the masks  | the event  | origins and meanings | points of interest  



Understanding the carnival in Samugheo means going back to the beliefs, myths and rites of the rural shepherd culture which was typical of central Sardinia.
The meanings of the costumes used during the carnival in Samugheo are both sacred and pagan.

As some gocius (sacred, rhythmic songs) state S’Urtzu is a character who in ancient times had a sacred meaning. He was called Santu Minchilleo a curious name which indicated both sacredness and simple-mindedness.

The origin of the costumes used in the carnival comes from the festival of S. Antonio Abate when all the people were summoned to the village square by the sound of horns and the people paraded through the village streets.
Someone claims that among these costumes there probably was sa filadora, similar to “sa filonzana” from Ottana.
The carnival festivities lasted until the first rites of Lent melting the noisy festival, the gorging of zeppole (traditional fried cakes not very different from dounuts) and wine into the austere rituals of Lent.

According to Dolores Turchi, an expert on popular tradition, even the costumes from Samugheo have traces of ancient Mediterranean cults especially Dyonisiac cults. According to Dolores Turchi, Sardinian carnivals are a “commemoration for Dioniso which every year emerges in Spring like the vegetation” (Costumes, Myths and Sardinian festivals, Dolores Turchi – Newton Compton)

The following are the main aspects on which this interpretation is based:

  • The word Mamutzones
    This word has the same root as some of the names by which Dyonisius was called.
    According to classical sources Mamutzones behaved in the same way as Dyonisius’s followers.
  • S’urtzu
    Symbolizes the god who is to be sacrificed.. He appears as a goat, which, according to legend is how Dioniso frequently used to appear.
    S’Urtzu-Dioniso sacrifice is ” bloody ” Under the goat’s skin he has a bladder full of blood and water. When he falls down, hit by su Omadore the bladder breaks and the ground turns red.
    Dioniso after suffering a terrible death is re-born. The ground is fertile again and rich in produce after the “winter death” but only after the bloody sacrifice that new life emerges..
  • Sos Mamutzones
    They represent the followers of the god. They wears hats with horns while s’Urtzu’s head is fully covered with a goat’s head. They mime the god, venerate him, and move in a frenetic uncontrolled manner, they dance and try to get in a trance so that they can be possessed by their god.
    The same is true for the Maenads who were followers of Dioniso. The word mainades means “mad people” in the Greek language.