The mask is the most individualizing and most highly developed article worn by the Pueblo actors in their prayer dramas. Through the various combinations of shapes, colors, and decorations used to distinguish one character from another, unlimited characterizations are possible.
The Indian believes that the spirit of the supernatural whom he portrays is incorporate in the mask which he wears, and that he takes on the personality of the god by assuming the god's mask. "The mask is one of the variable features that arise out of the spirit-traffic of primitive man. It is a sort of animated fetish through which he works magic and controls the spirits". The Pueblo Indian dons the mask and becomes the transubstantiated kachina. He then proceeds, through the medium of the song and the dance, to offer prayers to the all-powerful spirits, entreating them to come to his aid. It is necessary that the mask conceal the identity of the
actual person because that person is no longer believed to exist after assuming the personality of the god.
It cannot be learned whether the first mask was a strip worn over the face or a bag worn over the head. These two mask types may have originated simultaneously. It is a fact that at Zuñi the Kokochi, who is said to be the prototype of the earliest kachina, wears a half mask which consists of a simple strip of leather across the face (pl. 37). The myths say that he is the first-born of the "old dance woman;' the mother of the kachina. Her husband and her other nine sons become the Mudheads, who are distinguished by their baglike masks of cotton cloth (pl. 40). Thus the contemporary affinity between the strip mask and the bag mask is established.
—We may begin, then, with the simple strip of leather, the half mask (pl. 11). It is deep enough to cover the face from hairline to mouth, and it reaches across the face from ear to ear. It was doubtless intended to conceal the features only, leaving the bangs and side hair of the wearer to cover the edges. Half masks seen today are made of pieces of heavy buckskin or rawhide, secured by thongs passing over and around the head. There are small slits for the eyes, and, around these, eye designs are painted with little regard to conformity with the slits. A bang is made across the upper edge with a thick fringe of horsehair or goat's hair. Across the lower edge is a strip of leather about two inches wide. Sometimes it is painted in blocks of black and white or in various colors, symbolizing clouds. From the under side hangs a long beard of shiny black horsehair which covers the mouth and chin of the wearer and eliminates the need of a hole for breathing. This form of mask permits a dancer's voice to be heard clearly when he accompanies his movement with song. The removable beard is made of long strands of horsehair held in place by three cotton strings which are braided together between each strand or sewn to a strip of cloth. The beard can be tied in place by deerskin thongs provided on the inside of the leather half mask. Sometimes the smooth
black surface of the beard is broken by white downy eagle feathers hung from the lower edge of the mask by white cotton cords. The horsehair may be replaced by numerous small bunches of the tail feathers of many little birds. These feathers form a fringe about five inches deep across the bottom of the mask. It splays out at the bottom and shows feathers of many colors as each bunch rises and falls with the movements of the dancer. In the center, hanging on longer cords beneath the fringe, are four or five additional bunches of feathers interspersed with white downy eagle feathers.
These half masks are often worn by female deities (pl. 38). The design on the lower borders, and the color, either white or yellow, distinguish the wearers from the male deities, who wear blue half masks.
—From this half mask to the face mask (pl. 12) was only a step. The simple strip of leather grew longer and was drawn under the chin with another and triangular piece of leather sewn into the gap. This mask, still depending upon the bangs and side hair of the wearer, has evolved into forms which closely approach realism. Sometimes simple lines of color suggest stylized features, or a rolled piece of leather may be sewed on for a nose. The more advanced forms display molded features, a nose with a flattened tip and wide nostrils, and lips fashioned with pleasing curves. The leather is molded while wet and allowed to dry in the desired form, then applied by tying with thongs through the mask itself. Along the upper edge, horsehair is fastened to simulate the line of the hair. This 'wig; when pulled back, may be clubbed into a knot at the back of the head or allowed to hang free. In this form of mask the Indian has definitely progressed toward realistic features and actual human contours. His painting, however, lacks reality. There is little attempt at natural tones, there is no blending of colors, and the designs possess the flat, geometric quality characteristic of woven textiles and the surface of pottery. On the other hand, and in a contrary direction, by the use of this same form the Indian has accomplished caricature and extreme exaggeration
by the application of projecting snouts and bulging eyes, or horsehair beards, consistent, after all, with the fantasy of other Pueblo masks.
—The simultaneous use of his two forms of masks, the strip and the bag, suggested to the inventive mind a third form, the helmet (pl. 13). By elongating the strip to encircle the head and then giving it a top like the bag, he had a mask which could rest on his head and shoulders and completely conceal his face and hair while at the same time it would provide space for more elaborate appendages on the outside. In the western pueblos the helmet masks have tops which round up over the head. Those found in the Rio Grande pueblos are flat.
The helmet masks are made of heavy deerskin, buffalo hide, old Spanish saddle leather with the tooled markings of the Continental craftsmen turned inside,[*] or cowhide purchased nowadays from the local trader. After the skin is prepared, it is buried for hours in coarse wet sand in order to make it soft. The wearer's head is then measured and a rectangular strip is cut long enough to go around it and deep enough to cover the face. A circular piece is cut for the top. These are assembled and sewed with deer sinew, which is twisted by rolling it against the thigh. The sewing is very difficult and must be carefully done with small and close stitches in order to avoid tearing. The wet form is tried on the wearer and shaped in conformity with the contours of his head. When it is removed, the inside is smoothed and shaped by working it with a stick. It is then placed in the sun to dry beneath the kiva hatchway opening. Mouth and eye holes are next marked and cut. The deerskin thongs are adjusted: one on either side to tie under the chin, four pairs around the base with which to tie a separate collar in place, a pair at the top and one at the back for feather ornaments, and one or two pairs on each side for eartabs or appendages. A size of kaolin is rubbed over each mask to fill the pores and make it smooth, and over this the colors are applied either by blowing them on or by painting with rabbitskin swatches.
