Mayan masks for Kids
Courtesy of NCReedplayer
Mayans existed from 1000 BC to AD 1697. No one clearly knows why their ancient civilization was wiped out. Descendants of the Mayans still live in Guatemala and parts of Southern Mexico, Belize, and Northern Honduras and El Salvador.
It is well known that the Mayans, who used no metal tools, were able to create art from very dense materials such as jade. The most sacred of ritualistic masks were made out of jade and delicate forms of mosaics.
Connection to the Spiritual World
Most of the Mayan masks were symbols of their gods. Some masks were used for ceremonies, such as those worn by the Shaman. Many Shamans wore four kinds of mask, but others wore eight of them. Each of these masks represented a spirit. The masks may be human in form, but the design is attributed to personal spirits such as sharks, etc. Thus, the masks were a physical method of representing the spirit world.
It is also clear that many of these masks were used to intimidate their enemies, like those that have faces that look like snakes and similar kinds of animals. Those who believed in the powers of this mask because of its “spirit”, believed that it protected the wearer through spiritual power.
Ceremonies and Festivals
Masks were also used for wedding ceremonies and for other festivities - just like present-day masquerade ballroom events.
When Christianity was introduced to the Mayan world by the Spanish conquistadors, the Mayans merged the Christian beliefs with their own pagan traditions. Consequently, Mayan towns today are represented by different Christian saints. In many towns, on the day of the saint, several of the villagers will perform a masked dance. Some men will wear masks with pink faces and dark mustaches (the Spanish conquistadors) while others will wear dark-faced masks (the Mayans) and occasionally, a monkey and a fair-haired woman will be thrown into the mix for fun.
For more information, I would like to refer you to a website that posts Mayan masks and other artwork: Galeria Contici.
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