Sorginak in Combarro

We walk down narrow, pedestrian-only lanes through the old stone fishing village of Combarro, in the Pontevedro area of Galicia. Walk backwards in time to the 1700’s. Witches. Life size witches. Many of them. At restaurant entrances. Groups of them congregate outside shops.  What can this mean? Especially in such a catholic dominated country where pilgrims walk for days or weeks on the Camino de Santiago. This town, unlike others doesn’t have only one central stone cross (cruceiro), but has eight elongated stone crosses, and there are many cruceiro on the old granite buildings, with their stone balconies. Even the ‘horreos’ or stone granaries on stilts, in which crops and dried fish are stored, have cruceiro to ward off evil spirits. And yet, what I most remember are the many and varied, interesting witches. They each seem to have their own personality as each is dressed uniquely. There are smaller doll size witches, and even smaller tourist trinket witches. Only on coming home, did I learn that this is known as ‘The Land of Witches’. Witches are known as sorginak (so-rin-yah): assistants of goddess Mari in Basque mythology, a forgotten – even lost – mythology.  Again, travel reminds me that long before Christianity (and in these parts, Catholicism), there was an earth based religion that honored the feminine; and the power of what we think and say, and this became part of the new.  The etymology for sorginak comes from ‘ sor’ or/and ‘sorte’ and implies fortune or ‘to create’. The sorginak are said to have built the local megaliths. They are associated with weather, and these different sized witches are sold in numerous shops, and are said to bring good luck.

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