The mystical Mamuthones from Mamoiada have always stirred my soul and made me question the origin of their existence. I have attended festivals in Sassari and Olbia where the Mamuthones preformed before the inquisitive public, but I had never witnessed their ritual dance in their town, on their turf, until this past Sunday when I attended Tappas in Mamujada. There is something so raw and connected to nature in their dance that pulls me in, curious, wanting to know more. So I went searching …
The Mamuthone legacy is shrouded in secrecy and there is little documented evidence on their origins; some scholars argue that the Mamuthones had already marched in the nineteenth century while others argue that the ritual dance and parade goes back even further, to the Nuraghic Age. Others argue that it’s a festival to celebrate the victory of the Sardinian shepherds (Issohadores) against the Saracens invaders who imprisoned the Mamoiadini (citizens of Mamoiada) and led them in procession to an awaiting cold chamber.
The masks and dress of the Mamuthones
The masks are made from the fig, elm, chestnut or walnut tree and are blackened to give off a phantom of a presence. The dress is made from black sheep skins which are heavy and weigh down the Mamuthone, arranged on the back are a series of bells (carriga) which are said to scare away evil spirits.
Where there is a Mamuthone there is an Issohadore.
The Issohadore are in charge of the ritual, and with one command or gesture of the head they set in motion the rhythmic dance of the Mamuthones. It’s the Issohadore’s job to protect the Mamuthones against the curious public during the parade. They are often seen with lasso in hand wrangling in the female population as a sign of good health and fertility. The Issohadore has a colourful costume of a headdress, white mask, a bright red waistcoat, white shirt and trousers, gold buttons, a band of bells in bronze, shawl, woolen leggings, leather boots and finally the rope or lasso.
Five and a half years was worth the wait to have this amazing memory and photo.
The best time to see the Mamuthones and Issohadores in action is at Carnival in February at Mamoiada or the yearly event I attended the Tappas in Mamujada in November.
There is much more to Sardinia than just white sand beaches, umbrellas and fabulous food. The next time you’re here, why not take a trip to the center of the island to Barbagia and maybe, just maybe you can witness the mystical Mamuthones from Mamoiada.
© My Sardinian Life/Jennifer Avventura. All rights reserved 2010-2013. All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are property of My Sardinian Life. Do not use without written permission.
- Mamuthones and Issohadores (thewriterandthetramp.wordpress.com)
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I loved reading your article, so thank you. There’s a video on YouTube where you can see the dance http://youtu.be/6hpvYmSrnW0
Btw, I’m half Danish half Sardo, from my dad. He used to tell us stories from there. He said that the black mask ppl protected the area (specially the mountain ppl) of further invasion of the enemy, disguising them as fierce mysterious warriors, they had this reputation and the invaders where terrified of them. So they delivery stayed out of this region. He lived there in the 1920-30’ties
You know, Sardinia has never really been on my list, but I’m kind of curious now. The Mamuthones sound fascinating!
Oh, it should be on your list. It’s an amazing island full of culture, mysteries and great beaches!
How interesting and fascinating is this custom. So glad that you were finally able to connect with the festival. Your article was wonderful, Sardegna has many mysteries and that makes it more fabulous! So happy that you are back for a visit! Have a beautiful day, enjoy your stay! May God Bless! Keep the blogs coming!
That’s a great article! I enjoyed reading it.
Thank you! I enjoyed being there and watching them, it was truly magical. Wishing you a splendid day.
Reblogged this on My Sardinian Life.
Wow, what a honour!!
I would like to say thank you to all the people that left all this beautiful comments about Sardinia and her in many ways strange but very interesting traditions!
I am a proud Sardinian but unfortunately i live in England due to my work!
Sardinia is a beautiful and magical place and my heart fills full of joy and pride anytime i read about people and their experience on my Island!!
We are very friendly people too….
Thank you guys!!
Great blogpost! It’s those traditions that make the island so special. We loved the tradition of the Boes & Mercules as well, taking place in Ottana. Brought a Boe mask home, watching over me as I type 🙂
Thank you! I’ve seen more of the Mamuthones than I have of the Boes. I guess it’s time to head to Ottana!
Well, the benefit for you is that you can arrange to go and see the actual rituals as well. I would love to go back to Sardegna one day to experience them… but then again, there’s so much to be seen in the world! We never tend to go back to the same place… 🙂
Very true. The only place I’ve ever gone back to more than once was Amsterdam. I just fell in love with that city, its canals and bicycles. Would love to make it back again one day.
Well, I guess cities make an exception to that rule. I’ve been to Paris, Amsterdam & Cologne a lot – but they are closeby ofcourse, living in Belgium. I often re-visit for an exhibit, a concert, or just good old shopping 😉
It sounds like something Dr Seuss would have come up with!
Thank you for sharing – I had no idea.!! I would definitely love to see the Mamuthones.!
The first time I saw them I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to go to Mamoiada. I’m over the moon that I finally made it there, it was worth the three hour bus ride!
Truly fascinating! The masks and costumes are incredibly intriguing, I was not familiar with any of this before reading your post. Thank you!
Hugs from Ecuador,
I am now officially creeped out and might have nightmares. Couples with that special cheese…the last week has not exactly reinforced my desire to visit the island 😉
There’s a lot of mysterious tales to be told about this fabulous island. Don’t let a few masks scare you.