The Witch’s Hut, history or legend?

In the town of Elvillar, in Araba, there is a megalithic burial monument that fluctuates between history and legend. It’s better known as the Witch’s Hut (Sorginaren Txabola in Basque), and it’s one of the most remarkable dolmens in the Basque Country. In the last centuries, the north has had a strong presence of witches, and this monument is closely related to the cultural phenomenon of witchcraft in this territory. Even if we ignore the fairytales surrounding this mystical place, we’ll be amazed at the good state of the ancient monument.


A dolmen and a tree

The Witch’s Hut. | Shutterstock

The stem of the dolmen consists of three stones disposed vertically, holding a flat capstone in horizontal position. There is every indication that this monument was built to accommodate the remains of the dead. It was discovered in 1935, and we can observe that it has different sections. The burial chamber consists of nine slabs, and there are five more forming a passage.

During the excavation works conducted in the las century, archaeologists found there several ancient items, along with human remains. Some of them, like axes and pottery shards, allowed them to determine that the monument belongs to the time period between the Chalcolithic, about 5000 years ago, and the Bronze Age, about 3000 years ago.

…and legend

The sun setting behind a dolmen

The Witch’s Hut. | Shutterstock

The studies carried out by Jose Miguel Barandiaran Aierbe, a Basque researcher whose works mainly focused on the folklore of the Basque Country, let us explore a couple of interesting details here. For example, the origin of the monument’s name. It seems like it was given that name because, every year early in the morning of Saint John’s Eve, the inhabitants of Elvillar hear a chant coming from this spot. However, when they get closer looking for the singer, they find that there’s no one there. Legend has it that, in times of the Inquisition, this dolmen was used by a coven of witches to perform their akelarre rituals —the connection here seems clear.

To this day, the inhabitants of Elvillar still commemorate the legend every 14th of August by staging a dramatization of the witches’ sabbath. Not long ago, this act was held in the very dolmen, but Elvillar’s council decided to move it to the town’s square to make it easier to access. It might have lost the magic of the original landscape, but it’s still an enchanting sight.

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