Masquerade!/ Run and hide–/but a face will/ still pursue you!
from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Entertainment. Since the time of ancient Greece, mask have been used for theater performances (noh masks of Japan) and for celebrations and festivals (Mardi Gras masks).
- Disguising identity. Think of Batman, the Lone Ranger, and other superheroes. Sometimes having a disguise can be very helpful, even it is only a half mask. Thieves and other bad guys will concur; having a mask makes it difficult for anyone to identify you in a line-up.
- Concealment. In Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom wears a mask to hide his disfigurement. In The Man in the Iron Mask, King Louis XIV condemns his twin brother to wear an iron mask to conceal his relationship to the king.
- Ritual and ceremony. Around the world, masks representing gods, goddesses, spirits and elementals are used to invoke those beings and their powers during ritual. The Hopi of the southwest and their kachinas, and the Iroquois and their false faces are two examples in this country.
You’ve probably worn a mask. Perhaps for a Halloween costume party or as part of a theater production. It’s fun to slip beneath a mask and become something or someone else for a while, isn’t it?
The problem with masks arises in your personal and creative life when you begin to identify so closely with the mask that others believe that you are that mask.
Any form of creativity requires a personal vulnerability. After all, you are the vehicle for those words or images or ideas. They come from you and through you. And the risk you take to create inevitably sets you up for critique, criticism and rejection.
So wearing a mask—at first—seems like a good idea. Of course, the mask you don depends on who you are with. The professional one day, the caretaker or fixer the next, or the “good” girl or boy another. But, if you wear any of those masks too long, you give away your power and the truth of who you are.
A better mask to put on is the mask of your Muse. Why? Because instead of concealing or disguising, the Muse mask can be used as part of your creativity ritual. So try this:
Imagine what your Muse looks like. You can do a conscious dream journey, a meditation or ask for a sleep dream to meet your Muse.
Ask for a name. And, while you are at it, a message.
Create a mask. You can cut a mask shape from paper or buy a blank one from a crafts or hobby store. Decorate it with colors, symbols, feathers, beads, glitter–whatever makes you feel connected to your Muse.
Design a short ritual using your Muse mask. Choose an opening movement, sound or scent and put on the mask. Think about the work ahead of you for that time period, what you want to accomplish and see if the Muse leads you somewhere with it. Remove the mask and get to work. Then close your Muse time. Blow out the candle or incense, turn off the music, etc.
Keep your Muse mask on your creativity altar (do you have one?) to remind you of your relationship and the creative power available to you.
If you are going to wear a mask, isn’t it better to wear one that empowers you rather than one that hides the beauty and truth of who you truly are?
Which mask will you wear today?