In our busy society, we often get caught up in the pressure of what’s happening around us and what’s expected of us. This can result in a feeling of stress and disconnection from our inner world. We end up struggling to access the internal resources that can help us deal with life’s challenges – and feel cut off from the joy and excitement of feeling truly alive. But working with masks can re-wire these connections and give you a new confidence as you navigate through your everyday with more vigour and delight.
Masks are an ancient tool to help us connect with nature, the animal kingdom, and the forgotten wisdom of our ancestors. Masks are beautiful, elaborate, fierce, grotesque and elegant. They are extraordinary objects that demonstrate the creative skills and aesthetics of many different periods and cultures. Masks are a near-universal phenomenon, yet their uses and meanings are strikingly different around the world.
Masks are traditionally used in rituals and religions in, for example, Africa. Mask-wearers may be thought to be possessed by – or even become – a spirit or a god. In ancient Egypt, funerary masks were intended to equip the dead with divine powers and attributes.
Your mask, like your sacred drum can be a legacy, a life companion, a gauge of your personal growth, and a guardian for your altar or sacred space.
Making masks is not about “trying to produce good art”. It’s about exploring, as a human, your sense of being in relation to nature, and finding what is meaningful to you as you give voice and form to your inner discoveries. You guide your own flow through your being, shaping and shifting into sacred art.
My creative work as a Sacred Drummer health practitioner emerged from my love of masks and all that is theatrical and visually expressive. I delved more deeply into the world of masks with a dramatherapist and have been particularly influenced and inspired by the work of Elise Dirlam Ching and her partner Kaleo Ching in America. Their amazing book, The Faces of your Soul, describes the use of guided imagery to access different realms of the subconscious and to experience an internal dialogue during deep relaxation.
With mask-making, you can get to know your face in a whole new way, discovering its shadows and crevices to reveal a one-of-a-kind beauty and magic. As part of the process, you can take photos in different nature locations like woodlands or forests to deepen your feelings towards a particular tree, stone or another natural finding. It’s all part of an inner and outer journey to re-discover yourself.
In shamanic work, we often use access to other realms and to our own inner guides to help us find clarity, healing and direction in our lives. This happens through the use of journeying (hyperlink to journeying post). Guided imagery (hyperlink to “imagery” blog post) can lead us gently into the spirit world to connect with our ancestors, totem animals, guardian angels, or an inner healer. Creating internal images isn’t easy for everyone, but mask making can support this process.
When using mask-making techniques, you start with realistic facial sculptures, based on your own face.
Once the mould is made, you can use it with guided imagery to access your guides. When you make a connection with your guide, it will then inspire you to paint, decorate, and transform your personal mask from the mould of your own face.
You will develop your skill at generating your own internal images into a life force that is special and awe-inspiring. On making my own mask, I found myself mesmerised by features appearing on the plaster sculpture that I never knew were there. Realising that these were also aspects of my now-deceased mother’s face was a wonderful gift to me.
Another person saw in her mask an animal that she identified as a beaver. At first, she saw it in negative terms, until we explored the beaver’s nature and the powerful force it embodies. This reframed my friend’s thinking about her own internal world and she began to recognise strengths she never knew she had.
While you apply and sculpt the plaster gauze facial moulds with a partner, you are essentially giving and receiving a facial massage as well as attending each other to facilitate a life-changing transformation.
We all get trapped in certain ways of being or feeling at times, and mask work can help you change energy states and shift out of stagnation. For example, a friend of mine felt stuck in the past and her mask represented that feeling. She decided she wanted to have a fire ceremony to transform the situation and bring about the healing she sought.
In my workshops, you also have the opportunity to wear your mask in a Sacred Drumming circle. This adds to a sense of drama as you enter into a ritual experience, generating physical energy and a trance-like focus. Your mask can also be used to access guidance from the Medicine Wheel (insert hyperlink: medicine wheel post) with the support of the drum. And it’s a lot of fun!
I’m planning an exciting series of workshops in nature using these ancient, powerful tools and I also offer private mentorship. Contact me to find out how we can work together.