Ritos Funerarios en Vasconia (Funeral Rites in the Basque Country) is an ethnographic research project that was conducted by the Etniker Groups in Euskalerria, and forms part of the Basque Country Ethnographical Atlas, of which Mr. Jose Miguel de Barandiaran is the designer. This Section belongs to Volume X in the Atlas as a whole, and is the third one to be issued. Previous Sections dealing with Household Foodstuffs in the Basque Country and Children's Games in the Basque Country appeared in 1990 and in 1993 respectively.
The research has been carried out within the territory which nowadays forms the Basque Country, lying in an area that stretches from the River Adour in the North, down to the River Ebro in the South. It is governed by two political authorities within the Spanish State (The Basque Autonomous Community and The Community of Navarre), and also includes part of the French Department of the Atlantic Pyrenees. Altogether, it covers an area of 20,531 sq. kms., and its population amounts to 2,937,151 inhabitants (in 1990).
Surveys and field work were carried out in 85 separate towns throughout the provinces of Alava, Biscay, Guipiizcoa, Navarre, Basse-Navarre, Labourd and Soule. The criteria used in selecting towns included the regional diversity of the territory being researched, and of the rural, urban and costal areas where the survey was conducted. The ethnographical questionnaire that was used can be found in the Guia Para una encuesta etnografica (Guide for an Ethnographical Survey, Chapter II, Household Group Uses), and specifically, use is made of questions that relate to funeral rites (Questions I1.238 to 11.272).
Throughout the work, there are descriptions of the routines that go to make up the funeral ritual. Firstly, there are those that take place in the deceased person's home: distress, administration of the Holy Sacraments, the announcement of death, shrouding the body, and of course, the wake. Following this are the rites that accompany the conveyance of the coffin to the church: the funeral procession, the people in the funeral procession and their attire, offerings in the cortege, and the celebration of funeral rites.
Several chapters are devoted to describing symbolic sepulchres located within churches, and offerings with candles, bread loaves or coins which are made around them. Developments in burial methods are also described. Then, there are the rites that used to accompany the mourners when returning to the dead person's house, the period of mourning observed by the family, and days devoted to commemorating the dead.
In the section dealing with beliefs, there are details of events that were thought to be an omen of death, and of where people used to believe the soul went after death, and tales about reappearances and stray souls in purgatory.
The two preceding volumes along with this one which covers funeral rites, together with subsequent volumes that will complete the Ethnological Cyclopedia, are all intended to examine the diverse expressions of mankind in the Basque Country. This survey covers the traditional culture of the Basque Country as recorded throughout this century, and the contemporary changes that can be found in that culture.