TITLE: The Devil Inside Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Mask of a Devil Regurgitating Another Devil
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: guava wood
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

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TITLE: Vejigante Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Ponce
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask and Costume in Puerto Rico Flag Colors
MAKER (Mask): Unknown
MAKER (Costume): Gloria E. Cruz Guevara (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA / Vieques, Puerto Rico, 1977- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 1980s
AGE (Costume): 2021
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): gesso; paint
MATERIALS (Costume): dyed poly poplin cloth; dyed satin polyester cloth; stitching; elastic bands

The Carnival paraders of Ponce, Puerto Rico traditionally use paper maché masks with multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils. Most consider that the more horns a mask has, the better.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Ponce Carnival.

A unique feature of the Ponce carnival is that it includes the burial of a giant symbolic sardine, carried by a parader dressed as a friar and another dressed as a hooked sardine.  The sardine symbolizes the Carnival itself, and the burial marks its end.

This specific mask was worn in the parade of Ponce during the 1980s; the costume was specially made for the Museum by a seamstress on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

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TITLE: Halloween Owl Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Paper Owl Mask and Handmade Costume
MAKER (MASK): The Beistle Co. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1900- )
MAKER (COSTUME): Unknown
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE (MASK): 1930s
AGE (COSTUME): 1920s
MAIN MATERIAL (MASK): card paper
OTHER MATERIALS (MASK): dyed crepe paper; ink; metal staples
MAIN MATERIAL (COSTUME): dyed  and printed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS (COSTUME): stitching; brass bells; steel snaps

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by cutting the shape from card paper and printing the design on it, then stapling a headband made of foldable crepe paper made by a process invented in Germany. Such mass-produced masks were inexpensive enough to be used by all Halloween celebrants regardless of social position and wealth. Because they were made to be disposable, few survive in their original condition. The costume was hand-sewn in the 1920s from dyed and printed cloth. It was made for a small child, approximately four to five years old. The seamstress sewed small brass bells on the arms and legs to make light noise whenever the wearer moved, an innovation not only festive but helpful in finding the child in the dark while trick-or-treating.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

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

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TITLE: Halloween Black Cat
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Paper Black Cat Mask
MAKER: The Beistle Co. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1900- )
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1938
MAIN MATERIAL: card paper
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed crepe paper; ink; metal staples

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by cutting the shape from card paper and printing the design on it, then stapling a headband made of foldable crepe paper made by a process invented in Germany. Such mass-produced masks were inexpensive enough to be used by all Halloween celebrants regardless of social position and wealth. Because they were made to be disposable, few survive in their original condition.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

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

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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: 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: Devil-Catrina Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Diablesa-Catrina (Half Female Devil, Half Sugar Skull) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: guava wood
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

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TITLE: Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2020
MAIN MATERIAL: guava wood
OTHER MATERIALS: deer antlers; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

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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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