This is a classical: one of the oldest extensive references to Basques. It includes most of the last book of the Codex Calixtinus (a pilgrim guide to St. James Way). Aymeric Picaud is merciless and full of hateful bigotry towards Basques and in fact with all other peoples south of his native Poitou: Santes, Girondines, Gascons, Castilians and even Galicians are all represented as barbaric, greedy, drunkard, irate and prone to banditry. But most of the fifth book (Liber Peregrinationis) is ironically dedicated to Basques (Northern Basques) and Navarrese (Southern Basques).
Later, already close to Pass of Cize [Ibaineta, Roncesvaux pass], we find the Basque Country that has at its coast to the north the city of Bayonne. This land is barbaric for its language, full of forests, mountainous, lacking in bread, wine and all food for the body except the consolation of apples, cider and milk. In this land, near the Pass of Cize, in the town of Ostabat and those of Saint-Jean [Donibane Garazi, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port] and Saint-Michel-Pied-de-Port, there are some villanous pass guards, who are totally condemned because they jump to the way of pilgrims with two or three spears and make them pay forcibly unjust taxes. And if any traveller rejects to pay the deniers he's asked for they pay him with the spears and take them anyhow, insulting him and registering even the pants.
They are ferocious and the land where they dwell is also ferocious, wild and barbarous: the ferocity of their faces, and the grunts of their barbarous language sow terror in the hearts of those who see them. Even if legally they should take taxes only from the traders, they get it unjustly from pilgrims and all travellers. When they must tax anything four or six deniers, they demand eight or twelve, that is: double. (...)
In the Basque Country there is a very high mountain named Pass of Cize, either because that is the gate of Spain [Iberian peninsula] or because through that mountain goods are carried from one land to the other; and its way up has eight miles and its way down eight as well. Its height is such that seems to reach heaven. Those who climb it think they can almost touch heaven with their hands. From its summit the British [English Channel] and Western [Atlantic Ocean or Bay of Biscay] seas can be seen, and the lands of three countries: Castile, Aragon and France. (...)
1. I believe it is just impossible to see the English Channel from anywhere on the Pyrenees, so either Picaud was misled by some legend or he meant as "British Sea", the waters bordering Brittany by the south, i.e. the Bay of Biscay or part of it.
2. The description of the "three countries" implies that this journey was made in the period of the First Partition, when the Kingdom of Pamplona had been briefly divided between Castile and Aragon, that is: in 1076-1134. Probably in the late phase of this partition, as the word Navarre only came to use in that period of Aragonese rule.
In this very mountain, before Christianity grew fully by Spanish lands, the heathen Navarrese and Basques used not just to rob the pilgrims that journeyed to Saint James but also ride them as donkeys and kill them. (...)
After this valley Navarre begins, land considered happy for the bread and wine, the milk and cattle. The Navarrese and the Basques [Northern Basques] are very similar in what refers to food, clothes and language, but Basques are have fairer faces than Navarrese. These wear with short black clothes to the knees, like Scots, and use a type of shoes called albarcas [abarkak], made with uncured hairy leather, tied to the foot with strings, covering only the base of the foot and leaving the rest bare. They wear some black and short clothes long to the elbows and wavy like paenulae, that they call sayas. They eat, drink and wear like pigs; because all the family of a Navarrese home, the lord as the servant, the lady as the maid, usually eat their food mixed from a pot, not with a spoon but with their hands, and drink from a cup. If you saw them eating, you'd think them as dogs or pigs eating, and, if you heard them talking they would remind you the barking of dogs, becasue theyr language is completely barbaric. To God they call Urcia [Urtzi or Ost: an ancient impersonation of the sky with no myths attached]; to God's Mother, Andrea Maria [= Lady Mary]; to bread, orgui [ogi]; to wine, ardum [ardo]; to meat, aragui [haragi]; to the house, echea [etxe]; to the lord of the house, iaona [jauna]; to the lady, andrea; to the church, elicera [eliza, elizara = "to the church"]; to the presbyter, belaterra that means beautiful land [?]; to wheat, gari; to water, uric [ur, urik= partitive declination, used in negative]; to the king, ereguia [erregea]; to Saint James, iaona domne Iacue [jauna done Jakue: the lord St. James].
