Explores ancient mask customs, rituals, and traditions throughout Europe, from Scandinavia and England to Germany and France to Greece and Rome
• Reveals how mask rituals are akin to shamanic journeying and allow the mask wearer to personify an ancestral presence, spirit, deity, or power
• Examines animal guising and shows how mask customs are tied to creation myths and the ancestral founders of a people, tribe, city, or nation
• Looks at morris dancers and mummers in the UK, Krampuslauf and Perchtenlauf in Germanic areas, the Gorgon myths of Greece, Norse Berserker rituals, and the annual Black Forest rite to awaken ensouled masks every spring
There is a spiritual power in masks that transports one into realms unseen and gives voice to things unspoken. Within the context of ritual, putting on a mask places the wearer at the intersection between the present and the past, the living and the dead, this world and the Otherworld. Masks make it possible to activate ancient archetypes, with the mask wearer reanimating or personifying an ancestral presence or spirit, a deity or power, an animal or a being of the eldritch world.
In this illustrated study, Nigel Pennick explores the magical and spiritual aspects of mask wearing from ancient times to the present. He examines the many mask traditions around Europe and shows how mask rituals are similar to shamanic journeying and near-death experiences and can induce ecstatic states that allow the power signified by the mask to take possession of the individual wearing it. He also looks at the practice of dressing up as sacred animals and mask wearing as it relates to ostenta, events that occur suddenly and without warning that are considered a token or sign from the Otherworld.
Unveiling the sacred power of masks, the author shows how masks allow us to transport into realms unseen, embody ancestors and otherworldly entities, and connect with traditions that stretch back to time immemorial.
About the Author
Nigel Pennick is an authority on ancient belief systems, traditions, runes, and geomancy and has traveled and lectured extensively in Europe and the United States. He is the author and illustrator of more than 50 books, including The Pagan Book of Days. The founder of the Institute of Geomantic Research and the Library of the European Tradition, he lives near Cambridge, England.
“A thorough and sensitive review of the varied use of masks through time. Most valuable to me is Pennick’s understanding as to how masks allow us to outwardly reflect our inner spiritual reality. There is too little literature on this subject, and this book is a valuable addition, written with sensitivity and understanding.” — Peter Coyote, actor, Zen Buddhist priest, mask teacher, and author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Meet
“This book is a gem! As always, Nigel Pennick explores his intriguing subject with ferocious intensity, beautifully balancing his lenses from telescopic to macroscopic. He writes with a density of detail and archival attention, galloping through centuries in single sentences, crisscrossing countries and even continents in single bounds. His prodigious knowledge, gathered and retained over a lifetime, pours forth--a cornucopia of richness--and sometimes may seem like simple lists but which transcend as categorical abundance of evidence that lead up to his anecdotal expansions. Well done, Mr. Pennick!” — Linda Kelsey-Jones, president of San Marcos Area Arts Council and director/curator of The Walkers&rs