Agote


Agote

The Agotes or Cagots were a discriminated minority in the Navarrese Pyrenees, Basque provinces, Bearn, Gascony and also Brittany. They have been also known by other names: Cagots, Gahets, Gafets in France; Agotes, Gafos in Spain; and Cacons, Cahets, Caqueux and Caquins in Brittany.

The earliest mention of them is in the year 1288, when they appear to have been called "Chretiens" or "Christianos."1911|article=Cagots] Graham Robb in his book "The Discovery of France" said that the Cagots could be found throughout the west of the country as far back as AD 1000. [Graham Robb, "The Discovery of France," W. W. Norton, 2007, ISBN 0393059731. Page number]

During the Middle Ages they were popularly looked upon as cretins, lepers, heretics and even as cannibals. They were shunned and hated; were allotted separate quarters in towns, called cagoteries, and lived in wretched huts in the country distinct from the villages. Excluded from all political and social rights, they were only allowed to enter a church by a special door, and during the service a rail separated them from the other worshippers. Either they were altogether forbidden to partake of the sacrament, or the Eucharist was handed to them on the end of a stick, while a receptacle for holy water was reserved for their exclusive use. They were compelled to wear a distinctive dress, to which, in some places, was attached the foot of a goose or duck (whence they were sometimes called Canards). And so pestilential was their touch considered that it was a crime for them to walk the common road barefooted. The only trades allowed them were those of butcher and carpenter, and their ordinary occupation was wood-cutting. [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-last-untouchable-in-europe-878705.html Sean Thomas, "The Last Untouchable in Europe," The Independent, London, July 28, 2008, p. 20] ]

The origin of Agotes

The origin of the term "Agotes" (or "Cagots") is uncertain. It has been suggested that they were descendants of the Visigoths, and the name Cagot derives the name from "caas" (dog) and "Goth." Yet in opposition to this etymology is the fact that the word "cagot" is first found in this form no earlier than the year 1551. French historian Pierre de Marca (16th century), in his "Histoire de Béarn," maintains that the word signifies "hunters of the Goths," and that the Cagots were descendants of the Saracens. The theory that the Agotes were "descendants of Moorish soldiers left over from the 8th century Muslim invasion of Spain and France," a 2008 article in The Independent states, "is supported by many French experts." Others made them descendants of the Albigenses or even of the Vikings [Joël Supéry, "Le Secret des Vikings"] .

Another possible explanation of their name "Chretiens" or "Christianos" is to be found in the fact that in medieval times all lepers were known as "pauperes Christi," and that, whether Visigoths or not, these Cagots were affected in the Middle Ages with a particular form of leprosy or a condition resembling it, such as psoriasis. Thus would arise the confusion between Christians and Cretins.

In an article from the Catholic Encyclopedia in a paragraph under the heading of "Holy Water Fonts," is found a passage relating to the Agotes or Cagots: "In the churches of the Pyrenees are still to be seen fonts which, of old, were reserved for the use of the despised race of Cagots, while the general horror which lepers inspired, and the care with which all contact with them was avoided, sufficiently explains the existence of a special font for them at Saint-Savin, Hautes-Pyrénées (Gascony) and at Milhac de Noutron, Dordogne (Aquitaine)." [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07433a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: "Holy Water Fonts"] ]

It was not until the French Revolution in the year 1793 that steps were taken to ameliorate their lot. Today the Agotes no longer form a separate social class and have been practically lost sight of in the general population.

ee also

*cleanliness of blood
*Untouchables
*vaqueiros de alzada
*Burakumin

References

*Catholic

Further reading

* [http://www.euskomedia.org/aunamendi/10045 Agote (Etnología e Historia)] Es icon
* [http://www.iheu.org/node/2451 International Humanist and Ethical Union - "The Cagots of Béarn: The Pariahs of France"] Retrieved July 9, 2008.
* [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-last-untouchable-in-europe-878705.html Sean Thomas, "The Last Untouchable in Europe," The Independent, July 28, 2008, p. 20]


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