I’ve always heard about them, these somewhat obscure figures, with black masks that, upon seeing them, also appear a bit menacing. If I had seen them as a child, I think I would have been seriously scared! But then there are also the others, the Issohadores, who are more colorful with their white masks and red jackets.
I want to dedicate this article to them because I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient figures of folk tradition, which have so much to say about the land they come from, specifically the Barbagia region in Sardinia.
The period during which we can admire them during their almost ancestral ritual is during the Feast of the Fires of Sant’Antonio, between the 16th and 17th of January, and then in the midst of the Carnival period, on Carnival Sunday and Shrove Tuesday. Their presence is associated with propitiatory rites for the fertility of livestock and good luck for the year to come; it is a ritual full of symbols and history that goes way back. They say it’s like the battle of good versus evil, winter versus summer vibes.
The Mamuthones embody a kind of ancestral spirit linked to the rural world. Their masks, horns, and bells carry a symbolic meaning that gets lost in history, but they’re thought to be connected to pagan beliefs and propitiatory rituals. They wear traditional leather clothing and a heavy wooden mask that completely covers their faces, adorned with goat or deer horns. They haul around these massive copper bells called “sa carriga” on their backs, weighing like 30 kg, jangling with every step they take, setting up this cool, mysterious vibe.
On the other hand, the Issohadores rock linen shirts, red jackets, white pants, and a female shawl. They sling brass and bronze bells over their shoulders, and some even sport a white mask.
The parade is like an actual ceremony, almost like a procession. The first group moves super slowly, bent under the weight on their backs, while the others keep the rhythm, moving more agilely. Suddenly, they’ll toss their ropes into the crowd to catch someone – to get free, you have to offer them a drink! 😂
Organizing your personalized trip to Sardinia to participate in this festival is a unique opportunity.
As a travel designer, I recommend including in your itinerary the exploration of picturesque villages involved in the celebration, such as Mamoiada, Orani, or Lula. Each place has its own interpretation of the festival.
And, of course, that’s where I come in! 😉