TITLE: Apache Ga’an
TYPE: hood and crown mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUBREGION: Arizona
ETHNICITY: Apache
DESCRIPTION: Ga’an Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Ga’an Dance
AGE: mid-twentieth century
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; saguaro cactus rib; mirrors; paint

Among the religiously important figures of the Apache are the ga’an, mountain spirits that protect and purify the village. There are various myth stories surrounding the ga’an.  One is that the ga’an were responsible for liberating the animal spirits locked in a cave where Crow had imprisoned them.  Another is that an Apache boy fell into a cave where ga’an spirits resided. When the boy died, he became one of the ga’an and led them to his village, where the ga’an danced to bless and heal the boy’s people.

The ga’an ceremony is performed to drum and song, and begins with the white ga’an, or “messenger,” using a “bull roarer,” or whistle on the end of a string, to create an ethereal sound announcing the start of the dance.  All dancers except the messenger carry wood or yucca spike “swords,” usually with symbols painted on them.  The ga’an mask must be prepared by a shaman with great care, and the patterns, glyphs and colors on the crown all have symbolic significance. The messenger’s mask is usually smaller than the others and uses white cloth instead of black.  The mirrors on the crown, a recent addition, flash as the ga’an dance, adding to the dazzling effect.  The small wooden slats that dangle from the mask create a clicking sound characteristic of the ga’an.  The dance is performed at na ih es (girl’s adulthood initiation ritual), to influence the weather, heal the sick, and to purify the village of evil spirits.

Video of the Apache Ga’an Dance, performed in 2019 in Arizona.

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TITLE: Apache Ga’an
TYPE: hood and mask; accessories
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUBREGION: Arizona
ETHNICITY: Apache
DESCRIPTION: Ga’an Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Ga’an Dance
AGE: mid-twentieth century
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; saguaro cactus rib; mirrors; paint

Among the religiously important figures of the Apache are the ga’an, mountain spirits that protect and purify the village. There are various myth stories surrounding the ga’an.  One is that the ga’an were responsible for liberating the animal spirits locked in a cave where Crow had imprisoned them.  Another is that an Apache boy fell into a cave where ga’an spirits resided. When the boy died, he became one of the ga’an and led them to his village, where the ga’an danced to bless and heal the boy’s people.

The ga’an ceremony is performed to drum and song, and begins with the white ga’an, or “messenger,” using a “bull roarer,” or whistle on the end of a string, to create an ethereal sound announcing the start of the dance.  All dancers except the messenger carry wood or yucca spike “swords,” usually with symbols painted on them (shown in the first photo).  The ga’an mask must be prepared by a shaman with great care, and the patterns, glyphs and colors on the crown all have symbolic significance. The messenger’s mask is usually smaller than the others and uses white cloth instead of black.  The mirrors on the crown, a recent addition, flash as the ga’an dance, adding to the dazzling effect.  The small wooden slats that dangle from the mask create a clicking sound characteristic of the ga’an.  The dance is performed at na ih es (girl’s adulthood initiation ritual), to influence the weather, heal the sick, and to purify the village of evil spirits.

Video of the Apache Ga’an Dance, performed in 2019 in Arizona.

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TITLE: Black Raven Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Leather Black Raven Mask
MAKER: William Rockwell, Lakewood, Colorado (1989- )
CEREMONY: Halloween; Mardi Gras; Fantasy
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: acrylic paint

Masks of this type are used in a variety of festivities in the United States, including Halloween, Mardi Gras, and at fantasy events such as Comic-Con, FaerieCon, and Renaissance fairs.  They may also be used in theaters for plays calling for disguises.  They are made of formed and tooled leather, colored with acrylic paint.

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

Click above to watch a short documentary about Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2019 and 2020.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Paisley Cloth Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; polyester cloth; brass and enamel pin; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Mesh Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Kindy Devillier, Eunice, Louisiana (1975- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic sheet; felt; synthetic fur and hair; plastic buttons; sweetgum seedball; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

This specific mask was made by a popular local mask maker and worn in the 2019 Courir de Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana by Arnold Natali of the nearby town of Basile.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Cajun Mardi Gras Mask and Costume
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh; dyed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: vinyl; plastic decorations; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting; brass bells

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Paisley Cloth Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; polyester cloth; brass and enamel pin; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Burlap Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Chris Raymond (Metairie, Louisiana, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: jute burlap
OTHER MATERIALS: steel wire mesh; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Mesh Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Chris Raymond, Metairie
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cotton cloth; polyester fringe; glue; paint; elastic band

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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TITLE: Cajun Mardi Gras
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUB-REGION: Acadiana, Louisiana
ETHNICITY: Cajun
DESCRIPTION: Synthetic Fur Mardi Gras Mask
MAKER: Tom Norman, Church Point (1940-2019)
CEREMONY: Courir de Mardi Gras
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: steel wire mesh; synthetic fur
OTHER MATERIALS: vinyl; plastic decorations; elastic band; silicone glue; acrylic paint; cotton batting; brass bells

In Catholic practice, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is the last day of celebration of Carnival before the fasting period of Lent. In the Acadiana country of southern Louisiana, the descendants of French Canadian immigrants known as “Cajuns” (short for “Acadians”) celebrate Mardi Gras in a manner quite different from the better known Carnival of New Orleans.  The Courir de Mardi Gras (Mardi Gras parade) occurs in most towns of Cajun country only on Mardi Gras itself.

Masqueraders wear full or partial wire mesh masks and quilted suits with tall, conical hats covered in colorful fabric.  They either ride from farm to farm on horseback or drive as a group in trucks with an unmasked leader wearing the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold.  When they reach a farm, the captain, who carries a whip in one hand and a white flag in the other, approaches the farmer and asks: “Le Mardi Gras demande votre permission pour visiter ta maison” (“The Mardi Gras requests permission to visit your house”), or words to that effect. Upon assent, the revelers descend and run or crawl toward the house, singing a begging song, then exploding into pranks and comedic antics while the captain tries to subdue them with his whip. The only way to make them leave is to donate gifts or money, traditionally a chicken for the evening gumbo, in which the farmer is invited to partake.

For more on the Acadian Carnival celebration, see the excellent book by Carl Lindahl and Carolyn Ware, Cajun Mardi Gras Masks (University Press of Mississippi, 1997).


A short video featuring Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice, Louisiana, 2019.

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