This is a barbaric people, distinct to all others in uses and way of life, full of evils, dark in color, of scary aspect, depraved, pervert, perfidious, disloyal and false, lusty, drunkard, in all kind of violences skilled, ferocious, wild, evil and reprobate, heathen and rough, brawler, lacking in any virtue and dexterous in all vices and iniquities; similar in evilness to the Getes and Saracens, and enemy of our people Gaulish in all. For just a denier a Basque or a Navarrese kills, if he can, a Frenchman. In some of its regions, specially in Alava and Biscay, the Navarrese man and woman show each other their shameful parts while they get warm. The Navarrese also use of the beasts in impure copulations, because it is said that a Navarrese hangs a lock from the legs of his mule or mare so nobody but himself can approach it. He also kisses lustly the sex of the woman and the mule. For all said the Navarrese have to be censored in all aspects. Nevertheless they are considered good in open battle, bad in assaulting castles, just in the payment of the tithe [religious tax] and asiduous in their offerings to the altars. Because every day, when they go to church, they make an offer to God of either bread, wine or wheat, or some other product. Every time that a Basque or Navarrese goes on journey, he hangs from the neck a horn like do hunters, and carries in his hands, as is customary, two or three spears that they call azconas. When entering or leaving home he whistles like a kite. And, when hidden in some occult place to rob, he wishes to call silently to his mates, he either hoots like an owl or howls like a wolf.
It is said that they descend of the lineage of the Scots because they are similar to them in uses and aspect. It is fame that Julius Caesar sent to Spain, to subdue the Spaniards, who did not want to pay tribute to three peoples: Nubians, Scots and Cornish, commanding them to kill all males and only respect the women. And having them invaded by sea that land, after destroying all their ships, they devastated it with blood and fire from Barcelona to Zaragoza and from the city of Bayonne to Moutains of Oca. They could not trespass those limits because the Castilians [sic] gathered and threw them away from their lands in fight. Fleeing, therefore, they reached the coastal mountains that are between Najera, Pamplona and Bayonne, that is: to the coast in the lands of Biscay and Alava, where they settled and built many fortresses, and they killed all the males and kidnapped the women, with whom they engendered children, who in turn were called Navarrese by their successors. Hence Navarre means not truthful, that is: engendered from not truthful lineage or non-legitimate ascendancy. The Navarrese also take their name primitively from a city called Naddaver, that is in the lands from where the apostle and evangelist Saint Matthew originally came from, in the early times.
Note: Obviously all in this last paragraph is a mere libellous and ahistorical farce but is anyhow interesting to transcribe here because it shows how defamation also worked in the Middle Ages and how many legends may have been created by griots and bards only to please this or that magnate and his particular version of history. This myth seems to have been circulating with enough strength in the time as to cause Picaud to believe it.
The word Navarre is surely Nabarra originally and means "the brownish" (land) and it was in times of this codex a very novel term applied to the short-lived County of Navarre that included part of the lands of modern Navarre. The term surely means the Mediterranean climate area that is not green all year long like the rest of the Basque Country. It is interesting anyhow that it had already become a common word to mean all Southern Basques, even if it was such a new idiom.
It is also interesting the mythical link made with Scots and other Atlantic-Celtic peoples, also in clothing and customs. It seems to me that even before blood groups and then modern genetics noticed some striking biological similitudes, customs and appearance already caused some to imagine some sort of link. There is another myth dating probably to this same Medieval period that tells that the lineage of the Lords of Biscay, instituted by Castile after conquest, originated as God Sugaar (aka Maju) had an affair with a Scottish princess in the fishing village of Mundaka, near the once important harbour of Bermeo. But that's about it in what regards to mythical links between Basques and Scots or any other people.
Whatever the case, it is a funny and sometimes interesting depiction of Basques. While I have skipped the paragraph on Gascons, they are described in very similar terms. The rest of the peoples visited are just barely mentioned but none causes a too favorable impression in Picaud either, except his native folk of Poitou. A bigot.
Source: posted by jeromor at Celtiberia.net (in Spanish).