Material other than the one listed

TITLE: Pee Ta Khon
TYPE: helmet mask
COUNTRY: Thailand
DESCRIPTION: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; wood; sawdust paste; rattan rice strainer; dyed cotton fabric

The Pee Ta Khon, also spelled Phi Ta Khon, is an annual ceremony held solely in Dan Sai, Thailand, over a three-day period between March and July. The precise date of the festival is determined by the town’s spiritual mediums. It is part of a larger Buddhist celebration known as Bun Luang or Bun Phawet, intended to earn spiritual merit for its participants.

On wan ruam (assembly day), the ghosts congregate and invite protection from the spirit of the Mun River on which Dan Sai sits. The ghosts then hold a series of games and a procession, symbolizing the festivities that followed the return of the Buddha after a long absence during which he was presumed dead.

In addition to the elaborate masks, which mingle the ferocious with the comedic, the ghosts where patchwork costumes, belts with bells, and carry a palad khik (giant wooden phallus), which they wave at females in the audience in token of fertility.


TITLE: Halloween Werewolf Mask
TYPE: hood mask
COUNTRY: United States of America
DESCRIPTION: Latex Wolf Man (Werewolf) Mask
MAKER: Forum Novelties, Inc., New York
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: September 2012
OTHER MATERIALS: polyester fiber; paint; velcro; foam rubber padding

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 made in China from a design licensed by Universal Studios, based on the Wolf Man from the eponymous 1941 motion picture starring Lon Chaney, Jr.  The Wolf Man had a great influence over the horror genre in the United States. The mask was made by a contract manufacturer in China.

Item #67170, Lot #39701, FTY #1017, RN 131472

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


TITLE: Piaroa Warime Mask
TYPE: crown mask
COUNTRY: Venezuela
SUBREGION: Orinoco River Basin
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Warime Ritual
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: bark cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; dried grass; beeswax; pigment

The Piaroa people inhabit the Orinoco River Basin region of Venezuela and northern Brazil. They are an extremely peaceful people with a political structure that anthropologists describe as nearly anarchic.

The warime ceremony is the biggest festival of Piaroa society. It includes a purification ritual in which masqueraders represent animal spirits and proclaim their deeds of the year to the tribe, good and bad, to seek respectively praise or forgiveness. This mask is called De’aruwa Ime and is worn straight up on the head, with macaw feathers coming out of the top, with the face and body covered in a dried plant fiber suit. Some believe this mask to represent a peccary. Other De’aruwa masks may represent a monkey, vampire bat, or bee (redyo). Masqueraders must receive religious instruction from a shaman beforehand, and his incantation is accompanied by music on traditional instruments.


TITLE: Ded Moroz
TYPE: face mask
DESCRIPTION: Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker from Voronezh
CEREMONY: Novy God (New Year’s Holiday)
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: thin cardboard
OTHER MATERIALS: primer; paint; lacquer; string

The character Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, is a traditional Slavic version of Santa Claus, who delivers gifts to good children on New Year’s Eve, as opposed to Christmas. He was accompanied by Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), his granddaughter and helper, and is believed to live in the small western Russian town of Veliky Ustyug. He wears long, silver and blue robes and a red furred cap or snowflake crown, carries a magic staff, and sometimes rides a snow sled pulled by horses (troika). The character is believed to predate Christianity and originate in a Slavic winter wizard born of Slavic pagan gods.

The Soviet Union strongly discouraged depictions of Ded Moroz as bourgeois and religious, but remained popular nonetheless as the symbol of New Year’s Holiday, which replaced the forbidden Christmas. In fact, the Dynamo Regional Council, a Soviet fitness and sports promotion organization, organized the production and sale of many kinds of New Year’s mask in many towns, including Leningrad, Rzhev, Vyshny Vokochok, Saratov, and Yaroslavl. Witches, animals, doctors, and even masks representing the Devil were sold.

This specific mask was made in the Dynamo Workshop of the Voronezh Sports Complex, which produced them between 1951 and 1991. The masks were probably designed by the artist S.M. Nyuhin, but little is known about the specific craftswomen who made them. They were originally shaped from mashed paper on gypsum molds; dried with electric heaters; cut and pierced; primed with oil, chalk and glue; and painted and lacquered. In the 1970s, aluminum molds replaced the gypsum and cardboard substituted for paper maché, but the skilled hand painting continued.


TITLE: Iroquois Corn Husk Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Mohawk)
DESCRIPTION: Corn Husk (Bushy Head) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Healing; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: braided corn husks
OTHER MATERIALS: brass bells

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Mohawk, had three medicine societies, one of which was the Society of Husk Faces.  Among the important rituals of the Society are celebration of the Midwinter Festival using the “Bushy Heads” or corn husk masks. They represent earthbound spirits from the other side of the world, where the seasons are reversed (which, in fact, they are south of the Equator). The beings taught the Iroquois the skills of hunting and agriculture. They perform predominantly two dances, known as the Fish Dance and the Women’s Dance. Unlike the False Face dancers, Husk Face dancers are mute. Like the False Face dancers, they can cure the ill by blowing hot ash or sprinkling water on their patients.

