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: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta; costume; whip
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Coclé
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask and Costume for Child
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- ); Gabriel Morán (San Miguel Centro, 1966- ); Julio Ovalle (San Miguel Centro, 1990- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): Pita palm string; vegetable dyes; cacique seed buttons, leather sandals; cacique wood stick with leather strap; mounted on a balsa wood figure with vegetable dyes and hardware

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask and full costume were made for a child dancer. A Guaimíe wood carver created the life-sized model for the Museum’s display.


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.

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TITLE: Halloween Pirate Mask
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Vacuform Pirate Mask and Costume
MAKER: Ben Cooper Inc., Brooklyn, New York
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): styrene plastic
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): paint; steel staples; elastic band
COSTUME MATERIALS: dyed rayon

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 a process known as vacuform molding. Sheets of heated styrene plastic are placed over a three-dimensional mold and a vacuum sucks out the air, forming the plastic to the mold. The mask is then cut out, machine painted, and an elastic band is stapled to the mask. The process is exceedingly fast and inexpensive, making the mask very popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans from the late 1950s to today.

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: Vellarón Mask and Costume
TYPE: helmet mask; costume; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Galicia
ETHNICITY: Iberian
DESCRIPTION: Vellarón Mask and Costume with Zamarra (Whip)
MAKER (MASK): Adelino Martínez (Riós, 1964- )
MAKER (COSTUME): Jaime Pérez Rodríguez (Riós, d.o.b. unknown)
CEREMONY: Entroido (Carnival)
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL (MASK): cardboard
OTHER MATERIALS (MASK): paper maché; paper; metal wire; synthetic ribbons; polyester beard; adhesive; paint
COSTUME MATERIALS: polyester cloth and ribbons; leather belt; brass bells; brass hardware; synthetic leather leggings
ACCESSORY MATERIALS: wood; paint; leather straps; cotton wadding; burlap; metal hardware

The Entroido (Carnival) of Spain’s Galicia province has a tremendous diversity of celebration styles that vary from town to town. In the region of Riós, the celebration begins with a parade of brightly dressed vellaróns, who travel around towns such as Castrelo de Cima and neighboring villages, requesting food or money for the Carnival feast. They may accompany other characters, such as A Madama, an elegant lady, O Farrangón, a man in old rags, or even costumed dogs.

The vellarón mask and costume are ancient in origin, but they were lost around 1977, only to be recovered in 2007 and restored to use.

This mask and costume were graciously donated to the Museum by the Township of Riós in 2018.

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TITLE: Moro Mask
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Miguel Ignacio Calel, Chichicastenango
CEREMONY: Danza de la Historia de los Moros y Cristianos
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): wood
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): oil-based paint; handpainted glass eyes; synthetic eyelashes; adhesive
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): synthetic cloth; synthetic ornaments; mirrors; metal hardware; wicker

The Danza de la Historia de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the History of the Moors and Christians) reenacts the reconquest of Spain by the Christians from the Muslim Saracens.  The story was taught by missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed in parts of Guatemala. Important characters include Spaniards, Moors, saints, angels, and devils. This moro takes a form typical in the region of Solalá, with white skin, golden hair, and a resplendent quetzal bird on the forehead.

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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: Austrian Perchtenmaske and Costume
TYPE: helmet mask; costume; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Perchtenmaske (Krampus Mask) and Costume
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Perchtenlauf
AGE: 2003 (mask); 2014 (costume)
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): wood
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): goat horns; paint; goat fur; rabbit fur; foam rubber; adhesive
MAIN MATERIAL (Costume): goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS (Costume): bronze hardware; bronze bells; birch sticks; cloth; paint

Perchtenlauf is a Tyrolean winter festival equivalent to the old Norse Yule.  In many parts of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, in mid-December the town organizes a parade of Perchten, or demons who represent evil spirits (known in Germany as Krampus).  The Perchten wear frightening horned masks with sharp teeth and long, lolling tongues, typically in a suit of goat skin with loud cowbells attached to their belt.  Their function is to accompanying St. Nicholas, who reward good children with treats and presents, while the Perchten punish bad children by beating them with birch switches or throwing them into wicker baskets on their backs to carry down to Hell for punishment.

This complete costume includes a goat leather body suit, gloves with simulated long nails (made of leather), a leather and bronze belt with bronze cowbells, and a birch stick switch for whipping children and other audience members.

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TITLE: Pee Ta Khon
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
SUBREGION: Dan Sai
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost) Mask
MAKER: Teerawat “Aob” Chueaboonmee, Dan Sai
CEREMONY: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; wood; sawdust paste; rattan; dyed polyester fabric; polyethylene rope; tin bells

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.

This specific mask and costume were used for three years in Pee Ta Khon celebrations in Dan Sai, from 2010 to 2013.

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TITLE: Dominican Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask; costume; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: La Vega
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Cojuelo
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: fiberglass
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; synthetic hair; metal accessories; glue; glitter; wire mesh; foam rubber padding; elastic straps; plastic rhinestones; plastic ornaments

During the carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In La Vega, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the diablo cojuelo, or “tormenting devil.”  These devils carry inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.

Traditionally, such masks were made of paper maché, but in modern times they have been increasingly made of fiberglass molded around a sculpted model.  This allows crews of paraders to wear similar masks as a group without the need sculpt each mask individually.  Even so, tremendous work goes into the molding, preparation, painting, and adornment of each mask. Frequently the costumes require months of hand-stitching as well.

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