The Spoon Bearers of Cantabria
Story | Listen Now (20 min)
Good morning friends. This Sunday I would like to tell you a story. Like many of my stories, this one was sparked by a dream. Only this time, it wasn’t my dream. During one of the many winter nights of the 2020 lockdown, I sat by the fire with my father. That night, he told me about a historical fiction he was reading on the Cantabrian peoples of Northern Spain called El Ultimo Soldurio, the Last Soldurius - Soldurius is Latin for a warrior, soldier or chieftain. Over a bottle of wine, he told me about the Cantabrians, the peoples of pre-Roman Spain who we are descended from. Most of all, he was excited to tell me what he had discovered about the women. In the book, he learned that the spiritual leaders of the Cantabrians were women. They were what we would now call shamans. And their lineage passed down within the family from grandmother to daughter. They were an animistic peoples, and their gods were of the natural world. We don’t know much about their pantheon. But we do know that they particularly venerated the yew tree, known in Spanish as the tejo. This tree had a poisonous sap that was used by warriors and by the female shamans. For the warriors, it assured their freedom. The Cantabrians valued freedom above all else. The warriors would go into battle wearing a necklace that held a glass bottle of this sap. If they were captured by the Romans, they would drink the sap and give themselves to death. In a similar fashion, the female shamans would too, give themselves to death at the end of their lives. When it was time, they would undertake a ceremony to bestow their power on their descendant. And then they would go to the woods, to sit under the yew tree, and drink its sap.