Creepy Creatures and Myths #3: The Aatxe: Fiery, Shapeshifting Bull of Basque Mythology

by Wade Wainio 4 months ago in urban legend

Some Mythic Creatures are Bad-ass

Creepy Creatures and Myths #3: The Aatxe: Fiery, Shapeshifting Bull of Basque Mythology
Ultimate source unknown, but apparently a representation of the Aatxe

The Aatxe [pronounced AH-ah-cheh] is a "Young Bull" spirit in Basque mythology. Although commonly known for adopting the form of a fiery red bull, the Aatxe is a shape shifter that has taken additional forms, such as a dragon or even a man. The mythological creature is said to inhabit caves or hollows. Although it is said to stalk the earth, dragon mythology lends itself to imagining the Aatxe flying. Also, because of its shape shifting ability, one freely wonders if the Aatxe truly has a gender identity in any strict sense. Then again, so much of about mythic creatures will tend to go unexplained, which is why the public imagination fills in the gaps.

A common element to the legend is that Aatxe enforces the moral will of Basque goddess Mari, charging after evildoers (or common criminals) who offend her. It's also commonly stated that the Aatxe is a protector of people, alerting them to moments where it's safer at home. Frankly, this reminds me of a combination of things, like a living tornado siren mixed with a Santa Clause-like moral guardian, all with shape shifting skills.

Still, no matter how often I venture into the joy of myth, I'm left with that nagging question: Why? Why did this particular myth come about? Is there some moral lesson to it, such as trying to preserve the innocence of young people? It seems there's [italics]something people are trying to preserve here. It seems likely that the "Young Bull" stems from Basque prehistory, but there's a curious piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing: Did people seriously believe in the Aatxe?

Did People Worship the Bull or Call It "Bullshit"?

A cursory glimpse into the myth of Mari, the goddess of the Basques. definitely suggests that people believed in her. Therefore, it's hardly a stretch to assume some genuinely believed in myths associated with her. Does this mean anyone cried "It's the Aatxe! Run!," or went around thoroughly searching for it like some cryptid? I understand that belief is a very strange thing. In this case, anyone who genuinely revered Mari and the Aatxe might have feared it. After all, a fiery bull that hunts criminals sounds about ten times fiercer than the average human.

To me, this helps cement my assumption that, indeed, this was all a manmade story. It's a bad-ass sounding creature. Look at the elements here. Again, it's a lapdog (or, in this case, a lap bull) for a goddess. The creature is a guardian spirit. It can punish evil people, helping relatively good people by warning them of imminent danger. This all sounds like an epic story. Does it seem these were the superheroes of their time?

Expect To See More of The Aatxe

The Aatxe does have a slight foothold in pop culture, appearing in the Guild Wars video game franchise and the smartphone game, Disco Zoo. That's probably not the last we've heard of this mythical beast, or Mari, in pop culture. Though it's ostensibly a heroic figure, it seems like the Aatxe could morph into the villain of any number of theatrical films.

Or, of course, there could be a serial killer story with a killer calling himself (or herself) the Aatxe, with the good guys working to solve the murders and reveal the true identity of the main villain. There could be some iconic action sequences, or maybe it would just end up as some random trash film, available for free to stream or via Amazon Prime Video. This myth is fascinating in the general sense, even without being very immersed in its history.

urban legend
Wade Wainio
Wade Wainio
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Wade Wainio

Wade Wainio writes stuff for Show Snob, Undead Walking,, Vents Magazine and Haunted MTL. He is also an artist, musician and college radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton.

See all posts by Wade Wainio