Friday, July 25, 2014

Masks- Sacred Conduits To The Soul

In the movie "The Mask", Jim Carrey's character Stanley Ipkiss finds an ancient mask belonging to the god Loki and upon donning the face covering takes on the characteristics of a trickster. His true identity concealed, Ipkiss is free to do and say anything he wishes, no matter how outrageous. He is magically transported to a place of unbound reality by the mask he wears.

Wearing a mask transforms the wearer into something or someone other than himself. The individual is taken from the realm of the impossible to the realm of the impossibly real. Rather than concealing the individual's persona, it transcends convention and frees him.

Psychologists such as C.G. Jung believed that the mask connected the wearer spiritually to an archetype and the powers it represented. Masks are conduits between the mundane and the sacred. Ancient Greek actors were masters at this when they donned their theatrical masks. In doing so they instantly became something Other.

John Denver's mask 
The symbolism of masks culturally vary: it may represent a character in a story, an animal, a spirit, or a demon. Masks allow the wearer to psychically shapeshift. Masks are also canvasses to the soul. The mask pictured at left was created by singer John Denver a couple of weeks prior to his tragic death, for The Mask Project. The neutral background-a muted bronze-is a spectacular foil for the blossoming tree which appears to be split in two. The two halves of the tree sprout from the same trunk, but it appears to be gloriously full on the right (creative) side, and slightly less so on the left (logical) side. There appears to be a tear in the right eye, which is smaller. The larger left eye is partly in shadow. Below the lips, there is  a bouquet of blossoms and a heart, the combination of the internal and external personalities. At first glance, the bright colors and flowering branches of the tree denote a rich beauty; upon further examination, however, things aren't quite as they seem. The left side of the face is subdued and darker. The rich beauty still exists, but it is not as ebullient as it appears at first. John Denver's music was for the most part upbeat and positive, it spoke of hope for the future. Denver's off stage personality was essentially as he presented himself on stage, only a bit quieter and deeply introverted. His first wife, Annie, said he was a complex man, and he was...but no more so than others. Knowing him as I did, I believe this complexity was more apparent because he worked so diligently at internal self-realization that it showed on the outside.

I participated in a workshop on individuation where all the participants made masks of their own characteristics. (Most arts and crafts stores carry blank masks and all the materials to make one.) You can also use a white paper plate cut to fit. Another time we made a mask of someone else in the group portrayed as a god/goddess. I think you'll find the results surprising either way!

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