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Masks and Masked Rituals in World Cultures

Updated on May 2, 2016

Explore other cultures and personas with Masks

Masks are used by many cultures around the world.  They can be made for art, for rituals of healing and for spiritual purposes.  Many mask traditions come with rich mythologies.  Often masks depict totem animals or deities of significance to the wearers.

This is a Native American mask crafted by Northwestern peoples which I photographed in a Seattle museum.

Venetian Masks - Italian-style for Carnival and Mardi Gras

Venetian masks are styles that developed in the Italian town of Venice. The reasons for masking becoming popular have a wide range of historical reasoning. For whatever the reasons, maskmakers developed large guilds in Venice and created a range of styles and looks that have been associated with that region and events for many hundred years.

My Mask Collecting

This is a picture of most of my mask collection, as it hung in the hallway of my studio apartment downtown in San Francisco from fall of '92 until summer '96 when I moved.

I've done the mass mask hanging before, it's just this picture that seemd to show so many of them, sort of.... I've always wanted to have the whole collection in one place, with a large sign hung adjacently, that reads "Find Yourself."

1. Beaded spider mask from Japan - from Mom

2. Chinese opera mask

3. Korean mask - from Mom

4. Japanese mask from Disneyworld

5. Costa Rican mask - brought back from '93 trip

6. Square mask face wall art

7. "Happiness and Fear walking hand in hand" face

8. Swiss wooden face with real cow teeth and hair

9. Japanese mask made of tortoise shell with metal accents - from Mom

10. Chinese opera mask

11. Mexican mask

12. Japanese Kabuki-style mask - from Mom

13. Leather mask - made by artisan in Switzerland

14. picture of masks

15. Woven mask from Mexico - bought in Mystic, CT

World Masks

The following sites provide historical and artistic references for many types of masks found in different cultures around the world.

Masked Performances - ancient and modern

Performers who use masks often work with ancient themes, symbolic characters that go beyond single cultures, myths and magic. Some of the links below are to people I have seen perform over the years who make very good use of masks in their art, work and performances. Other links are to sites which offer good historical information on specific styles of masked performances

Books About Masks

You can focus on masks from one particular culture, or you can let your interest in masks range across the entire planet. The history and mythology behind the creation and usage of masks is very ancient and very complex.

Are you too a mask collector? If so, what types of masks do you collect and why? If not a collector, what do you find interesting and intriguing about masks?

Do You Collect Masks?

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    • LluviaDeArte profile image


      5 years ago

      We make Mayan and Aztec Masks. We live on the outskirts of Chichen Itza. They are very traditional here. I love this lens. I love your collection. It is always nice to be invited to see a private collection. Thank you for writing this.

    • attraction 42 profile image

      attraction 42 

      6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i find it very ammusing to collect masks. amazing!


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