Still thinking about mumming.
And the spiritual and ecstatic and terrifying of the unknown and being another and change and transgender and other and needing to know.
Phyllis Galembo's photo documentation of the practice of modern day Mumming spread colonially first by the French to West Africa then to the Americas.
So why mumming? Well it's the oldest European pagan form of theatre from before records start. Where you hide your face in part for spiritual transformation and in part to hide your greed and sin of being a performer (so you no one knows you just earned more than most earn all year and you don't give any to your lord etc). Mask is a huge cornerstone in magic performance causing a lot of subconscious shifts in those who use them.
It spreads out as a practice to the east such as Bulgaria where you still see winter festivals where people dress up in fur costumes covered in bells and act as bears waking up from hibernation to encourage the beginning of spring. Local mumming costumes derive traditionally from what was near and in surplus. Straw wicker woven from farmland, furs, cole. Often costumes focus is representative, but also importantly disguising your full body shape.
Performance occurs during festival times. midsummer to celebrate the harvest, and winter to celebrate not dying in the cold. Festival is a time when rules and laws are suspended, including marriage, monogamy etc and chaos and trickery reigns supreme under the elected King of fools who is allowed to dictate new rules to follow (often the lowest standing person in the village).
Which then gets introduced by the French to West Africa colonially, where it merges with culture there into the formation of Voodoo as a practice. And then with slavery, Masquerade and Voodoo travel over to the Americas where it continues in places like Louisiana for for Mardi Gras. Mumming also makes it over in other forms from the British and Spanish. Newfoundland still has mumming new years traditions.
And under a lot of this, there are questions of what draws us to the need to mask, to be someone/something else, to hide shame, to purge desires, to reach a spiritual space, summon forth things from inside and find freedom in the anonymous.
Masquerade balls, Fursuiters, cosplay, mask fetishes (gender masking, puppy play, pony play, slave masks), drag performance, theatre mask, clown, larpers, masked rituals..
There is also interesting parallels between the psychology experienced with mumming and horror movies. The fear of the unknown, or of the person who is free from societal standards (such as the clown or masked murderer) who is walking among us unchallenged. Movies like The Purge play into the traditional festival where rules are suspended and everyone is allowed to do anything.
The Newfoundland mumming tradition is a straight up home invasion storyline, where a large group of your friends dress up in several layers of clothes, worn oddly, so you become lumpy with fabric bags over their heads and eyeholes, playing music chaotically and speaking while breathing in to mask their voices. And you have to let them in to your home on New Years to make noise and drink all your booze, until you can guess who everyone is.
this is all fascinating, but i just wanna say that masks around here seem to be partly for invoking something bigger than yourself; one of the native tribes (i think the jamestown s'klallam tribe? could be wrong, probably am) puts on plays with huge bird masks that are meant to like, both symbolize specific spirits like raven as well as allowing the performer to disappear into the role
@aradinfinity Yes totally, they've always always been a large part of ritual and spirtual performance. I think what im touching on is the psychology of mask is the same in essence throughout. I train people in mask performance, and there is a lot to do with sacred magic in how you work with masks and what occurs to your identity consciously and subconsciously when you wear them.
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