TITLE: Shamanic Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
SUBREGION: Middle Hills
ETHNICITY: Gurung or Magar
DESCRIPTION: Yak leather shamanic mask
CATALOG ID: ASNP001
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: mid-twentieth century
MAIN MATERIAL: scraped yak leather
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A
This mask originates in the middle hills area of the Himalaya mountains, either from the Gurung or Magar people. Such masks are among the most primitive in use in the world, and are made by carving wood, coating it with yak butter fat, and charring it over a smoky fire.
The shaman plays an important social role as the channeler of spirits for healing, purification, and protection of those under his supervision. Masks help the shaman embody one of the spirits that surround the living world and use it to heal the sick, drive away evil influences, and guide villagers through changes in their lives (birth, adulthood, changes in social status, death) that might be affected by the spirit world. When hung in a house, the mask serves a protective function. The Magar and Gurung people use very similar masks for identical purposes.