February 11: Thoughts for the Day

One of my brothers returned from a trip to Mexico several years ago with some gifts for me…including two masks, carved and painted to look pretty frightening.  Both of them have long, twisting tongues emerging from their mouths and both have horns, like the horns of a goat. I imagine they both are intended as masks of the devil.  I really like them. And this morning as I sat down to write another Thoughts for the Day, for no particular reason I started wondering about the people who carved them. What did the artists/artisans think about these masks?  What, to them, is the meaning behind the masks…do they have meaning?  Is their job, the job of producing masks for the “marketplace,” fulfilling to them? There is no way to know the answers to those questions, but it’s good to have the questions, I think.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to February 11: Thoughts for the Day

  1. Trish says:

    *wonderful* mask…

  2. Trish says:

    John, I know of one of your devil masks you called your favorite, and a wonder mask it is! They are often part of the panorama here, and well appreciated. Masks in general are deeply rooted in the Mexican culture. From the pre-Hispanic era, Spanish conquest, to the “lucha libre”, and the written interpretations of Mexican poet-diplomat and writer Octavio Paz, (principle noted in his writing “The Labyrinth of Solitude”.) There are many varying histories over the devil mask…this is the the version I’ve adopted.

    Supposedly the origin comes from the Nahua community, and isolated village located in the high mountains of Guerrero, Mexico. It is believed that many artisans in this area ingest homemade Mescal or hallucinogens while they create their devil mask. They claim that these substances allow them to visualize all sorts of demon like figures which is what they base their creations on.

    In the state of Guerrero the Devil masks are used in a celebrative dance entitled “Dance of the Seven Vices”, on Independence Day (September 16th.)

    And yes, John, you can find them in the market place, but are generally of poor quality, or go to Mexican Artisans shop where you’ll find the more authentic, beautifully done craftsmanship!

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