Once a year, in late June/early July, the spirits
wake up, don masks and other accoutrements, and take to the
streets of Dan Sai, a small town in eastern Thailand near
the Lao border, for two days of merriment and innocent mayhem.
The timing coincides with the beginning of the Rainy Season
and the planting of the rice crop.
‘Phi’ is Thai for ‘ghost’,
or ‘spirit’ (pronounced as ‘pee’);
‘Ta’ (technically it sounds like ‘dtah’)
means ‘eyes’; and ‘Khon’
refers to the famous Thai traditional, masked dance discipline.
Most of the masks are made of traditional materials: a large
‘huat’, or basket for steaming sticky rice, is
attached to the hard end of a large palm frond, thus forming
the now-famous face and ‘hat’ configuration. Various
media are used to embellish the creations including enamel
paints, carved wood, sawdust paste, curved rattan, stickers,
etc. We also spied the more traditional palm leaf sunhats
being used with masks by one group, as well as papier mache
masks on different types of ogres.
Costumes have also evolved from pieced collections of old
scrap materials of traditional pattern, to colorful new, pieced
outfits in polyester or cotton. Phallic accoutrements took
the form of sword handles, guns, tree branches, etc. Halloween
meets Mardi Gras and Carnivale, with a Thai twist.
A carnival atmosphere reigns throughout the town, with throngs
of the colorful, masked tricksters brandishing phallic accessories,
photographers equally rampant, and families out in full force.
Blatantly bawdy, this is also a fertility festival as evidenced
by the many versions of phalluses, and invocations of good
luck for the new agricultural cycle.
While not "antiques", we consider
these masks to be of ethnographic importance as this celebration
is the only ritual use of masks in Thailand.
For more photos and an account of the festival,
please see our blog.
(Please note: The length of the masks given on the product
pages is from the top center of the crown to the chin, and
does not include the "wings" or "horns."
The width shown is across the top of the crown from left to