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The Devil of Tufara. Carnivals rituals in Molise and Italy. The cult behind the mask

Where the rootsfirmly hold the cultural basis of a community, the archaic manifests itself vigorously. It
happens in Tufara, a patch of Molise between Puglia and Campania. Here,the Mediterranean scrub, thick
and humid, hides the the small village gathered on the top of a tuffaceous rock, around a Longobard
fortress.Tufara is an extremely quiet place, but not on Shrovetide, when the silence of the streets of the
center is lapped by one of the oldest and most evocative Carnivals in Italy.
The clanking of the scythes, the rushing races and unsettling chants accompany a small masked procession.
The Devil is coming! With a grinning mask he conversely shakes in goatskin, rolling and then flickering in the
air. Some figures in black chase him, all preceded by the Death, impersonated by subjects dressed in white
with floured faces. Again, gallows, scythes, chains. Passerby, especially strangers, hold their breath,
seduced and intimidated at the same time by the barbaric walking pantomime. A glance is enough to
understand that the parade has been running, as if by magic, since very remote times.
The Devil, the goat man, the god and the jester.
The origins of the Carnival of Tufara are different and all belongs to ancient rituals. Most likely, they are
linked to pagan rites consecrated to Dionysus in a rural and wild world, then mixed over the centuries with
the cult of the dead. In both cases, the purpose of the followers was to capture, through donations and
sacrifices first, and then through celebration and representation, the benevolence of these powerful
entities in hopes of a more prosperous future.
Christianity contributed to turn these intense moments of pagan worship into carnival farce.
The god should no longer be such, it would have been unforgivable. Therefore, he officially became a
puppet… Not for the people though, who for an unconscious, ancestral feeling perhaps never ceased in
their hearts to give him due importance. Are these activities a mere, folkloristic representation of
irremediably lost rituals or are they full-fledged rituals themselves? To anthropologists the mangy question.
There are also other figures and masks, independent from the devil's procession, who live in the carnival of
the beautiful village of Molise. In fact, the Devil is almost a foreign body, an unexpected guest, in what is a
typical Italian carnival scene, where the doll (representing the carnival itself) is tried and convicted.
Who knows, maybe we'll talk about it in the next episode.
For now, we hope to have transmitted a shred of the wild and arcane charm that only figures like the Devil
can emanate, a model, together with the Deer always Molise, the Mamuthones, the Sardinian Boes, and
the various Italian carnivals, of a huge ethnic, anthropological and historical heritage.

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