Moura Encantada and Mari

The southernmost Atlantean provinces (NW Spain, Portugal, the Basque Country and former Aquitania as well as part of Occitania) have a history and folklore rich in the traditions of the Atlantean Religion, and remember the Goddess in folk tradition as the ‘Moura Encantada’ in Portugal, Gallicia and Asturia, and as ‘Mari’ in the Basque Country. The Basques were late nominal converts to Christianity, probably being changed during the 10th and 11th centuries – the same time as the Scandinavians.

The Moura is remembered as the most prominent member of a race of ‘Mouros’ – equivalent to the fairy folk of the northern Atlanteans, said to inhabit the old Castros, barrows and megalithic structures of the region, as well as being associated with caves and springs – typical sites of veneration for pagans. She (Moura) is often portrayed as a frighteningly seductive fairy, who like her northern European counterparts is able to shape-shift. She is sometimes portrayed as being trapped in her haunts by a spell, and beseeches humans to free her in return for promises of treasure etc. She might sometimes show herself as a serpent, a horse, a goat or as a cat or dog. Traditional activities of the Moura include those also typical of (fairy) women in the northern Atlantean provinces – brushing her lovely hair, spinning and washing in particular. Although usually appearing as a young woman, some older tales portray her as elderly. In short, she has all of the attributes of an Irish, Scots, Welsh, Breton or Manx fairy woman and can be considered as representative of an identical idea – the Goddess.

In a 1998 paper, Gallician scholar Fernando Alonso Romero (University of Santiago de Compostella) wrote an account of the Moura (sometimes also called Orcabella at Fisterra) and her activities. He noted that local legends generally suggested that Dolmens and Standing stones as well as landscape features were deposited by the Moura, suggesting she was analogous to the Cailleach in Ireland,  Mann and Scotland as well as legendary giants of the atlantic coasts of France and England/Wales. Romero also noted that as well as carrying stones on their heads, Mouras (?Moirae?) carried a distaff for spinning – redolent of the Isle of Man’s mountainous ‘Red Woman’ (Ben Jiarg).  Sites Romero mentions include: Arca de Ogas, the Casa de Vella Troiriz, Casia de Arquela and Casa da Moura among others.

Mari, in the Basque country, is a similar character more often associated with particular caves and is said to travel periodically between different abodes in these caves in the mountains, for example between Anboto and Oiz. She is believed (like Manannan in the Isle of Man) to be responsible for weather phenomena. Like the Moura, she is sometimes linked to a tribe of beings whose collective name seems derived from hers – the Mairu – a name usually used in reference to the Lamia or Laminak*. Unlike Moura, she is sometimes associated in legend with a masculine consort figure or aspect – known s Sugaar or Maju, who has snake/dragon connotations. In this regard she shares legendary characteristics typical of ‘giants’ in other Atlantean districts – mountainous, cave-dwelling and chthonic, a controller of the weather, and often paired with a partner. In spite of this, she is still a representation of the Goddess – the form of her legends is simply typical of the geography and geology of the landscape where her tales were told. Although considered a separate entity to the other magical female species of the Basque country – the *Laminak – it is worth noting that Laminak bear a more specific resemblance to the Portuguese and Gallician Moura. They are considered more of a plural species, whereas ‘Mari’ is considered a more singular deity or ‘legendary place-holder’, but are probably representations of the same Goddess.


3 thoughts on “Moura Encantada and Mari

  1. The Fomorians of goidelic tradition were actually called the Fomoire which suggests that they were the underlings of Moire, the local name of this pagan Mary. Reading between the lines they appear to have been original inhabitants as according to Irish sources they ‘lived by fish and fowl’ (or were hunter-gatherers) and do not seem to have spoken the ‘Scotic’ language. All later colonists in these traditions (Partholon, Nemed, Fir Bolg, Tuatha De Danann, and Gaels) are descended from a common ancestor and have speech in common. The earlier colonists under Cessair are not included in this lineage and there is some evidence that they were identical with the Fomoire before Christian scribes decided that they could not have survived the Flood from which only Noah and his family had escaped.

    • The Manx word for a ‘giant’ is ‘Foawr’ which some have suggested relates to ‘Fomoire’ (the ‘m’ becomes ‘w’), although the Welsh word for ‘big’ is ‘Fawr’. Still, Fionn himself is portrayed in folklore as being a giant, as is Bran in the Mabinogion tales – there is a widespread idea of the ancestors having greater stature that emanates from the ancient world. Old ‘Mother Mary’ (or Berry, or Beara) herself who dropped all of those rocks from her apron to make hills, and whose feet left such deep hollows in the landscape fits this grand stature too – back in ancestral time when mankind and the land were one!

    • …Not to mention that Aine (Danaan) and Moire may be one and the same goddess! Having read quite a few medieval Irish legends and studied the folk traditions, I think the ‘semi-divine ancestors’ are a ‘lost children’ tradition from which we see characters like the ‘Children of Lir’ and the descendants of characters like ‘Cessair’ – these take on a half-human, half-‘nature’/animal aspect.

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