The Bushy Heads can be male or female, young or old.  Either men or women may dance in the Husk Face Society, and sometimes they choose masks of the opposite gender to the amusement of the audience. This specific mask adds brass bells to symbolize the tears and runny nose of an old woman spirit.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).


TITLE: Vejigante of Loíza Mask
TYPE: face mask
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Coconut Husk Vejigante Mask
MAKER: Wilfredo Vázquez (Loíza)
CEREMONY: Carnival; Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól
AGE: 2008
MAIN MATERIAL: coconut husk
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; paint

Loiza, Puerto Rico, is an enclave of Afro-Latino culture in otherwise mestizo Puerto Rico.  Unlike in other parts of Puerto Rico, masks of Loiza are carved from abundantly available coconut husks rather than paper maché. Like the masqueraders of Ponce on the other side of the island, Loizan masks sport multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils.  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 Loiza Carnival. In addition, the masqueraders appear at the Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól, the patron saint of Spain, whose holiday is celebrated equally in Loiza on July 25th.


TITLE: Tami Island Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: Siassi Island
ETHNICITY: Tami (Melanesian)
DESCRIPTION: Tago helmet mask
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1990
MAIN MATERIAL: sago palm tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: rattan; wood; berry and tree sap pigments; feathers

The Tami people inhabit a small collection of islands in Papua New Guinea’s Morobe Province. They number fewer than one thousand individuals today. The Tami masquerade is part of the adult initiation (circumcision) ritual for boys and men. The tago simultaneously represents a spirit of a dead ancestor and the more recently, spirit of kani, a dragonlike monster that eats children and is invisible to women.

Tago masks are kept in bush huts off limits to women and children, who are forbidden to see tago masks and performance on some islands. On others, such as Siassi, women do attend the performance. In practice, women on all the islands all have seen tago performances and merely feign ignorance for form’s sake.

Each tago mask belongs to a family and has an identifiable design. They are acquired through marriage from the maternal uncle and passed down to the children.

The tago initiation ceremony was formerly performed every ten or twelve years, accompanied by the loud noise of a bullroarer (a carved piece of wood or rattan swung in circles on a string to make loud wind sounds). During that time, a taboo was placed on coconuts for one year and war was banned. More recently, it has been performed every two decades.


TITLE: Bugaku Somakusha
TYPE: face mask
SUBREGION: Osaka Prefecture
DESCRIPTION: Somakusha Mask
MAKER: “Miyatake”
AGE: 1990
MAIN MATERIAL: kanshitsu
OTHER MATERIALS: lacquer; kaolin clay; gold leaf; plant fiber; horse hair

Bugaku is an official court dance of Japan, dating back to about 500 C.E.  During the Heian period, Bugaku dances were so central to protocol that nearly all ceremonies and festivals included them. The dance was especially important in appeasing angry gods, purifying the village, and petitioning the gods for rain or a good harvest.  The dance is performed to the music of drums and flutes. The dancers enter the stage singly in succession, then dance together in pairs, in synchronicity to varying tempos. Each dance has its own mask and is named after the mask.

Bugaku masks were sometimes made of wood, and sometimes (like this one) made from kanshitsu, a composite of sawdust and resin shaped over a mold. This mask is a near replica of one from the 1920s or 1930s kept in the Shitennō-ji Temple in Osaka.

The Somakusha is thought to represent the god of a mountain who dances for a flute playing hermit who descended from the mountain after his devotions there.

For more on Bugaku masks, see Kyōtarō Nishikawa, Bugaku Masks (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd. 1971).

Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Bugaku dance of Japan.


TITLE: Jukumari Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
COUNTRY: Bolivia
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Jukumari (bear) mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Diablada)
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: felt covered with plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: paper maché ears; alpaca fur; glass lightbulbs; human hair; paint

The Diablada is an important part of Carnival in several towns in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile.  The Diablada of Oruro, Bolivia, is famous for the large numbers of participants and the elaborateness of their masks and costumes.

The dance dates back to pre-colonial times and was adapted under the influence of the Spanish missionaries to conform to the Catholic doctrine of the struggle between good and evil.  The dance begins with the Archangel Michael commanding personified seven virtues against Lucifer and his personified seven deadly sins and an army of male and female devils.  Other non-European characters, such as the Andean Condor and the bear, also play a role.  The dance typically occurs in the course of the parade, with marching bands playing musical scores dating back to the 17th century.

This mask represents the bear, or jukumari, and dates to the 1960s. It was made by the then-usual technique of putting felt or linen cloth over a fired clay mold, then applying plaster and letting it set. Lightbulbs were painted and used for eyes, and alpaca fur gives the bear a realistic look.

For more on Bolivian masquerade, see Peter McFarren ed., Masks of the Bolivian Andes (La Paz: Editorial Quipus/Banco Mercantil SA, 1993).


TITLE: Emberá Macaw
TYPE: face mask
DESCRIPTION: Blue-and-Gold Macaw Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed palm fibers

The Emberá people belong to the Chocó ethnic group along with the Wounaan people inhabit parts of southern Panama and northern Colombia.  They weave remarkable animal spirit masks from the dyed fibers of the black chunga plant (black palm, Astrocaryum standleyanum). Shamans (jaibaná) use these masks in healing and village purification rituals, during which they will be hung from the house posts or worn.