X. SKIN MARKS. HAIR AND NAILS
A wart is a benign skin lump. There are different types of them. The most frequent are the so called “common warts”, caused by a virus and found on different parts of the body, but most frequently on the hands. They are characterised by a well defined, raised bump on the skin, which are partially embedded in the skin and painful when pressed. In Muskiz (B), the interviewees were found to distinguish between three types of warts: hard ones, others hanging like a skin flap and the third type that is confused with moles and has hairs. In Bedarona (B), they described two types: the long ones that are pieces of hanging skin and those that are flat and round. In Sangüesa (N), some people believed that there were male and female warts, and when there were several together, if the female was removed, the others would die or dry up. In Moreda (A), they said that warts itch more when it is hot and they are amusing on the face of certain people.
Freckles and moles
As was seen in the surveys, not distinguishing between freckles and moles is quite common, even though the term freckles is used in some places for the small marks and moles for the larger. The white marks on the nails are even sometimes called freckles. A difference is also made between the freckles that some people have when they are born, heredity or because they have very white skin and those that anyone may get from exposure to the sun or for other reasons. In some places (Allo, Goizueta-N), freckles, particularly small ones, are not popularly considered as a disease, but large ones are.
In the 1930s, R. M. de Azkue collected adages and beliefs related to moles. Thus, it was claimed in certain places of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Navarra that a person without moles, orainak, was a witch, and in the fishing village of Lekeitio (B), there was the saying “oraiña daukana ezta sorgiña” (she who has moles is not a witch). In Donibane-Garazi (BN), it was said that if the mole, sor-señalea, was in a place that could not be seen, that person would be wealthy and in Barkoxe (Z), that if the mole was on the right side, it was a good signal, but a bad one if it was on the left.
Children were told that a freckle would appear on their nails for every lie they told (Apodaca-A). According to a person surveyed there, the children would have to carry as many pebbles as freckles on the nails and, after three days, to put them away in order to remove the freckles.
Hair and nails
Beliefs and names
The idea that once someone had begun to go bald, it could not be stopped was quite widespread, even though cures were mentioned in the surveys to stop it from spreading or at least slow the baldness down. As they say in Goizueta (N), “soila, soila geratzen da betiko” (he who is bald is so for life). Many of the people surveyed joked that covering one’s head with a beret, hat or wig is the only solution for baldness and in Moreda (A) it is said that bald people's heads are not as cold as those with loads of hair. In Beasain (G) and Tiebas (N), an ironic adage is that if hair could be revived, “the rich would not bald”. It was also noted that there are more cases of male than female baldness and in some locations, it was claimed that there were fewer bald people in the past than today.
Azkue found the following names for nails in Basque: atzazalak (B), azkazalak (G), azazkalak (BN) and azüzkülüak (Z). In Baztan (N) and in Oiartzun (G), as that same author noted at the start of the 20th century, there was the belief that Adam and Eve, before the original sin, wore garments made of fingernails, azkazalak. After they sinned and as a reminder of their previous state, we have, as legend has it, those tips to the fingers and toes, eriak, as the fingernails are remains of the original garments. The same belief was reported in our current survey of Carranza (B) where we were told that before Eve sinned with Adam as the result of the apple, their whole bodies were covered with the same material as nails instead of clothes. When they sinned, God punished them and left them naked, and he just left the nails at the tips of their fingers and toes as reminders of what our first garment had been.
In the surveyed locations, sweating in general is seen to be a good thing, as shown by the adage collected in Zerain (G) “izardia osasuna beti” (sweating is a sign of health). More specifically, the people interviewed referred to foot sweating as something beneficial as it eliminates toxins from the body. Preventing foot sweating is thought “not to end well” (Murchante-N). The concern is when there is excessive sweating and, particularly, when the smell is unpleasant.
In Eugi (N), they say that whether a person sweats a great deal or little is how they were born and sweating, izerdi egitea, is good to clean the blood. The problem lies when the excess sweating smells bad, urrin gaiztoa. Something similar was noted in Nabarniz (B) where they said that it is healthy to sweat, but the problem comes from the stench, atsitasuna. In Telleriarte (G), they believe that being someone who tends to sweat, izarbera, is something to do with blood, some are sweat a great deal, izarkorrak, while the opposite occurs in other cases. In Orozko (B), they explained even though sweating a great deal may be down to working excessively, people also sweat if they are weak.
- Resurrección Mª de AZKUE. Euskalerriaren Yakintza. Madrid: 1935, p. 82.