TITLE: Austrian Witch
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Witch Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (Fasnacht); Perchtenlauf
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: softwood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

This mask represents a very typical witch from the Swabian-Tyrolean region of southern Europe. The witch mask is popular in Carnival parades, and it also may be worn during Perchtenlauf, or the running of the demons. In pre-Christian times, a witch-like character represented a primeval spirit that would threaten or benefit human society. With the coming of Catholicism to the region, the witch began to represent a woman who consorted with the Devil and therefore always threatened the established order. Until recently, most Christians, including those in the highest levels of the European and North American churches, believed that witches actually existed, and they burned thousands of helpless woman to death based on these religious superstitions.

Today, the witch is more a figure of fun than a threat. In Carnivals, she represents a purely imaginary character from historical folk tales. During Perchtenlauf, she is an ally of the Perchten, demons who punish disobedient or quarrelsome children around Christmastime by carrying them away in a sack and eating them.

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TITLE: Skull Mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Ukraine
ETHNICITY: Ukrainian
DESCRIPTION: Articulated Skull Mask
MAKER: Pavel Verkhovskiy (Brovary, 1986- )
CEREMONY: Halloween; cosplay
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: polyurethane
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; foam rubber; adhesive; elastic bands; plastic hardware

This mask was handmade by an artisan in Kyiv, Ukraine. The mask is molded using thermoplastic polyurethane, then padded and hand painted. The jaw is articulated using elastic straps to increase verisimilitude. Such masks may be used in masked holidays such as Halloween and for cosplay.

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TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Zanni
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Zanni Mask
MAKER: Cesare Ginoletti (?)
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: airbrushed paint; lacquer; hardware

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

Zanni (sometimes spelled Zani or Zane) is among the oldest stock characters of the Commedia. The Zanni is a servant. Originally, Zanni represented an immigrant who served the character known as Don Pantalone. The mask is always a half-mask to facilitate conversation, and the nose may be short or long. Usually, Zanni wears a peaked hat and carries a wooden sword. His personality was typically portrayed as voracious, coarse, loud, emotional, ignorant scoundrel who nonetheless could sometimes manage the impossible. Eventually, specific forms of Zanni, such as Arlecchino (Harlequin), Pulcinella (Punch) and Brighella became more popular.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

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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: Boules Janissary Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Greece
SUBREGION: Naoussa, Paros
ETHNICITY: Hellenic
DESCRIPTION: Yianitsaros (Janissary) Mask
MAKER: Alexandros Karydas (Naoussa, 1985- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2009
MAIN MATERIAL: beeswax
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; cotton cloth; horse hair; metal foil; cotton stitching; metal and plastic ornament

The origin of the Boules (Brides) Festival in the town of Naoussa, in Paros, Greece, is obscured by history.  It probably has its origins in ancient Dionysian celebrations of fertility during the spring (Anthestiria). The modern festival is held during Carnival, but its origin was the Turkish occupation of the island of Paros.  The Ottoman Empire controlled Paros from 1537 until 1829.  According to legend, in 1705, the Turks renounced the principle of peaceful coexistence and Turkish soldiers came to the village of Naoussa to recruit forcibly children for their Christian military unit. Those families that resisted were slaughtered.  The following year, around Carnival time, the villagers of Naoussa put on masks and costumes, and paraded in tribute to the dead. To deceive the Turks, the ritual was framed as a wedding, but in reality the bride was a masked man, and the wedding feast was really a means to surreptitiously collect money and food for rebels living in the mountains.

Today, the tradition is still rigorously followed, with masked brides and Yiantisari (Janissaries), Greek soldiers fighting for the Turks. Only unmarried young males are allowed to masquerade, and all wear the same costume.  In the case of the Janissary, he wears a white, wide-sleeved blouse, a short skirt, leggings, a cloth cap, and carries a sword. They parade through the town to the music of traditional bands, until they reach the City Hall, and the leader of the boulouki asks permission from the Mayor to begin the ceremony. They then go to the main square, where the dancing begins. After the dances, the boules go from house to house collecting donations.

This specific mask was danced by Gregory Tararas (Naoussa, 1985- ) for four years, from 2009-2012.

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TITLE: Boules Bride Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Greece
SUBREGION: Naoussa, Paros
ETHNICITY: Hellenic
DESCRIPTION: Boulas (Bride) Mask
MAKER: Alexandros Karydas (Naoussa, 1985- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: beeswax
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; cotton cloth; polyester cloth and ribbons; synthetic flowers; cotton stitching

The origin of the Boules (Brides) Festival in the town of Naoussa, in Paros, Greece, is obscured by history.  It probably has its origins in ancient Dionysian celebrations of fertility during the spring (Anthestiria). The modern festival is held during Carnival, but its origin was the Turkish occupation of the island of Paros.  The Ottoman Empire controlled Paros from 1537 until 1829.  According to legend, in 1705, the Turks renounced the principle of peaceful coexistence and Turkish soldiers came to the village of Naoussa to recruit forcibly children for their Christian military unit. Those families that resisted were slaughtered.  The following year, around Carnival time, the villagers of Naoussa put on masks and costumes, and paraded in tribute to the dead. To deceive the Turks, the ritual was framed as a wedding, but in reality the bride was a masked man, and the wedding feast was really a means to surreptitiously collect money and food for rebels living in the mountains.

