Material other than the one listed

TITLE: Halloween Witch Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Latex Witch Mask
MAKER: Death Studios, LaPorte, Indiana
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: latex
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; epoxy; synthetic hair

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 hand cast from a mold and painted by Death Studios, a maker of exceptional quality horror masks and props, located in Indiana, and sold under the name “Scream, Witch, Scream.” Death Studios continues to sell this and other latex Halloween masks.

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

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TITLE: Abelam Bapa Tagwa
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East Sepik River, Maprik Area, Wosera
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Abelam)
DESCRIPTION: Bapa Tagwa
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Tambaran Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Purification; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: woven plant fiber
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigments

The Abelam people of the Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea use several types of masks, many of them intricately woven of plant fiber. The bapa tagwa shown here is a helmet mask, with small eye holes to create a fierce, pig-like appearance. The masks are worn with shaggy leaf costumes by members of the Tambaran Secret Society during adult initiation (circumcision) rituals for boys to invoke nature spirits. The masqueraders guard the ceremony with bamboo or bone weapons to clear away evil spirits and deter women and children from witnessing the secret ritual. Before the ceremony, the bapa tagwa is painted bright orange. Such masks may also be used in yam harvests.

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TITLE: Baining Asaraigi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East New Britain Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Baining)
DESCRIPTION: Uramot Asaraigi Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Day Dance
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo, vines; pigment from chewed roots and coconut husk ash

The Baining people live in eastern New Britain Island area known as the Gazelle Peninsula, in a mountainous tropical forest.  They are a Melanesian people closely akin to other groups in Papua New Guinea.  They traditionally live in small villages with dispersed political authority.  The Baining use their masks to unify the otherwise dispersed villagers, usually in celebrations of major events such as yam harvest, births, deaths, or adult initiation for both boys and girls.  Some dances are for the day time, mostly those centered around female tasks such as sowing, harvesting, and births.  Night dances center around male activities such as hunting.

The masks are mostly made of mulberry or breadfruit tree bark mashed and pounded into a cloth (“tapa cloth”) over bamboo frames.  Unlike most masking cultures, they make these masks specifically to be burned or discarded after the ceremony.  This specific mask, the asairigi, is used in day dances by the Uramot group of Baining people.  The black triangles represent tears of the spirit represented by the mask.  Day dance masks are made cooperatively by both men and women.

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TITLE: Rom Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Vanuatu
SUBREGION: Ambrym Island
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Ni-Vanuatu)
DESCRIPTION: Rom Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Rom Kon
PURPOSE: secret society; social control; spirit invocation; status
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo, coconut fiber, hemp, leaves, feathers, pigment

The Rom Kon ceremony is performed by male secret society members to the beat of drums and seed shakers.  The remainder of the costume is composed of dried banana leaves, and each Rom dancer holds a wooden carving that symbolically represents a weapon.  The Rom dancers themselves represent evil spirits who form a wide circle filled by Namba dancers.  The participants sing songs and chant stories as they dance.  Gradually the pace builds until the ceremony reaches a loud and feverish pitch, then ends.

The right to make or wear a sacred mask carries high costs in Ambrym society.  Rom masks invoke the spirit of ancestors (generally the grandfather) and are important agents of social control.  The masks and costumes must be destroyed or disposed of after a dance to ensure the spirit does not haunt the owner.  The dances only occur between July and September, or at special celebrations, such as for the for the appointment of a chief.

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TITLE: Maligno / Demonio
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Demon (Maligno / Demonio) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Diablada)
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: linen covered with plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; animal teeth; paint; plant fibers; glass eyes

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.  This mask represents one of the seven deadly sins.  Other non-European characters, such as the Andean Condor and the jukumari 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.  In practice, the dance includes both male and female devils dancing in a group led by (rather than opposed by) the Archangel Michael.  The mask itself dates to the 1960s and was made by the then-usual technique of putting linen cloth over a fired clay mold, then applying plaster and letting it set.  This mask was used in the Diablada as one of Michael’s troops.

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

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TITLE: Pee Ta Khon
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
SUBREGION: Dan Sai
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; wood; sawdust paste; rattan rice strainer; dyed polyester 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.

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