Surprising sightings of the lauburu


A classic representation of the lauburu, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of you reading this will be familiar with the lauburu (literally meaning “four heads” but a term that could also be interpreted as four ends or tips) and its special significance in Basque culture. Its origins are a matter of some dispute (see the Wikipedia article here) and it is clearly not particular to the Basque Country alone, with similar symbols found all over the world and an especially strong connection to Celtic culture . Yet it has an undeniable resonance in Basque culture today. Check out, for example, just how many people like the lauburu enough to get a tattoo of it here in the photo album at Buber’s Basque Page.

What you may not know, though, is that a lauburu appears in a painting by Francisco Goya (1746-1828), who was of Basque ancestry on his father’s side. The painting in question is “Retrato de la Marquesa de Santa Cruz” (1805).


“Retrato de la Marquesa de Santa Cruz” (1805) by Francisco Goya, via Wikimedia Commons.

Even more unusual–or perhaps not–is a petroglyph or rock engraving on Woodhouse Crag, Ikley Moor, in West Yorkshire, England, which seems to resemble a lauburu. Also the cause of much speculation, as this Wikipedia article notes here, we’ll leave it up to you to be judge.



“Ilkley Moor Swastika Stone” by T.J. Blackwell – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Do you know of any other unlikely or unusual sightings of the lauburu?

Santiago de Pablo, author of the CBS publication The Basque Nation On-Screen: Cinema, Nationalism, and Political Violence,  has an interesting article (in Spanish) on the cultural and political significance of the lauburu, available free to download here.

The lauburu is also discussed in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre:  Their History and Their Traditions, by Philippe Veyrin, with an introduction by Sandra Ott.  Veyrin actually describes the lauburu, rather poetically, as a “Basque rose.”




  1. Can you tell me where I can find the meaning of other basque symbols aside from the lauburu?

    • katu

      January 12, 2016 at 12:05 am

      Hi Nate,
      If you mean graphic symbols then for the most part, images of the sun and moon are probably the most typical symbols associated with Basque culture. After the lauburu, perhaps the most prevalent Basque symbol is that of the sunflower (eguzkilore or ekilore in Basque), which can been seen all over the Basque Country on tombstones, the front doors of people’s homes, and even carved into church seats. The book by Xamar, Orhipean: The Country of Basque (published by Pamiela), discusses some of these symbols, and there are some interesting graphic representations here of Basque symbols through various tattoos that people have sent in to Buber’s Basque Page.
      There are other kinds of symbols of course: the Basque flag (ikurriña), the traditional Basque farmstead or baserri, and so on, not to mention obvious things like the Basque language. For a great introduction you can download the CBS book Basque Culture for free here.
      Thanks for your interest!

  2. Found in many Grave yards in counties Donegal, Sligo and Clare in west Ireland. Most carved in the early 1800s. A lot of people comment on the similarities between the Irish and the basque people. Easy to imagine sea trade between the two areas, did the Basque sailors leave us with this symbol

    • katu

      November 4, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      Many thanks for your response,
      Would it be possible to access/post some images of these? If they date from the early 1800s then this is clearly in the modern era, but the question is, on whose graves do they appear? Those of Irish people? What names accompany these symbols? It could be that these are Celtic variants of the Basque lauburu. Whatever the case, this is really interesting information.
      Thank you

1 Pingback

  1. More lauburu sightings…in the Yucatán, Mexico (and some thoughts on the Basque presence in Latin America) |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.