Boes and Merdules

The Ottana characters

Also that of Ottana, it is one of the most fascinating and famous Carnivals in Sardinia.
Two figures of clearly farming origin are the protagonists of this carnival: sos Boes, namely the oxen, by a beautiful beef mask, finely finished and carved; they are covered with white sheepskins wearing a belt of big bells and sos Merdules, represented by men with the faces hidden by gloomy black masks, sometimes with deformed features; they wear white skins, leather chaps and classic shepherd shoes.
Unlike of the Boes, the Merdùle clutch a stick and a leather whip called soca.
This whip is used to keep tied up the Boe, which stirs and rebels before falling exhausted on the ground.

Photo by R. Atzori
Photo by R. Atzori

Finally an interesting third mask appears: the Filonzana, a frightening figure of an old woman spinning some raw wool.
As for that of Mamoiada also the "Carrasegare de Otzana", the carnival of Ottana, would seem to be a ritual dating back to the cult of Dionysus, but also it has distinct agro-pastoral characteristics with the key figure of the cattle, (the worship of the bull was in fact practiced since the Neolithic).

The relationship between man-merdule and bull-boe, also offers another interesting key of interpretation, given by transposition man-animal, such symbolism staged clearly refers to the close relationship that existed between the owner and the oxen yoke, precious elements for the life of the farmer.

More complex figure is that of the Filonzana, remindful of the Greek goddess Clotho, the youngest of the three Moirae.
Cloto was responsible for spinning the thread of human life, deciding the time of birth of the people, but even when they should be saved or put to death.

01 January 2016

Mauro Cuccu
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