HERIO ‘death’

In general, human death is considered as a natural phenomenon in the popular belief but, sometimes, the influence of a spirit is noticed when leaving this life for the next. Herio is a mythological character who tries to obtain new souls and brings death. The reason for a person’s death can be an evil eye or a curse. When a person is given an evil eye or is cursed, Herio performs his duty and takes that person to the other world. The constant barking of a dog announces Herio’s arrival; it is the sign that someone from that house will die.

According to a legend, there was a charcoal maker from Baztan (Navarre) who was very poor and, nearly, had nothing to eat. He lived in the woods, in a poor hut and went always hungry. One evening, God arrived at his hut, Knocked at the door and asked of shelter. The charcoal maker did not open him the door and send him away because he accused God of making some people very rich and some others very poor unfairly. The next evening, it was Herio who arrived asking for shelter. The charcoal maker opened him the door and shared with him the little he had to eat. He gave him shelter because Herio always behaves the same way with everybody, no matter how poor or rich they are, when the time arrives to take them to another world. The next day, due to the warm welcome he had been given, Herio told the charcoal maker that he would grant him a wish. The charcoal maker asked for a soft bed to rest and food every day. Herio promised him: If you see me at the head of a sick person’s bed, you will be sure that she/he will die; but, if you see me at the foot of the bed, no matter what potion you give her/him, she/he will not die.

A few days later, the charcoal maker knew that the King was sick and that he would give many riches to the person whose treatment may cure him. He went to the palace and said that he could cure the King; as soon as he came into the King’s bedroom, he saw Herio at the foot of the bed. Then, the charcoal maker offered the King a potion made of common plants and he soon got better. The King was so grateful that he appointed him his doctor and adviser, apart from giving him many riches. The former charcoal maker was really happy now but, one beautiful morning, Herio appeared again and told him that he had to take him away.

The charcoal maker got upset and begged Herio not to do it because, after what he had suffered, he could not be treated like that. Herio answered him coldly that he behaved the same way with everybody. He covered him with his dark cloak and took the poor charcoal maker away for ever.