a very early age. In several valleys of Navarra including Baztan, Larraun and Roncal, in Amayur, Uztarrotz and in Zuberoa, girls were given a piece of land by their fathers when they turned thirteen to begin to grow flax.

In Baztan (N) and in Amezketa (G), the housewife usually gave the maid, apart from her annual wage, two bushels of flaxseed, which she took home to start to prepare her trousseau.

The transfer of the chattels was a ritualised act of great importance as it marked the entry of the new spouse in the home, an event known in Basque as etxe-sartzea. A wagon pulled by oxen was used and both were adorned for the occasion. The axle of the wagon was made to squeak to make the most noise possible. It was also usual for the items transported from one house to the other to include the bed set up and made and the spinning wheel[2]. A mirror also had an important place among the items transported.

In Bizkaia, a piece of ironwork with several bells, covered with badger's skin instead of the usual sheepskin, was added to the yoke of the wedding cart. The badger seems to have been an animal whose parts (claws, skin, etc.) were used as protection from the evil eye. Both the skin and the aforementioned harness were named after this animal: azkonarra[3]. According to Azkue, in Murelaga (B) and in Ursuaran (G), it was considered a great luxury to put badger’s skin on the yoke to cover the bells when moving the chattels[4].

In some settlements of the northern Basque Country, the custom of the move was carried out with great pomp. The entourage included the seamstress that had helped to prepare the trousseau and who was tasked with arranging the room of the spouses. In Basabürüa (Z), there was also another person whose work was also very important in another type of cortege – to do with the funeral rituals -, and that was the carpenter[5].

This ceremony was not held on a specific day but it also varied depending on the location between the time of the bans and the day after the weeding. It was so ritualised that the folklorists at the turn of the century paid great attention to it and it is therefore possible to find detailed and literary descriptions in that regard. The tradition began to decline in the 1930s.

Even though both the son and the daughter could be the heir and the move of the chattels from one house to another was sometimes performed by the groom and other times by the bride, it was only in the last case that it took place with great solemnity.

Currently, popular re-enactments of traditional weddings are put on in some towns and villages and include moving the chattels in the old way. They are usually widely covered in the written press and on TV.

Driving the non-local spouse to the marital home

In the past, both spouses, both the one who remained in their home and the one who had to move, travelled from the church to the premises where the wedding reception was to be held and accompanied by the guests who had been at the ceremony and sometimes by the musician. It should be noted that those premises were not always the marital home, and sometimes they went first to the bride’s home, who was usually the one changing home, and ate there; then the couple were accompanied to their new home.

Inventory and displaying the chattels

In the past, the displaying of the chalets was a ritualised act when a person, usually a woman, counted in minute detail and following specific guidelines all the items provide by the bride’s family to the marriage. That act sometimes took place on the very day of the wedding, prior to or after the reception, or in the run-up to the ceremony, generally when the chattels were moved from the bride’s to the groom’s home.

The custom of the ritual display of the chattels was reduced with the passing of time to showing the dowry and the room of the newlyweds without any type of ceremony. The people tasked with it were usually the bride herself, her mother and, sometimes, a female neighbour and friends of the bride or, where applicable, the female guests. They were displayed prior to the wedding or the very day of the ceremony.

  1. Resurrección Mª de AZKUE. Euskalerriaren Yakintza. Tomo I. Volume: 1935, p. 271. (When Azkue gathered that information, she already noted it was a past practice).
  2. Regarding this last item, which was often transported in a really visible place, it should be noted that even in Roman times, a woman included the spinning wheel in her chattels as a symbol of her industriousness.
  3. Julio CARO BAROJA. Los vascos. San Sebastián: 1949, p. 324.
  4. Resurrección Mª de AZKUE. Euskalerriaren Yakintza. Volume I. Madrid: 1935, p. 271.
  5. Jean de JAUREGUIBERRY. "A wedding in Haute-Soule" in Gure Herria, XIV (1934) p. 165.