The Mamuthones

Une des fêtes les plus célèbres et les plus anciennes de Sardinia est la fête des Mamuthones à Mamoïada, village au cœur de la Barbagia dans la province de Nuoro. Ce défilé a été plusieurs fois étudié, notamment par Raffaello Marchi. On y retrouve un rite agraire et pastoral dans sa simplicité originel qui évoque le culte des forces chtoniennes créatrices de la nature directement issu de la vie des proto Sardinians.

Mamuthones feast

Mamuthones Festival

The Mamuthones are dressed in a curious outfit consisting of white pants, knee socks, a sort of short skirt, a red corselet over a shirt and a skin vest worn with the hair on the side. outside called mastruca, they are wearing a black berritta held up by a scarf tied on the chin.

Sur le dos et au cou ils portent des grelots (sa garriga). Leur visage est couvert d’un masque noir en bois (sa bisera). On retrouve des masques de mêmes inspiration dans quelques autres villages sardes notamment à Ottana (merdules, masque de bovins) mais aussi dans d’autres régions (Sicile, Greece, Trace, Istria, Slovénie, Alpes, Pyrénées, etc.) et dans d’autres continents.

The Mamuthones parade in a slow dance step, ringing the bells in rhythm. They are flanked by the Issocadores who wear a sort of cap with ribbons, large baggy blue pants, a white shirt and a red waistcoat, sometimes a shawl tied at the waist, they do not wear bells, masks or mastruca.

They hold in their hands a sort of whip or whip or lasso (soca) which they throw in the audience so as to catch friends, children, young girls, etc. shouting satirical jokes. If the person is taken it will be an auspicious sign.

On the occasion of the feast of Saint Anthony, patron and protector of peasants and shepherds, on January 17, the procession leaves in groups of 12 mamuthones accompanied by 8 issocadorres. Once again they return to the streets of this agricultural town on the last Sunday of Carnival and for Mardi Gras.

The word Mamuthones can be compared to other words from Barbagia:

  • Maimone: demon, bacchic idol of the Carnival who dies on Mardi Gras,
  • Mamucone, mountainous area near Mamoïada,
  • Mamudine: place where there are caves guarded by spirits,
  • Mamujone: name of a source from which the name of Mamoïada is derived.

This pagan holiday is very old and it is given different meanings.
The victory of the inhabitants of the interior against the Saracen invaders, taken prisoner and led in procession to become slaves of the shepherds.

Or, it could be traced back to a ritual of Nuraghi civilization in honor of a pastoral agricultural god.
Or, to a rite of placing under the yoke of the ox.

Other interpretations link this festival to Dionysian fertility rituals as in other Mediterranean civilizations.

There are those who see in the mask of the Mamuthones the effigy of a demonic spirit.