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Stopping bleeding caused by wounds, odol-jarioak

Bleeding has different names in Basque, odol-eriona, odol-heldura in Ainhoa (L); odol-jarioa in Gipuzkoa; odol-joaitea in Uztarroz (N) and odol-ixurtzea in Lekunberri (N).

In the case of small and not serious wounds, and both to clean them and to stop the bleeding, the instinctive reaction was and continues to be for the injured person to spit on them and that manages, in the majority of cases, to solve the problem (Bermeo-B). Nowadays, people instead rely far more on pharmaceutical products such as hydrogen peroxide or other antiseptics (Murchante-N).

Serious wounds. Tourniquets

The practice of making a tourniquet to stop bleeding, odol-ixurtzea (Lekunberri- N) in the case of serious wounds was found in Amézaga de Zuya, Valdegovía (A); Bidegoian (G); Lekunberri, Murchante and Viana (N). In Astigarraga (G) and Moreda (A), it was made with a cloth and stick; in Aoiz (N) with strips of cloth; in Arraioz (N) with a rope, handkerchief or anything available and in Elosua (G) with a shoe lace.

In Mendiola (A), a tourniquet is used if the injury is serious and there is no other solution to stop the bleeding. It is made with a belt, a handkerchief or a piece of cloth from shirt or trousers and a stick is used to apply pressure. This technique is provisional until more conventional bandaging can be applied.

Gangrene, pasmoa

It is known by this name in a good number of places surveyed. In Muskiz (B) and Tiebas (N) by gangrene or cangrena. It is also called cangrena in Agurain, Amézaga de Zuya, Bernedo, Mendiola, Moreda, Pipaón (A); Allo, Lezaun and Obanos (N).

In Apodaca (A), it is called “black evil”.

In Astigarraga, Berastegi, Hondarribia, Oñati (G); Arraioz, Eugi (N); Bedarona, Gorozika, Nabarniz and Orozko (B), it is called kangrena or gangrena; in Amorebieta (B) enkangrenea or kangrenea; enkangrenea in Abadiano and Gautegiz-Arteaga (B) and karmengoa in Lekunberri (N). In Bidegoian (G), gangrene or pasmo fuertea. In Elosua, Telleriarte and Zerain (G) pasmoa.

The above name in Lekunberri (N) seems to reflect a lack of certainty between this disease and anthrax. In fact, Eugi (N) anthrax is known as karmenkoa. Yet this confusion also includes tetanus, as will be seen later. That might be down to their all being diseases linked to the blood and having fatal consequences.

In Eugi (N), for example, gangrene was described in the same way that recalled anthrax in livestock. It was thought that there was no cure for gangrene and anybody who contracted it would inevitably die. It was thought to come from livestock and that it was easily passed on to people. It caused the eyes to swell up and a cut had to be quickly made under the tongue from which very dark blood would flow.

In Murchante (N), when someone died from gangrene or tetanus, all their clothing would be burnt and their room disinfected. This recalls the fear of touching the skin of animals who died of gangrene to avoid being infected.


In Amézaga de Zuya (A), it is put down to an untreated wound that becomes infected. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from it because their wounds do not close, in other words, a scar does not form or they are confined to bed.

In Telleriarte (G), it is believed that this disease occurs in wounds caused by nails, iltze-zulatuetatik, as the result of scratches or wounds caused by animals or from the overheating that footwear produces, oiñetakoen erregositutik. If it is caught in time, it is believed that it can be cured but the only remedy is amputation if left too long.

They said in Amorebieta (B) that if they reacted in time, it could be cured otherwise it would mean amputation. There was no cure if it started to spread. The case of a man who died of gangrene because of an untreated wound caused by his shoe was reported.


This illness is called tetanus in most of the surveyed places. In Mendiola (A), they said there are people who call it tuétanos, in the same way as in Tiebas (N). In Moreda (A), many people also refer to tuétano. In Beasain (G), its name is pasmoa.

In Orozko (B), several people interviewed said that tetanus is known as karbunkoa. This disease, karbunkoa, was typical of animals and people would become infected if they had an open wound and were in contact with a sick animal. It was considered fatal in humans and there was no cure. Something similar happened with tetanus as has already been seen in gangrene in Lekunberri and Eugi (N), as it was related to anthrax.

In Moreda (A), the people surveyed did not make a clear distinction between gangrene and tetanus, and they think it is the same diseases. They think it comes from wounds caused by irons, spikes, splinters and other contaminated items.

Not much is known about tetanus in Valdegovía (A) and, in the same way as in Moreda, they associated it with gangrene and believe it is similar, although they made a difference in the outcome as they said that gangrene kills, while tetanus leads to disability.

Extracting thorns/bones, arantzak, and foreign bodies

Swelling from spikes, thorns, thistles and other sharp objects was frequent in the past due the many different farm tasks that were done by hand, such as reaping, threshing, baling, clearing redajos to name a few (Moreda-A).

Nails were the first of the resources used to extract a thorn, particularly if it was large enough the hold the foreign body; tweezers, hairpins, scissors, knives and even another pinche (Moreda) were used.