Mythological Creature Archive

Mythical Creature, ‘Aatxe or Etsai,’ an ancient Basque (Spanish and French) shapeshifting bull spirit with writing prompt


  • According to Wikipedia, Aatxe ([a.atʃe]) is a spirit in the folk mythology of the Basque people. His name is literally translated as “Young Bull”, and he is sometimes known as Etsai.[1] He is a cave-dwelling spirit who adopts the form of a young red bull, but being a shapeshifter, sometimes takes the shape of a man.[2] At night, more so in stormy weather, he arises from the hollow which is his lair. He attacks criminals and other malevolent people. He also protects people by making them stay home when danger is near.

He is theorized to be a representative of the goddess Mari, or may be an enforcer of her will, punishing people who cheat her. According to, Mari is the most important deity in Basque Mythology and she leads or guides the rest of the deities. She is the female personification of the earth and is a vestige of the earth-based myths worshiped by the matriarchal communities before the arrival of the celestial gods/ goddesses.

She is the queen of Nature and of all its elements. It is clear that Mari was already worshiped as a goddess by the ancient Basque before the arrival of Christianity. Considering her features, it appears that she could be linked to some other goddesses of the Old European Mythology.

  • Another name for Aaxte  is Aatxegorri which means “young red bull”. It is believed Aatxe inhabited caves and hollows; in many (IsturitsSareErrenteria, among others) engravings and paintings depicting aurochs, bulls, and oxen have been found; which implies that this Basque myth has its origins in the Paleolithic.[3]Aatxe is used as the name of horned shadow monsters in the Guild Wars franchise.
  • On 12 December 2014, Aatxes were added to the popular smartphone game Disco Zoo.
  • In the upcoming webcomic “Sparrow,” one of the main characters, called the Red Horn, is an Aatxe.
  • In the 1982 film The Last Unicorn, a monster called The Red Bull appears to have many similarities to the Aatxe. Such similarities include dwelling in a cave, and only emerging from his lair at night. He is also described as a ghost by the character Prince Lir.


  • There was a tapas restaurant in San Francisco called Aatxe  but it is closed for remodeling.


Writing prompt:

If Aaxte is the masculine representation of mother earth and of Mari, why does he materialize as a bull? The bull sometimes in other mythology symbolizes passion, transformation, virility, strength and fulfillment. It’s unclear specifically if he is an evil spirit, like it mentions in the video pasted below, or if he is a kind, loving spirit- but he does punish. Your writing prompt is:

You are walking in the woods and come upon a cave. You stop to explore and happen upon a red bull who shapeshifts into a man. He tells you his feelings about the state of the world from an environmental standpoint, you happen to work for the EPA or the European equivalent . You fall in love and take on his cause as your own. He isn’t a malevolent spirit, he is anything but…

If you find this article fun and interesting and you decide to expand on this story -let me know how this story continues in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!



7 thoughts on “Mythical Creature, ‘Aatxe or Etsai,’ an ancient Basque (Spanish and French) shapeshifting bull spirit with writing prompt”

  1. Interesting post. 🙂 A Bull associated with thunder suggests a version of Zeus. Like Zeus, Aatxe is a shape changing Trickster. The bull symbol travels far, first red for the underworld, and then white from from the sky. Symbol links volcanic forces with the lightning storm, causes of volcanic lightning only recently explained by science – early cultures may have observed the phenomena and recorded it in their folktales & myths.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this! Thank you for this info, are you a historian of some sort? I ask this without having looked at your work yet :)! Either way, seems we have similar interests!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many thanks. I’m a retired secondary school teacher. Teaching areas included English, Sp.Ed., Reading-literacy,and Media Literacy-Media Studies.
        I have 3 blogs. The first was Media Literacy, the second was photography with some creative writing. The Implied Spaces blog has become the main blog. It emphasizes related ideas of implied space and deconstruction of communication & media. Included are tagged areas of steampunk, faerie tales, folklore, and what I call broken folklore.
        My interests in fantasy crept into my photo blog. Link for related posts:
        Sorry for length of response. Found your blog after you retweeted my tweet about Canadian artists reinterpreting Alice. Once again, many thanks for the interest in blogs & tweet.


      2. I just replied on your Phantasmagoria blog! I really liked the Canadian artists reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland! ❤️


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