Carnival in Sardinia

+
“If you want to see a carnival, as there is no other in all the earth, go to Mamoiada, where it begins on the day of St. Anthony, and you will see the herd in wooden masks, the mute and subdued herd, the defeated elders and winning young people, the sad carnival, the carnival of ashes, our everyday history, a joy seasoned with bile and vinegar, the bitter honey.”


Salvatore Cambosu: Miele amaro (Bitter honey)
Just a few days, and Lent sets in. In the last days, however, from Shrove Sunday to Shrove Tuesday, the Carnival reaches its summit. It is celebrated in an especially archaic way in the villages of Sardinia. First and foremost in the secluded mountain region of Barbagia, which is culturally a kind of island in the island. And there, primarily in the village of Mamoiada.

Mamoiada is one of the oldest settlements in Sardinia. Next to it, in the double cave Sa Oche e Su Ventu was excavated one of the island’s oldest – twenty thousand years old – human habitation, and the huge rock-cut tombs under the village have been in use since the 6th millennium BC. In the Middle Ages, the remote and inaccessible mountain region could not be really achieved by the Catholic Church: in contrast to the rest of Sardinia, no monastic community has settled next to the village, and its only church was the small shepherd church of St. Cosmas and Damian, far from the settlement. This may also explain the survival of those very ancient carnival and spring-greeting fertility rites, which thousands of years ago were common throughout the Mediterranean, but today their remains are to be found mainly in the mountain villages of the Balkans.


The Carnival of Mamoiada begins on the night of 16 January, the feast of St. Anthony, when fires are lit and masquerade processions organized across the whole Mediterranean. The two types of the Mamoiada processions are the mamuthones and the issohadores. The former, who symbolize some kind of ancient animal or natural force, wear black sheep skin dress, black wooden mask and black cloth, and carry on their back twenty to thirty kilos of copper bells – “sa carriga” – with bone tongues, which accompany with a ghostly roar their slow, rhythmic procession. The latter follow them in red-white Renaissance – or as they say here, “Turkish” – dress, mostly in white masks, with lasso in the hand, with which they try to pull the viewers into the march. The procession ends at the bonfire lit on the main square of the town, where all the participants and spectators are offered a traditional Sardinian plate of beans with bacon, and the whole village is united in a Sardinian round dance – ballu tundu – around the fire.

Today we travel to the Carnival. Now we can illustrate this short report only with the pictures of the booklet of the Mask Museum of Mamoiada. On the evening of Shrove Tuesday we can hopefully publish our own photos on the feast.



Tenores di Bitti: Ballate a ballu tundu (Round dance). From the album Ammentos (1996)

mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1 mamoiada1