Masks—Drawing Down the Gods

As far back as ancient Egypt, masks were worn by priests and priestesses as part of their invocation of the god or goddess they embodied during a particular ritual. The ability to allow the energy of a particular Neter, force of nature or consciousness, to flow through one was part of the belief system and temple trainings of these civilizations. During the ritual, each participant would enact the part of that particular god or goddess that related to the myth or rite they were performing. The Greeks continued this.

anubis mask

Soon the rituals became associated with drama, so the practice continued in the Greek theatre. Actors wore the mask to show what character they were portraying. Many actors feel that their craft enables them to move beyond their own personality and explore human natures that are quite different from anything they’d normally experience in their own life. And yet, they say they do draw on an experience or feeling that is their own to move sympathetically toward the character they are developing. Even the word personality, coming from persona, suggests a mask.

When we write, we are close to acting. We open ourselves to our characters and allow them to flow through us and onto the page. We move beyond the limitations of our own personality and embrace people very different from us. Not a one of us is a murderer, but we can put on the mask of one, or the mask of a hero of vast proportions, or the mask of an amateur sleuth who is suddenly in over her head—all to allow our readers to experience a catharsis, according to Aristotle. Carl Jung would say we allow the archetypes of the collective unconscious to express themselves through us to galvanize human consciousness to change—to move toward self-actualization. Perhaps just a trace of those Egyptian priests and priestesses remains in our everyday, hum-drum writing. Just maybe.

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Author: Theresa Crater

Award-winning author Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her visionary fiction. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver.

8 thoughts on “Masks—Drawing Down the Gods”

  1. Lovely. Thanks for this fascinating post! “We move beyond the limitations of our own personality and embrace people very different from us.” = So true and a compelling part of world building and character developing.

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  2. I love the comparison! I was a drama geek in high school. I wasn’t a great actor, but I was attracted to it. To the way I wanted it to look and feel and come off. And that definitely is part of the fun of writing for me.

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  3. Count me as another who loves the analogy. I made a comment to a friend of mine once that I supposed the humor of one of my characters was part of me. Her response was, “Of course. How else could you write it?” I guess in that sense, writing is just a process of putting on various masks and telling the story.

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  4. Thanks all. Sorry I couldn’t answer yesterday. I appreciate your comments.
    Cynthia, I think we do become different types of humans when we write.
    Sarah, I loved high school drama, too. We even did Marat Sade, if you can imagine.
    Sue, yes, and the mask I grabbed to illustrated is Japanese. Seems to be a human constant.
    Mary, somewhere deep down we must be a kaleidoscope of humans.

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