Su Componidori

Ceremonial rites of Sartiglia are focused on the figure of ‘Su Componidori’. 
Every year, on Candlemas day (2nd February), the maximum authorities of Farmers’ and Carpenters’ Guilds officially appoint their own head of the joust. 
The investiture of the horsemen chosen to lead the tournament on last Sunday and Tuesday of Carnival, respectively, is marked by giving them a blessed tall candle.

The first official act on the tournament day is the dressing of ‘Su Componidori’.
In a venue chosen by the Guild, the most solemn ceremony of the Sartiglia transforms the selected horseman into the figure of ‘Componidori’. 
Aided by the expert hands of ‘massaieddas’ (young girls wearing the ancient traditional costume of Oristano), supervised by a senior assistant (a woman called ‘Sa Massaia Manna’), the horseman is enrobed with the ancient attire of ‘Su Componidori’, jealously guarded by the Guild: a few leather garments, a snow-white shirt and the ‘coietto’, a leather jacket ending in a short skirt on its front side, recalling artisans’ typical working clothes.

When the horseman’s face is concealed beneath the mysterious mask – one of the most crucial moments of the ceremonial rites of Sartiglia – the man turns into the ‘Componidori’. An embroidered veil and a top hat on his head are the final acts of his dressing. Hereafter, this figure is expected not to touch the ground until the end of the tournament.

A few characteristic traits distinguish Farmers’ Guild ‘Componidori’ from that of Carpenters’ Guild. The first wears an earth-coloured mask, while his counterpart wears a waxen one. Secondly, red ribbons are used to fasten the puffed sleeves of Sunday’s ‘Componidori’’s shirt, whereas pink and light-blue bows are tied around Tuesday’s Componidori’’s sleeves. This latter’s ‘coietto’ is buttoned up by heart-shaped silver studs; in contrast, the head of the joust of San Giovanni puts on a jacket secured by leather strings tied on his chest.

‘Su Componidori’ is a sublime figure. At the end of the dressing ceremony, he will have to mount his horse without touching the ground. Indeed, a groom will lead the horse towards ‘sa mesitta’, the table onto which the horseman’s transfiguration has occurred: from there, ‘Su Componidori’ will get on his horse adorned with the finest trappings. From that moment on, ‘Su Componidori’ is the highest authority charged with the direction of the joust. As soon as the complex dressing rituals are accomplished, he will stand as an almost sacred symbol. His hieratical gait, his repeated blessing signs with ‘sa pippia de maiu’ (a double bunch of violets and periwinkles) mark his compliments to the Guild, to the horsemen and to the whole town. 

Once the race track has been reached, he declares the joust started, crossing his sword three times with his Second-in-command. 
Next, he opens the riding at the star, defying chance for first. Only the ‘Componidori’ will be entitled to choose, among the horsemen, those who will have the honour to try and spear the star.
Once the joust is over, ‘Su Componidori’ has got a second opportunity to catch the star, this time using a wooden spear (‘stocco’), which he also grants to both his aides-de-camp. 
Rides along the track in front of the Cathedral are closed by ‘sa remada’, a great display of ability and courage by ‘Su Componidori’, riding at a fast gallop while lying backwards over his mount, blessing the crowd with ‘sa pippia de maiu’. 
Then, he will guide the cortege to via Mazzini, where a composed and disciplined ride with his mates will start the exhibitions of all ‘pariglie’ of the cortege. 
Finally, he will bring the joust to an official closing riding flat on his horse’s back, now three abreast with his mates, while greeting and blessing the crowd with his sceptre of violets.

The event will be definitely concluded by the ceremony of the undressing. 
Approaching ‘sa mesitta’ on horseback, once more taking care not to violate the taboo against touching the ground, he alights directly onto the table where the undressing ritual is about to be fulfilled. 
Once the Massaieddas have removed the top hat and the veil, they eventually untie the tapes that have tightened the mysterious mask to the bands around that face for so many hours. 
When the mask is pulled off, ‘Su Componidori’ disappears, showing the man’s face to the audience, who can now greet the horseman and praise his achievement.

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