Masks are ancient symbols of transcendence and power. To make masks is an art and an experience, a potent one at that. It can include vivid and unfamiliar sensory stimulation (to have your face covered with dampened plaster strips), and it can catalyze a form of very unique meditative exploration and identity probing, all within a safe artistic construct.
I can’t wait to experience mask-making in the “Summer Day” writing workshop for teen girls this August (and at the fall retreats on Lake Superior, more details on those to come soon).
I’ve done mask-making with groups of teens and tweens in the past, and it never ceases to be amazing. What is a mask, if not a symbol of who we are, who we wish to be, and who we have once been (and may be again if we so choose)? Masks denote the simple truth that we ourselves have agency, in any given moment, over the face that is seen and the face that looks within. Our identity is both what we do reveal … and at least as importantly, what we choose to protect or hide. Masks emit a sense of something deeply mysterious that may be about to reveal itself. (Or not.) They suggest something spirited, something imbued with secrets (from within and beyond).
Throughout human history, masks have symbolized a kind of portal into the great mysteries of life and consciousness. Masks have been used by every great shamanic tradition and in every known culture as conduits to wisdom, protection, guidance, healing, and for celebrating rites of passage (including, of course, puberty). In more metaphysical terms, the mask is a way of reconnecting the "dreaming soul" with the every day living self.
Now, in modern times, people remain transfixed by the curious power masks evoke. In this August’s “Summer Day” writing workshop for teen girls (as well as at some upcoming workshops on Lake Superior—watch for details coming soon!), we’ll do extraordinary mask-making exercises.
There’s remarkable mystery and magic in masks. Just wait and see.