ORIGINS AND MEANINGS
The origins of this “danced procession” have the same historic and cultural roots of the other carnival traditions from Barbagia and, probably the apotropaic rites originated in ancient Mediterranean civilizations. The evocative atmosphere and the strong cultural meaning of these celebrations are connected with the sacred and pagan beliefs of agro-pastoral life particularly with the cult of the ox which dates from the proto- Sardinian time. These traditions were still in use during the Roman age.
The man, su Merdule, in yoking the ox (su boe) loses his human features and turns into an animal.
Every year the carnival in Ottana evokes the danger of this rite and highlights its ironic meaning. This may be a way to ensure that man does not turn into an ox, a fear that may have being common for men like the shepherds from Barbagia, who domesticated and worked with animals.
Carnival then becomes both bizarre and dramatic fiction, celebration and symbolism. It is almost a purifying rite.