There are some incredibly inspiring traditional costumes/characters in Pagan folklore. Many of these figures are part of rituals related to the passing of seasons and of humankind’s relationship to the earth and farming. These rituals still take place today in various parts of the world.
The Mamuthones of Sardinia, Italy are part of a ritual that is over 2000 years old, developed long before Christianity. A solid black wooden mask and layers of black sheep’s wool obscure the wearer, with a cluster of cattle bells on it’s back like a turtle’s shell. Each Mamuthone is unique, their masks are carved by local artists and each has individual features. The Mamuthones move silently along as if mimicking the wearily shuffling winter’s cold, followed by the other half of the ritual the Issahadores who prance and make noise (like the jubilant beginning of spring) to herd the Mamuthones. No one is 100% sure of the origin of this ritual or the parade of Mamuthone figures, it’s assumed a ward to end winter and encourage spring from previous agrarian times. The modern participants take this ritual very seriously, no outsider is allowed to view them preparing or dressing for the parade. It’s viewed as a religious rite and respected by onlookers, people don’t cheer or holler at the procession’s passing. A party is hosted after the ritual participants transform back into men and the bonfire burns down to embers in the night.
Kurent/Korent is part of a rite of spring and fertility in Slovenia called Kurentovanje that’s been adopted all over the world. The Kurent is a symbolic god of unrestrained pleasure and hedonism. The traditional dress for a Kurent consists of layers of sheep’s skins, in some areas it has horns and in others tall feathers rise from the head, a long red tongue hangs from the head cover. Kurents also carry noise making staffs or wear large bells round their waists to scare off winter with their sound.
The Babugeri/Kukierzy from Bulgaria are part of an incredibly old ritual for midsummer. Dating back to the worship of Dionysus this tradition can be traced back over 8000 years. The towering fur covered costumes are certainly imposing as they proceed down the street. The ritual ends with an elaborate marriage-themed pantomime in the center of town.
Additional Resources and Photos: