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Author Topic: Masks in Mysticism  (Read 405 times)

Sefiru

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Masks in Mysticism
« on: November 05, 2019, 07:13:47 pm »
I guess I'm a week late on this topic, but whatever ...

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I get to thinking about the spiritual significance of masks or costumes. There's the obvious aspects of transformation and concealment, and then there's the question of what we chose to dress up as, and why.

I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

Altair

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2019, 03:49:13 am »
I guess I'm a week late on this topic, but whatever ...

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I get to thinking about the spiritual significance of masks or costumes. There's the obvious aspects of transformation and concealment, and then there's the question of what we chose to dress up as, and why.

I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

I love Halloween and insist on dressing up every year, but I've never chosen my costume for spiritual reasons. (I've toyed with the idea of getting 3 friends together and dressing as the 4 elements, in which case I'd do air; that would be spiritually significant for me.) Still, I think the act of dressing up, which always involves taking on a bit (or more than a bit) of the persona of the costume, and esp. when doing so on a rule-bending holiday like Halloween, is always partly spiritual.

Also, I find there's a power to masks themselves, even when not worn; there's something about a face that's compelling, probably the legacy of our heritage as primates--social animals who evolved to interpret the facial expressions of others as part of our survival strategy. Probably another reason (in addition to concealment and transformation) why a masked face is so interesting to us.

I display three masks as the main decoration on the most prominent wall in my living room. To the ordinary visitor, they're just decorative, grabbed from three cultures from around the globe...and in part, they are. But they were also carefully chosen to be symbolic, for me, of three aspects of the divine: the principal faces She wears as the universe manifests. What I find so interesting is that the masks, while in full view, are acting to mask my intent to the ordinary visitor.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Jenett

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2019, 09:27:27 am »
I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

My tradition has used masks for some specific ritual purposes (mostly related to either Drawing Down, or other things like sacred drama rituals.) We've also used them occasionally for everyone (the one I remember specifically was Beltane, with leaves and flowers and other greenery.)

We also have the custom that only 3rd degrees get to wear things on their heads in general, outside of that required for a particular ritual role or ritual - so the traditional gift to a new third includes a veil, and that's when you can wear things on your head like a priest/ess crown. (This came up at Samhain, since I had mine out to wear: I don't routinely wear it.)

And there's all sorts of traditions around Mummer's Plays, Morris dancing, and any number of other folk traditions.
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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2019, 12:22:34 pm »
I guess I'm a week late on this topic, but whatever ...

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I get to thinking about the spiritual significance of masks or costumes. There's the obvious aspects of transformation and concealment, and then there's the question of what we chose to dress up as, and why.

I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

This is timely for me, since my Halloween costume this year could be said to have had some spiritual significance and definitely sparked some fairly big Stuff that I'm not quite ready to publicly share.  I do know that as a young baby pagan I did have a (not very well made) homemade ritual mask I used, having read something somewhere that made me think that was necessary.  Given recent events I may consider revisiting the concept, if I can get over the "Oh, boy, was I ever a naive little dork" association.  Not sure yet if that will be needed or helpful specifically beyond what already happened, though.

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2019, 02:49:43 pm »
I guess I'm a week late on this topic, but whatever ...

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I get to thinking about the spiritual significance of masks or costumes. There's the obvious aspects of transformation and concealment, and then there's the question of what we chose to dress up as, and why.

I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

So, I take a kind of liberal definition of costume, and I absolutely costume for spiritual reasons.  When I think of costuming, I think of "Dressing in a way that is not me", so putting on a suit and tie might be a costume, and for me, putting on a dress is often a costume.  I use dress to invoke different energies in myself, to call up parts of me (or parts that are not me but that I would like to explore).

In a more ritual manner, I often try (weather permitting) to dress for ritual.  It helps me get into the wonder of it, to step out of my everyday life.  Recently, we hosted a Day of the Dead (which is also our Samhain ritual), and I take on the role of the fate of future.  I wear a hooded cloak to ritual (because it's always cold...it frosted over this year!), but I also have a black veil that I cover my face with when I step into my role as the fate.  For most of ritual, I am just me, but when I am the fate, my face is hidden, not only as a symbol of the future being obscured, but to help me step into that role (side bonus:  it helps me not be able to see anyone in the circle clearly, so less anxiety of being the center of attention...very helpful this year as my son attended for the first time ever, which had weirdness potential)

I would love to wear more masks to ritual, but I am a 'need my glasses so the world isn't blurry' person, and glasses and masks rarely mix well.  So either I find some strange way to wear both (which is almost always very uncomfortable), or I'm half-blind.  I love masks though, and sometimes actually not being able to see normally is helpful in getting me out of normal space.
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PerditaPickle

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2019, 04:48:23 pm »
Every year when Halloween rolls around, I get to thinking about the spiritual significance of masks or costumes. There's the obvious aspects of transformation and concealment, and then there's the question of what we chose to dress up as, and why.

I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

As a LARPer I prefer to avoid mask wearing, but that's because the masks are latex and hard to breathe in, and uncomfortable to wear for any amount of time.

As (new) cos players,  though, we quite like costumes with helmets or masks because it makes us both feel a bit more relaxed about having our photos taken.

Anyway, back to the question - I've not had any experience of wearing masks or costumes for spiritual purposes, but I have for some reason developed the notion that I ought to have a druid robe.  I've spent hours trying to find something suitable (and come to the conclusion I'll have to get a seamstress friend to make me one).  I'm not really sure why I feel this way, as I don't do ritual or anything so not really sure when I expect to wear it.  My current practice doesn't involve anything much more than lighting a candle or giving 'libations' of water to my houseplants, and for those things I wouldn't think to go change my outfit, I'd just do them.

