Enchanting Folklore of Iberia: Fairies & Dragons, Oh My!

Posted by

Galician, Asturian, and Portuguese fairy tales include fascinating supernatural beings called “Moura Encantada” or “Enchanted Moura.” According to folkloric legends, the mouros are a race of supernatural beings which inhabited the lands of Galicia, Asturias, and Portugal since the beginning of time.

This race of beings was forced to live underground and are said to be seen by people in the surroundings of long burrows. Allegedly, the mouros work with silver, gold, and gem stones which provides them enormous treasures that are protected by what is known as Cuelebres, or a giant-winged serpent dragon.

Dragons  & Fairies

The Cuelebre or Culebre live in caves guarding treasures. Folk legends claim they keep Anjanas (also known as Xanas) imprisoned.

Cuelebre

El Cuélebre. Woodcarving by Lise. 

Anjanas/Xanas are one of the best-known fairies from Cantabrian and Asturian mythology. These female fairy creatures foil the ruthless and cruel cyclops called Ojancanu. In most stories, the Anjanas are good fairies which are generous and protective of all people. The Anjanas are similar to the Lamias in Greek mythology.

These fairies are described as beautiful and delicate, half a foot tall, with white skin, a sweet voice, blue eyes, and either golden or red hair. Some are likened to a nightingale when they are happy.

The Anjana fairies are said to be seen walking through the forest, resting on banks of springs. They are often recognized as supernatural beings that are connected to water. They enjoy helping animals and trees damaged by the cyclops Ojancana. If found wondering around villages they will leave gifts at the doors of those who are helpful and kind. Traditions state that at night during the spring equinox they gather and dance until dawn holding hands and scattering roses.

There’s only one way to win the heart and to marry the Anjana fairy, however. In midsummer, which is a magical night in Asturian and Cantabrian folklore, brave men can defeat the giant-winged serpent dragon, the Cuelebre, because his spells are not in effect that night. If the dragon is defeated by the lucky man, he gets the girl and the treasure.

The Mouros

The Cuelebres, or dragon, protects this race of supernatural beings. Sometimes they appear as giants or warriors, which includes the legends of the Moura Encantada and the legend of the mourinhos or maruxinhos, a very small elf-like people who live underground.

Supposedly, the Mouros dwell in Mount Pindo (Galician Monte Pindo.) Located in Galicia, Spain, it’s composed of granite and holds a significant mythological importance. Several legends are related to Celts which occupied the area in ancient times. The caves in the area are where the supernatural Mouros live.

The term Pindo has its origin in the Celtic language. Binn dubh (Mt. dark, dark top). Binn (Irish Gaelic) or Beinn (Gaelic) (literally tip or apex) and Dubh (adjective to describe something dark). Binn Dubh (Pindub) amounts to Pindo.

Castelo_de_San_Xurxo,_O_Pindo,_Galicia

Mount Pindo, Galicia, Spain.

Enchanted Moura (Moura Encantada)

Beautiful and alluring, the Enchanted Mouras live under a spell. They are said to occupy liminal spaces and are builders with stone of formidable strength.

They will appear to you singing like nightingales and combing their gorgeous long hair, either golden as the sun or red as fire. If you’re lucky, they will promise you treasures if you are able to set them free by breaking the spell.

According to folklore, the Enchanted Moura are the souls of young maidens who were left guarding treasures that the males (mouros) had before heading to Mourama.

mouraThe fairy tales featuring the Mouras Encantadas are of Celtic origin. They are related to other female divinities of water. Almost every Portuguese or Galician town has a tale about them.

Like the Mairu of Basque mythology built dolmens, the Mouras are also builders of ancient monuments. Mouras Encantadas were believed to be the builders of paleolithic hill forts, the dolmens, and the megaliths. They are believed to also live there.

The Mouras are also keepers of gold which may appear in many forms, such as figs, coal, skirts, hank of yarn, animals or tools. One may gain access to this gold in several ways. One may be rewarded this gift by a Moura or it may simply be found or stolen.

St. John’s Day

Christian adaptation of this mythological folklore is present in the celebration of St. John’s Day. On this day, it’s believed that the Mouras appear with their treasures and you may break their enchantment. In some legends it’s on St. John’s Day that the Moura Encantada spreads figs or a hank of yarn on a large rock, in the moonlight or under the sunlight. It’s likely this legend is related to the popular tradition of, in some regions, of harvesting the “figo lampo” (a type of white fig that was offered as a gift on St. John’s Day). This day marks the summer solstice, just as in pre-Christian times.

Megaliths & Legends

800px-Pedra_Formosa_Briteiros

The Pedra Formosa found on the ancient archeological site, Citania de Briteiros, was, according to folklore, brought to this place by a Moura who carried it on her head while she was spinning with a spindle.

The Citania de Briteiros is an ancient archeological site of what is known as the Castro culture. It’s located in the Portuguese civil parish of Briteiros Sao Salvador e Briteiros Santa Leocadia. It’s one of the most excavated sites in northwestern Iberian Peninsula.

The Castro inhabitants were Celtic. Approximately half of the pre-Latin toponyms of Gallaecia were Celtic. Sometime in the first century CE, the settlement was raided and occupied by the Romans. Expansion of the Roman Empire into the area has left evidence in the oppidum (hill forts) in the form of coins (those of Augustus and Tiberius are the most numerous found).

Forcadas_2

Rock-cut tombs called Masseira, is the place where the mouras knead bread.

Anta_Cerqueira_em_Couto_Esteves_06

Casa de Moura (house of the moura).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Citânia de Briteiros, showing house ruins and stone paving.

Casa_cividade_terroso

A family nucleus from cividade de Terroso.

800px-Selection_of_carvings_from_the_Castro_de_Santa_Trega

A selection of motifs and carvings from the oppida region of Galicia.

Casco_Leiro

Late Bronze Age golden helmet from Leiro (Galicia).

Torques_cangas_de_onis

Celtic torcs from Asturias.

Arracadas_do__Tesouro_Bedoya_,_expostas_no_Museo_de_Pontevedra.

 Castro style pendant earrings from the “Tesouro Bedoya,” found near Galicia.

Espadas_de_Antenas

Bronze swords (Galicia), Celtic Castro Culture. 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s