ARESTES E S’URTZU PRETISTU ‒ Ancient rite of the village of Sorgono – Sardinia, Italy
Life, death and rebirth
With Cultural Association Mandra Olisai
By the light of the moon, a frightening procession of wild animals looms. These creatures are wearing the masks of our ancient beliefs … Incantations and masked dances from a village in Sardinia immediately take us back to the origins of our pastoral soul.
Some Mediterranean islands passionately defend their identity like a temple in which secular traditions, sometimes thousands of years old, are reinvented. High in the Sardinian mountains, a carnival with incredibly ancient roots has developed over the centuries, where pagan rituals confront Christian ones.
In the beginning, human beings had to battle against a hostile nature just to survive. Faced with the animal world, the choice lay between seizing power or being overcome by savagery.
In the San Mauro district of the village of Sorgono, an area rich in Neolithic and Nuragic archaeological remains, the ceremony of Is Arestes e s’Urtzu Pretistu has been played out over and over again for time immemorial. Is Arestes means the agrestic or those coming directly from the wild; s’Urtzu pretistu refers to their sacrifical victim.
This cult event takes places at the end of winter, with the objective of conquering the monster and minimising the risk of drought. It is thought to be dedicated to Maïmone, the local name for Dionysos, large-horned god of wine and drunkness and of a luxuriant spring and rebirth – himself twice-born – with the aim of stimulating rainfall.
While Dionysos is the vital, spontaneous, violent impetus, the eruption of elemental forces, Apollo can be seen as coherence, intelligence, the inner order of the soul reflected in a clear ordering of the external world. Here lie chthonian forces, rising from the depths of the earth, and Uranian spirits, descended from the firmament where the sun reigns …