(I did find myself an attractive piece of fallen tree branch this summer to make into a staff, though, so maybe the two things combined would make me more likely to make use of these accoutrements - just need to get around to making the staff and commissioning the robe.)

Edit to remove the bits pasted twice
« Last Edit: November 06, 2019, 04:54:04 pm by PerditaPickle »
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PerditaPickle

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2019, 05:05:34 pm »


Kylara your fate costume and veil sound fascinating.

Also, as a fellow glasses wearer I know what you mean about glasses and masks.

It's somewhat off topic, but I got really angry about a cos play group my husband was trying to join as they stated he cannot wear his glasses with his costume if he wants to join them - this completely precludes me from joining their group (even if I wanted to) as I can't wear contact lenses due to astigmatism in both my eyes!  I'd be restricted only to costumes which had masks concealing my face (even if that wasn't what I felt like at the time).
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Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2019, 10:17:11 pm »
I personally haven't ever worn a costume for spiritual reasons, but I can easily see how it could be. Has anyone here had experience with something like this?

I find myself reminded of the discussion of how Anup masks were theorized to be used by mortuary priests to help bring the god into presence in mummifications.  (Also, for a more home-level observance, masks and tails of Bes have been found, suggesting a family ritual invoking him with costume.)

That's where most of my experience with costuming is, actually: as an assist in possessory work.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Altair

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2019, 05:39:07 pm »
Kylara your fate costume and veil sound fascinating.

Ditto

Quote
Also, as a fellow glasses wearer I know what you mean about glasses and masks.

Ditto

So, I take a kind of liberal definition of costume, and I absolutely costume for spiritual reasons.  When I think of costuming, I think of "Dressing in a way that is not me", so putting on a suit and tie might be a costume, and for me, putting on a dress is often a costume.  I use dress to invoke different energies in myself, to call up parts of me (or parts that are not me but that I would like to explore).

In a more ritual manner, I often try (weather permitting) to dress for ritual.  It helps me get into the wonder of it, to step out of my everyday life.  Recently, we hosted a Day of the Dead (which is also our Samhain ritual), and I take on the role of the fate of future.  I wear a hooded cloak to ritual (because it's always cold...it frosted over this year!), but I also have a black veil that I cover my face with when I step into my role as the fate.

If we're expanding beyond strictly masks, I feel similarly whenever I don my black leather motorcycle jacket with the illustration on the back, of the stars overhead when I was born. I suddenly feel much more in touch with all the things my pagan name embodies.

I recently got a black sweatshirt to wear under it for the December solstice; the sweatshirt has an oversized French Lieutenant's Woman so-you-think-you're-a-Jedi hood that your description of your cloak made me think of. With the hood and MC jacket combined, it's a modern interpretation of a sorcerer's full regalia, and I'm ready for all the long dark of the longest night offers.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Sefiru

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2019, 06:32:36 pm »
We also have the custom that only 3rd degrees get to wear things on their heads in general, outside of that required for a particular ritual role or ritual - so the traditional gift to a new third includes a veil, and that's when you can wear things on your head like a priest/ess crown. (This came up at Samhain, since I had mine out to wear: I don't routinely wear it.)

Huh, that's an association that wouldn't have occurred to me. I do like my hats, and have specific ones for each season, but I never thought about them in this way.

Sefiru

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2019, 06:33:28 pm »
I recently got a black sweatshirt to wear under it for the December solstice; the sweatshirt has an oversized French Lieutenant's Woman so-you-think-you're-a-Jedi hood that your description of your cloak made me think of. With the hood and MC jacket combined, it's a modern interpretation of a sorcerer's full regalia, and I'm ready for all the long dark of the longest night offers.

I am now imagining you on the cover of a Harry Dresden novel.

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2019, 05:27:17 am »
I am now imagining you on the cover of a Harry Dresden novel.

I was getting actual urban-fantasy plotbunnies (plot hatchlings?) from Altair's description.

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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2019, 03:03:03 pm »


If we're expanding beyond strictly masks, I feel similarly whenever I don my black leather motorcycle jacket with the illustration on the back, of the stars overhead when I was born. I suddenly feel much more in touch with all the things my pagan name embodies.

I recently got a black sweatshirt to wear under it for the December solstice; the sweatshirt has an oversized French Lieutenant's Woman so-you-think-you're-a-Jedi hood that your description of your cloak made me think of. With the hood and MC jacket combined, it's a modern interpretation of a sorcerer's full regalia, and I'm ready for all the long dark of the longest night offers.

I adore modern takes on ritual garb!  This is one thing I really love about our group is we have a pretty broad mix of peoples, so we get everything from camo-print cloaks to fantasy-medieval dress.

We actually had two other masks at ritual, one was a lovely fantasy version with attached horns and the other was a more traditional harlequin style mask.  We are talking about doing a ritual mask workshop with our group sometime in the future, which I'm looking forward to.
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Re: Masks in Mysticism
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2019, 06:29:02 pm »
I recently got a black sweatshirt to wear under it for the December solstice; the sweatshirt has an oversized French Lieutenant's Woman so-you-think-you're-a-Jedi hood that your description of your cloak made me think of.

When I was digging up photos for a post on cosplay, I stumbled across this photo of me vamping in the aforementioned hood in my best Meryl Streep French Lieutenant's Woman pose. (Note the wounded pout.)



The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

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