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Masking has been around for perhaps 20,000 years. Masks were used in the great civilizations of the Old and New Worlds. The Egyptians, Aztecs and Maya of Middle America, the Inca of the Andes, The Chinese, Indians, and Japanese, all used masks in a variety of different ways including "theatre", as did the Greeks and Romans.

Finally, many tribal and folk societies continue to use masks today. In tribal societies masks are agents for curing illness, combating "witchcraft and sorcery". The False Face masks of the Iroquois people have this function.

Iroquois False Face Masks

These three masks are from my personal collection.

Click on photo for enlargement

3 Iroquois False Face Masks

The small mask on the left is called "Drooping Mouth", the one on the right is called "Whistler" or "The Blower" and both were carved by a Mohawk by the name of "Across the River". This type of mask was often provided for children who have undergone the cutting rite but are too young to undertake the obligation of caring for a full size mask.

Some members of the Iroquois Nation are very sensitive about the sale of False Face Masks or their display in museums. The primary concern is over the sale or display of masks that have been used in religious ceremonies and are considered to be "live". These masks have not been blessed and are not considered live masks.

The artist who made these masks does not consider their sale or distribution into non-Iroquois society to be an issue. The artists often earn their livelihood or supplement their income by making the masks and see it as a way of promoting Iroquois culture.

Masked performances also correspond to seasonal changes or planting and harvesting ceremonies.

Masks encourage us to transform ourselves, and empower us to do so. They permit us to replace one reality with another. They can ultimately provide us with a better understanding of who we really are behind the masks we put on every morning to face the world and take off every night in our dreams.

South West

Katchina Masks

Click on each photo for enlargement

The 'Hopi' mask represents Hehea Kwaamu and is 17" tall. Made of leather, paint, Buffalo hair and wing feather from wild turkey.

This mask is a reproduction.
Hopi Mask Zuni Mask

The 'Zuni' mask is used by the Awehuyanhlelaskuti Katchina and is 22" tall. Made of painted leather, tail feathers and fluffs of the Red Tail Hawk, red dyed horse hair, red trade cloth and conchos.

This mask is a reproduction.

Spirit Masks

All masks are comprised of wood, paint, bone, shell & feathers and are between 18" & 27" in diameter.

Click on each photo for full view of the mask

Spirit Mask 1 Spirit Mask 2 Spirit Mask 3 Spirit Mask 4 Spirit Mask 5
Mask 1
Mask 2
Mask 3
Mask 4
Mask 5

Cornhusk Mask

This mask is from my personal Iroquois collection.

Cornhusk Mask

The Iroquois used corn husk masks at harvest rituals to give thanks for and to achieve future abundance of crops.

Ahola is a germ god (mask 8, above)and a Mong, or Chief Katchina of the Hopi, associated with corn and its abundance. Before departing he offers prayers to the Sun for a long life, happiness and health and abundant crops for the people of the village.

"I find it amazing that these two cultures would have a ritual that was similar considering the great distance between the two."     -  Brian Massey

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