Nothing speaks to the spirit of Halloween more than a good mask: ghoulish or hilarious, frightening or realistic. But masks obviously have a long, long history beyond recent Halloween traditions. Cultures all over the world, past and present, have used meticulously crafted representations of deities and spirits, or figures that pay homage to local folklore, legends, and traditions.
In a small Slovenian town there is a museum that showcases various masks of a single large creature, the Kurent, known for causing mischief and carrying a club topped with hedgehog quills. Visitors to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania will find, in Shop #47 in the Mwenge Woodcarvers Market, an eclectic collection of ceremonial masks from across Africa—all made from various grains of wood and skillfully painted. From folk art museums in Austria to an abandoned convent in Mexico, here are some of our favorite places to explore the wonders of masks.