Halloween in Sardinia: mysterious legends and evocative traditional rituals
Long before “trick or treat”, the millenary customs of the “Festa delle Anime ” were born in the shadow of the nuraghi.
When we think of Halloween today, the first image that comes to mind is the celebrations of Anglo-Saxon origin with their typical “Trick or Treat?” and the legendary image of the Jack-o’-lantern.
But there is also another “Halloween”, the one born in the shadow of the nuraghi, whose roots now sink into the mist of time. Depending on different areas of Sardinia, the “Festa delle Anime” (the festival of souls) takes on different names: “Is Animeddas” (also called “Su bene ‘e is animas“) in the north of the island and “Su mortu mortu” in the southern area.
It is a tradition that, although it has similarities with the “classic Halloween”, is authentic to Sardinia. Over the centuries, it has assumed a unique identity and a deep and heartfelt role for the inhabitants of the territory.
During the night between October 31st and November 1st, children, dressed in rags, knock from door to door asking for gifts for the most unfortunate souls: in addition to homemade desserts, dried fruit and citrus fruits like in the past, today commercially available candy has also come into vogue but the meaning of the ritual remains the same.
Another folk custom is children walking the streets of the village in the morning and late afternoon wearing a white robe and holding a bag on their shoulders. After knocking on doors, they recite traditional nursery rhymes with dialectal phrases such as “su mortu mort” and “carchi cosa a sas animas” to ask for offerings for the lost souls.
Still today, in some Sardinian villages, part of the custom is the carving of pumpkins to use as lanterns and setting the table for the dead who are believed to return home to be with family members. A frugal dinner is prepared and the table remains laid for them all night, the kitchen cupboards are also left open so that food can be accessed and oil lamps are lit so that they find the door of the house.
Halloween legends in Sardinia
Not only evocative rituals: the most mysterious night of the year in Sardinia is also accompanied by ancient legends, stories that can be a bit dark but still capable to interrogate the human soul.
Many figures animate the Sardinian Halloween starting from the Janas, fairy beings with the appearance of small women who find a home in the pre-Nuragic tombs carved into the rocks, the so-called Domus de Janas. These are witches or fairies depending on the area, they live between earth and sky and enchant with their beauty and persuasive voice.
Part of the island’s legendary heritage are also the Sùrbiles, frightful vampire women who used to suck the blood of newborns, especially if not yet baptized. Taking the form of insects similar to flies, they entered the houses between midnight and 3 am.
The Panas, on the other hand, are the spirits of women who died during childbirth and live next to streams and rivers, usually in groups. They wash clothes singing a sad lullaby and when disturbed, they spray the unfortunate with water that burns like fire.
The legends tied to the Halloween period, do not only deal with supernatural beings but also with events related to living people such as the case of Luxia Rabiosa, a very rich woman who owned large lands and fertile fields with abundant harvests.
She was excessively stingy, a capital sin: she was, thus, punished by God who turned her into stone along with everything she owned. According to tradition, these petrified objects can be found in various areas of Sardinia.
In Campidano hovers the legend of Maria Puntaoru, an ugly and hungry woman, who died dreaming of a plate of spaghetti. Covered with rags and with a spit in her hand, on the night of the first of November, she terrorised children who had eaten too many sweets or spaghetti (without leaving any for the dead) threatening to pierce their belly with the spit!
In many homes, still persists the custom of leaving an extra plate of pasta on the table on Halloween night, you never know…
Would you like to immerse yourself in the typical atmosphere of Halloween in Sardinia and experience a holiday full of charm and elegance? Book a stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari