TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

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TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The stick here is made from wood of the Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata). The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

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TITLE: Maonan Nuo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Guangxi
ETHNICITY: Maonan
DESCRIPTION: Nuo Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Nuo Opera
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment; Healing; Purification
AGE: 1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: poplar or willow wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; animal hair; adhesive; cotton cloth strips

The Nuo opera in China may be traced back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), possibly much earlier (some believe the Shang and Zhou Dynasties) and was popular in large parts of the empire, but especially along the southern borders, where it was a form of entertainment for the imperial troops. It evolved from a sacrificial rite performed by shamans into a more dramatic form, with both Buddhist and Taoist overtones. Nuo opera is based on historical stories and stories based on the Taoist religion and all roles (including female roles) are performed by men. It evolved into a popular form of entertainment and was eventually accompanied by an orchestra of Chinese instruments.  The Nuo opera never quite lost its shamanic connection, however, and also was used to exorcise evil spirits at the home of sick persons. The sacred connection is evident from a religious ceremony that always precedes the opening of a Nuo opera.  In addition, a wooden statue representing the originator of the opera is present at every performance, and nobody except the opera troupe may touch props used in the performance. Although the Chinese Communist Party attempted to suppress Nuo performances and eliminated it from most of the country, the opera continues to be performed in three southern provinces of China today (Guangxi, Guizhou, and Jiangxi).

The Maonan people form a relatively small ethnic group in China, confined largely to Guangxi province, and it is one of several ethnic groups that adopted Nuo opera deeply into its culture. This mask probably represents a senior government official.

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TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Mañor Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair; shoe string

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The pasko’olas (in the Spanish, pascolas) were malignant spirits, or children of the Devil, whom God won in a game. For that reason, their masks frequently have crucifixes and they wear a belt with twelve bells, each representing an apostle. To symbolize their evil origins, the masks have ugly expressions and vermin such as lizards, snakes and scorpions painted on them. In addition, dancers wear cords and butterfly cocoons on their legs, representing snakes and their rattles. They also wear a flower on their head, to symbolize rebirth and spring. They frequently play the role of clowns, provoking laughter in the audience by mimicking animals, reversing gender roles, organizing mock hunts, and making jokes.

Pasko’olas are danced at every major religious festival, as well as at birthdays, weddings, and funeral celebrations. For example, in Vicam, pasko’olas have traditionally danced on Día de San Juan Bautista (June 24). Sometimes a group of pasko’olas will be accompanied by a deer dancer, who dances with a taxidermy deer head as a crest. Generally, only men are pasko’ola dancers, but women have sometimes been allowed to dance with the permission of the male dancers.

This mask was culturally used in pasko’ola ceremonies for many years.

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TITLE: Nafana Bedu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Nafana
DESCRIPTION: Female Bedu Association Female Plank Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Nafana people of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana have developed a Bedu Secret Society only in the last century. It is probably a successor to the Sakrobundi Secret Society banned by the British due to the Society’s function of violently punishing supposed sorcerers.  The Bedu society is charged with the less malignant function of village purification during a month-long new year’s celebration annually, as well as during harvest festivals and funerals.  The bedu itself represents a mythical ox-like beast that, in Nafana myth, cured a sick child and later disappeared into the bush.  Although these masks are worn over the face, their exceptional size requires them to be made of relatively light wood.

Bedu masks come in both genders, with the male masks having horns, and the female (such as this one) having a circle or disc on top. Most such masks of either gender are painted in kaolin clay with abstract geometrical patterns, checker marks and jagged fins being favored.  Sometimes red, blue, or black pigments are used as well.

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TITLE: Shishi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kantō
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Lion Dance (Shishi Mai) Mask (Gashira)
MAKER: Unknown maker in Gunma Prefecture
CEREMONY: Shishi Mai
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; lacquer

The shishi mask represents a mythical lion that protects and purifies the region in which it dances, driving away evil spirits, famine, and disease. The shishi mai (lion dance) is performed throughout Japan on festival days, especially during the lunar new year and Buddha’s birthday. Its appearance varies in different villages, with the lion style (like this mask) predominating, but other animals, such as a deer, cow, or mythical kirin, used in certain villages. The lion is accompanied by a retinue of drummers playing the taiko drum, as it walks through the town, dancing and bestowing blessings on locals. To drive away evil spirits, the shishi bites the head of villagers, which brings good luck and health.

The lion dance originated in China and was brought to Japan by Chinese travelers around the early 16th century (Muromachi Period). As in China, the shishi can be danced by a sole performer or a group. In western Japan, the gigaku-kei style of shishi mai is performed by two or more dancers bundled into a long costume. In the Kantō and Tōhoku, the dance style is known as furyu-kei, and is performed by a single dancer, who beats a drum tied around his waist.

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TITLE: New Year’s Bear Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Romania
ETHNICITY: Romanian-Moldovan
DESCRIPTION: Urs (Bear) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Neamt
CEREMONY: New Year’s Eve Celebration
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: sheep leather and wool
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; metal hardware; metal crucifix; cotton cloth; cotton tassels

The urs, or bear dance, is performed in parts of rural Romania on New Year’s Eve, usually in the form of a group dance to the beat of drums and flutes. The dancers roar, chant or sing as they proceed through the village.  The ritual dates back to pre-Christian times and is intended to drive away winter spirits and purify the village. This mask was danced in Neamt for approximately 15 years.

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TITLE: Payaso Abanderado
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Payaso Abanderado (Flag-Bearing Clown)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals, the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors), angels, clowns (payasos abanderados), and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask is a payaso abanderado, marked with crucifixes (as is traditional) and carrying the flag of Ecuador.

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TITLE: Yaqui Chapayeka Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Chapayeka Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Potam, Sonora
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: 2008
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic sheet; paint

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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TITLE: Mayo Fariseo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Mayo
DESCRIPTION: Fariseo (Chapayeka) Mask
MAKER: Jose Valenzuela (El Once, Las Nachuquis, Navajoa, Sonora)
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: 2007
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton hat; stitching; paint

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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