TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Ontario
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Onandaga)
DESCRIPTION: Broken Nose False Face Mask
MAKER: Gene Thomas, Wolf Clan, Six Nations Reserve, Ontario (1958- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: white pine wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Onandaga, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

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TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Ontario
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Onandaga)
DESCRIPTION: Ghost False Face Mask
MAKER: Gene Thomas, Wolf Clan, Six Nations Reserve, Ontario (1958- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: white pine wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Onandaga, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

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TITLE: Tibet Lakhe
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Tibet
ETHNICITY: Tibetan
DESCRIPTION: Lakhe Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: late 19th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: traces of pigment

Shamanic masks arise from animistic religious beliefs rather than Hindu or Buddhist influences. The shamanic influence in Himalayan societies probably arrived from Mongolian nomadic invaders.  The aspiring shaman must depart the community and live in isolation to commune with nature spirits. If the aspirant succeeds, he or she returns to the village with supernatural powers to invoke ancestor and nature spirits that can be either malevolent or protective and turn them to the good of the community.  This gives the shaman healing and divination powers that are used in major life events, such as births, illness, marriage, or death.  Masks are worn during these ceremonies to help the shaman mediate between the material and spiritual worlds.

This mask appears to represent Lakhe, a local demon with a connection to the Hindu god Indra.

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TITLE: Nuna Chameleon Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Chameleon Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment; dyed plant fibers

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Bobo Fing Antelope Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Bobo Fing
DESCRIPTION: Antelope Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000-2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment

The Bobo Fing are a Mande-speaking ethnic group inhabit farming communities in Burkina Faso. They share with their neighbors, the Bwa, Nuna, Nunuma, and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style. Although their masks appear similar, the Bobo Fing are not closely related to these groups, who speak a different family of languages.

Masks such as this one are used to celebrate many important village events, including funerals, the initiation of boys into adulthood and the purification of the region to ensure good rainfall and fruitful crops at planting time. Masked dances erase human evils by restoring a connection to and balance with the sun, rain, and earth. The masks typically represent protective bush spirits such as the warthog, buffalo, fish, antelope, serpent, or hawk. All such masks incarnate the spirits of fertility, fecundity, and growth. The wearer of the mask is considered to embody the sacred spirit during the masquerade.

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TITLE: Nuna Antelope Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Antelope Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment; dyed plant fibers

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Québec
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Mohawk)
DESCRIPTION: Square Mouth Blower Mask
MAKER: John Elliott, Turtle Tribe (1955- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Mohawk, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

:

TITLE: Nuna Hornbill Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Hornbill Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Tibet Shaman Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Tibet
ETHNICITY: Tibetan
DESCRIPTION: Shaman Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: Unknown
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

Shamanic masks arise from animistic religious beliefs rather than Hindu or Buddhist influences.  The shamanic influence in Himalayan societies probably arrived from Mongolian nomadic invaders.  The aspiring shaman must depart the community and live in isolation to commune with nature spirits. If the aspirant succeeds, he or she returns to the village with supernatural powers to invoke ancestor and nature spirits that can be either malevolent or protective and turn them to the good of the community.  This gives the shaman healing and divination powers that are used in major life events, such as births, illness, marriage, or death.  Masks are worn during these ceremonies to help the shaman mediate between the material and spiritual worlds.

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TITLE: Pra Lersi Tai Fa
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Pra Lersi Tai Fa
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Wai Kru Ceremony; Korb Siam Kru Ceremony
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; gold leaf; paint; ribbons

Lersi, a hermit sage, is an adherent of a minority religion in Thailand derived from the Indian Brahmin and Buddhist traditions. The Lersi path is accessible to the laity who wish to dedicate themselves to benevolent spiritual goals. The Lersi believe themselves to acquire supernatural powers, such as healing, levitation, teleportation, pyrokinesis, transmutation of matter, and telepathy through such practices as self-isolation, meditation, and training.

The mask is used in the Korb Siam Kru ceremony as a blessing and purification, to drive away evil spirits.  It is also used in the Wai Kru ceremony to transmit Buddhist merit from the giver to the receiver.  In all cases, the mask is worn on top of the heard as a crest, rather than over the eyes like a helmet.

Lersi masks take many forms, including Brahmin gods and animal spirits.  This specific mask represents Pra Lersi Tai Fa, an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, who has a third eye that burns all it gazes upon (although, in the strict Brahmin tradition, Shiva has no incarnations). The ribbons indicate it was used in a Wai Kru ceremony.

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