TITLE: Cherokee War Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUBREGION: North Carolina
DESCRIPTION: War mask with snake on head
CATALOG ID: LAUS079
MAKER: Allen Long (Cherokee, North Carolina, 1917-1983)
CEREMONY: Snake Mask Dance
FUNCTION: war preparation
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; leather strap
The Snake-Mask Dance was a dance of the Cherokee people, danced with a gourd rattle and leg-rattles made of turtle shells, performed in preparation for war. It represents the warrior’s fearlessness (wearing a poisonous snake on his forehead) and defiance of human enemies, sorcerers, and ghosts. The purpose of the dance was probably to enlist other men into joining a war party. The warrior danced the mask counter-clockwise around a fire with a slow march step. A singer followed, followed in turn by a woman with turtle leg-rattles and other warriors. The warrior then took a position behind the woman, and the singer led the group in song.
For more on Cherokee masked dance, see Frank G. Speck & Leonard Broom, Cherokee Dance and Drama (University of Oklahoma Press 1951).