In Brief

Devil in Carnival context could refer to a number of individual mas characters and mas bands (devil, dragon/devil bands). As the title of a specific character, Devil has been used in referencing imps, jab molassie, satan, lucifer, beelzebub, beasts, and death.


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Origins and History

The first recorded appearance of the Devil mas by The Port of Spain Gazette 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 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 organized. 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.”


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Variations and Related Mas Topics

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.”

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Bands and Individual Artists

Patrick Jones

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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, Satan, and so to Lucifer. According to my chief informant, 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 piece 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.”

Related characters: Imp, Lucifer, Song of the Morning, Dragon, Beast, Beelzebub, Death, Ghost.

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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.