Today, the tradition is still rigorously followed, with masked brides and “janissaries” (Greek soldiers fighting for the Turks) performing specific dances. Only unmarried young males are allowed to masquerade, and all wear the same costume.  In the case of the bride, she wears a black, embroidered skirt, and dark long-sleeved blouse, and a wedding veil. They parade through the town to the music of traditional bands, until they reach the City Hall, and the leader of the boulouki asks permission from the Mayor to begin the ceremony. They then go to the main square, where the dancing begins. After the dances, the boules go from house to house collecting donations.

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TITLE: Basler Carnival Half Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Basel
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Carnival Half-Mask for Fife Player
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; elastic band; hardware; dyed cotton cap

Fasnacht is what the Tyrolean Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

In Basel, Switzerland, masks are almost all made of paper maché and take a helmet form. Armies of costumed clowns, musicians, and dancers, called cliques, parade around town in uniform mask styles for 72 nearly continuous hours on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. The paraders must wear their Larven (masks) throughout the parade and are expected never to remove the mask in order to identify themselves.  They throw confetti at crowd members with such proliferation that it blankets the streets.

Although there is a great deal of innovation and creativity in mask styles, there are certain styles that tend to reappear annually. This mask, known as Waggis, represents a big-nosed, frizzy-haired clown, who wears wooden clogs, a blue shirt, and a red neckerchief. He is a prankster who parodies the Alsatian farmers who formerly came to Basel market days to sell their produce (Waggis literally means a person from Alsace in Basel dialect). Other common characters include the Alti Dante (old aunt), Dummbeeter (trumpetist) and Pierrot (a sad clown from the late Italian Commedia dell’Arte, known for his white and black makeup).

This specific mask was made for and used by a fife player in one of the roaming bands. Half masks are common among wind instrument musicians who need to access their instruments with their mouths.

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TITLE: Waggis Carnival Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Switzerland
SUBREGION: Basel
ETHNICITY: Swiss
DESCRIPTION: Waggis (Alsation) Carnival Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; plastic hair; wool hat

Fasnacht is what the Tyrolean Swiss call Carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town.  Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

In Basel, Switzerland, masks are almost all made of paper maché and take a helmet form. Armies of costumed clowns, musicians, and dancers, called cliques, parade around town in uniform mask styles for 72 nearly continuous hours on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. The paraders must wear their Larven (masks) throughout the parade and are expected never to remove the mask in order to identify themselves.  They throw confetti at crowd members with such proliferation that it blankets the streets.

Although there is a great deal of innovation and creativity in mask styles, there are certain styles that tend to reappear annually. This mask, known as Waggis, represents a big-nosed, frizzy-haired clown, who wears wooden clogs, a blue shirt, and a red neckerchief. He is a prankster who parodies the Alsatian farmers who formerly came to Basel market days to sell their produce (Waggis literally means a person from Alsace in Basel dialect). Other common characters include the Alti Dante (old aunt), Dummbeeter (trumpetist) and Pierrot (a sad clown from the late Italian Commedia dell’Arte, known for his white and black makeup).

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TITLE: Scheller Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
SUBREGION: Tyrol
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Scheller Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Imst
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival) – Schemenlaufen
AGE: ca. 1890
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Carnival in the Tyrolean region of Austria is called Fasnacht. In the town of Imst, a ritual known as Schemenlaufen is held every four years, usually on the Sunday before Nonsensical Thursday. Only men traditionally participate, and the celebration involves an elaborate series of events beginning with men carted around town in bear costumes and beaten by masked trainers to the tune of flutes and tambourines. They are followed by series of masked paraders of various defined types, such as the Kübelmaje (bucket girl), Gschnapp (witch), and heavily bearded Laggeroller. The two main characters, however, are the Scooter and the Scheller. The Scooter wears a smooth mask with pursed lips, a Tyrolean costume, a belt of small sleigh bells (Gröll), and an and an elaborate headdress looking like a decorated Christmas tree. The Scheller, represented by this mask, has an oversized mustache, and wears a costume and headdress similar to the Scooter‘s, but his belt has large cowbells (Gschall). In addition, the Scooter carries a large horsehair whisk on a long stick, while the Scheller carries a long stick. During the parade, they dance together, with the Scooter hopping up and down, and the Scheller calmly jingling his Gschall.

Unfortunately, the best book on Austrian masking traditions is available in German only: Albert Bärtsch, Holzmasken: Fasnachts- und Maskenbrauchtum in der Schweiz, in Süddeutschland und Österreich (AT Verlag 1993).

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TITLE: Capra Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Romania
ETHNICITY: Romanian-Moldovan
DESCRIPTION: Bătrânul (Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Capra (Goat Dance)
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wool
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; goat leather and hair; cotton batting; dyed cotton tassels; stitching; plastic buttons

The capra, or goat dance, is performed in parts of rural Romania on New Year’s Eve as part of a caroling tradition. In pre-Christian times, the ritual was probably intended to drive away winter spirits and purify the village. In the dance, masqueraders in bătrânul (old man) masks and costumes and large bells dance to the music of traditional pipes with either a living goat or a masquerader dressed as one.

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