Human Flower Project
In Basque country, look for a dried thistle tacked by the door.
Flor del sol
In our part of the world, one may approach a house and spot a little shoo-away sign: “No soliciting.” In Basque country, the message is more profound, beautiful too. A dried thistle or eguzkilore (also called flor del sol) may be discreetly hung near the front door. It’s a pre-Christian custom meant to ward off all manner of evil spirits (including, we suppose, some solicitors).
In Basque folklore it was believed that before people got wise to agriculture “uncommonly strong shaggy beings…worked the land.” San Martin “seized the seeds from the lords of the wood,” giving them to the first human farmers, and understandably the spirits of the wild have held a grudge ever since.
Houses, being human refuge, are ever under threat from “sorcerers, lamia (mermaid-resembling creatures with bird’s legs), the spirits of illness, storms and lightening.” The eguzkilore, a bright bristly eye, stares back at all such encroaching spirits and keeps them from daring to pry open a window or even ringing the bell. (The Romantic poets and Pre-Raphaelite painters of England developed a hate-love thing for the Lamia, though it seems the Basques never fell under her spell.)
Photos of eguzkilore are scarce. If any readers are in the Basque region, please keep your eyes open and send us a stronger photograph. And if anyone knows which variety of thistle qualifies as eguzkilore, send word. The bloom looks more like a spiny sunflower than the purple tufted thistles we know (beloved in Scotland, not so well admired by farmers in the Kentucky Bluegrass).