In Brief: It is important to differentiate between Devil mas as a band, Devil mas as an individual characterization, and “Devil” as a colloquial expression. The term Devil in Carnival context is often used as a category of mas band that has a spectrum of characters. As the title of a specific character, Devil has been used in referencing imps, satan, lucifer, beelzebub, beasts, and death. The earliest report of a Devil mas was likely by Charles Day, stating there was, “a skeleton painted on a coal-black shape”. Over time, specific costuming and performance practices evolved so that specific Mas characters were born out of the broad category of “Devil”. There are now many variations of a the Devil character, each of which has its own performance practice, but no single Devil mas character exists, only Devil/Dragon mas bands, which this archive refers to as “Devil Mas”.
Mas Origins and History: The first recorded appearance of the Devil mas was on February 15, 1888. The Port of Spain Gazette reported that masqueraders portrayed, “close fitting all-in-ones with long tails all in red.” Today, this would likely be described as the Imp mas, a subset of Devil, and one part of the Devil Mas Band. By 1898, the Port-of_Spain Gazette reported on February 22 that,
“To dress as the devil seemed to be most people’s ambition” Hill writes, adding that in 1899, “headmasks and horns were becoming more fearful, tails were thicker, and forks longer. However, not until 1908 was the first devil band orgainzed. The leader, Patrick Jones, was inspired by illustrations in a copy of Dante’s Inferno. The colors he chose for the costume were khaki and slate, and his band included the characters of Lucifer, a Dragon, and the previously noted red devils now renamed Imps.”
Costuming: Many variations on this mas and mas band exist.
Sounds and Speech: n/a
Other Behavior: n/a
Variations and Developments of Note: The first established splitting of the Devil into component characters came in 1908 when Patrick Jones organized the first Devil Band “inspired by illustrations in a copy of Dante’s Inferno. The colors he chose for the costume were khaki and slate, and his band included the characters of Lucifer, a Dragon, and the previously noted red devils now renamed Imps.”
References in Arts and Popular Culture: Henry States, “Earl Lovelace uses the metaphor of the dragon in The Dragon Can’t Dance, and David Rudder sings in “The Hammer”.
Related Characters: Imp, Lucifer, Song of the Morning, Dragon, Beast, Beelzebub, Death, Ghost.
Bands and Individual Performers: Patrick Jones.
Other Information: the procession cited by Hill in the Devil/Dragon Band is as follows:
“The assemblage of this remarkable band is performed according to strict protocol. The King Imp conducts the lesser members and musicians to the Stray Beast who then takes charge of the band, which is handed over to the Crown Prince, then to the King Beast, then to Beelzebub, Statan, and so to Lucifer. Accoridng to my chief informat, Charles Bennett, who has been playing this masquerade for over 50 years: “Devil band is not like the ordinary bands, such like historical bands. To every character that the band goes to take up there is a certain peice of music to play to bring that fellow out and if that piece is not played that man is not moving.” When finally the full band arrives at the house of the individual playing Lucifer, this masker checks the band in the “Book of Laws” carried by Beelzebub, makes sure all members have paid their dues, directs that the band be roped to keep out nonmaksers from mixing with masqueraders, and then goes to put on his mas: “When the moment comes for me to take up that mask, and I take the mas and put it on, I become a different being entirely. I ever feel as if I’m human at all. All I see in front of me is devils! Real! Until a long while after before I get myself to knowledge again
The orchestra plays a fast pasillo. The characters take up their positions; two Beasts stand on either side of the entrance to Lucifer’s house, the Ghost faces the door , and with an armor-bearer and Beelzebub in attendance Lucifer moves out to take command of his infernal army. Mr Bennett declared that once he took thirty-five minutes to dance five feet from the threshold of his house to the pavement where the band was awaiting him, “rocking my body to and fro, shoulders moving for the wings, fancy footwork, dancing the headmas. My wings, top to bottom, were six feet long” On the competition stage, the devil band enacts a struggle between Lucifer and the Beast, which ends in victory for Lucifer, who stabs the Monster with his fork and tramples him under foot. In all essentials this is the story of St. George and the Dragon reverted to its pagan origin. Another equally elaborate ballet takes place on the streets when the devil band has to cross over a drain or gutter of water. As creatures of hell these devils born of fire are mortally afraid of water. For them the drain symbolizes not simply water but holy water. The Imps at the front of the band leap sideways, backward, and forward before the drain, expressing great fear. Finally they leap over backward, the only position, according to Mr. Bennett, in which they can cross over.”
Interviews and Scholarship: n/a
Henry, Jeff. Under the mas’: resistance and rebellion in the Trinidad masquerade. San Juan, Trinidad and Tobago: Lexicon, 2008. Print.
Hill, Errol. The Trinidad carnival; mandate for a national theatre.. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972. Print.