There is one other mask form, which depends upon a slightly rounded plaque of basketry (pl. 14). This mask is put over the face and held in place by thongs around the head. It is finished at the back by a piece of cloth or deerskin which is fastened to the edge from side to side, crossing the top and completely covering the head. Banded by a braid of cornhusk, in the periphery of which horsehair and feathers may be set, this mask displays ingenuity and cleverness. Undoubtedly other methods of construction are possible. One is to make an elongated base of small twigs or yucca leaves and cover it with leather or cloth (pl. 30); another is to shape leathers into other forms, such as the conical mask from Jemez. This is fashioned from one large triangular piece of leather in which the two long sides are sewn together, covered with a braid of cornhusk, and set with eagle feathers. It has a single slit for the eyes and is placed on the head with the point high in the air.
Ornamentation of masks.
—The secret of the changing personality of the performer is to be found in the ornamentation and the features applied to the masks. In the simpler forms the masks are constant, but they are always renovated before each dance and often are given a new character. The paint is scraped off and the appendages removed, new colors are applied, and snouts, eartabs, and ornaments are put on in conformity with what is prescribed by the dance to be performed and at the direction of the priest in charge of the ceremony.
The eyes of the mask are made by applying perforated leather circles (pl. 4), stuffed rims of leather or cloth, bulging wooden spheres, or cotton-stuffed knobs of deerskin (pl. 14). Mouths are made of jagged pieces of leather painted to suggest teeth, or braided cornhusk outlined with leather or fur. Snouts and beaks are made of corncobs or the round bodies or curved necks of gourds (pl. 13), or flat, round, or shaped pieces of wood or cottonwood root, all variously trimmed, cut, and painted to suggest
teeth and lips. Snouts are often hollow, and this forms a resonance chamber for the actor, who as a kachina must voice no earthly sound. They may also be hinged to open and shut with a great clacking noise (pl. 7). Eartabs (pl. 4) are curved or square, large or small, of leather or wood. Their place is often taken by elaborate blossoms of colored yarn (pl. 9) or closed buds of painted wood edged with horsehair. Animal horns are pierced and fastened to the top of the mask, or imitation horns of the mountain sheep are ingeniously molded from deerskin (pl. 15); often substituted for horns are two matching gourd necks (pl. 35), or two slit ones, or two shaped strips of wood. The visors of the mask stand upright from the crown, or encircle the entire mask, or merely extend from side to side. They may be formed from crude strips of yucca bound together with braids of yucca cord, or from neatly wound sections of coiled basketry filled with kaolin and painted as a part of the mask (pl. 15).
Several masks have large terraced or scalloped tablets set upright over a helmet. A square opening is cut into the lower edge and this permits the tablet to fit down over the mask and be tied in place at the top and sides. These tablets are decorated with different painted designs and with ornaments of fluttering feathers and waving grasses (pl. 16).
Wooden ornaments are also used to enhance the decorative features of masks. Carved sticks are set vertically in the top, or zigzag strips, cut and painted to represent lightning, are fastened at the sides or upright at the back. The tops of the masks are covered with goatskin, horsehair, and various furs to simulate hair; evergreen to represent everlasting life; and raw cotton to suggest snow. The crown may be encircled with fillets of yucca leaves (pl. 24), twisted cornhusk, or spruce twigs.
Feather ornaments are numerous and are made in many different sizes, shapes, and combinations. Single tail feathers may be thrust through eartabs or tied upright at the back or sides, and downy white eagle feathers may wave from tablet points, visor rims, or topknots. One mask has eagle's down attached to the eartabs (pl. 15) so that the kachina may hear well;
"just as the downy feathers move in the slightest wind, so he can hear the smallest sound." Long tail feathers are shaped into high, open fans standing upright at the back, or marching across the top from ear to ear, or forming a crest from front to back. Sheaves of feathers of various sizes, bound to a stick with wrappings of cotton cord, are sometimes fastened in a horizontal position at the top of the mask. One such sheaf is seen on the Salimapiya (pl. 5) as a special badge to denote the office of the wearer. Long, bright, parrot feathers, iridescent duck feathers, and gray-brown feathers of the sandhill crane are wound to a stick of sagebrush because "sagebrush is hard to get through and they want the Salimapiya to look dangerous." Sometimes the head of a duck is mounted on the end of the stick. A similar ornament, utilizing the wing feathers of the eagle combined with white downy eagle and iridescent duck feathers fastened to a thin reed, is the "great feather" badge of the bow priest at Zuñi. This is worn by warrior impersonators, and the direction in which the tips of the feathers point is believed to be prophetic. If they point backward the god will come in peace, but if they point forward he will come in a hostile mood. Other sheaflike ornaments are made of different feather combinations and tied upright at the side of a mask or at the back.
Very long feathers which project in opposite directions may be bound together in the center by their quill ends, and the joining covered by a bunch or topknot of small feathers. Or long feathers may be made to point at right angles to each other in four directions and the ends, curving upward, tipped with eagle's down. There are many loose pompons of small feathers (pl. 17), eagle's down, or the limber ends of larger feathers. Whenever the last-named are used, the ribs are slit and trimmed in order to make them quiver and dance in the breeze, or when the wearer moves in his routine dance pattern. These pompons are useful as topknots or as side or back ornaments, from which may rise a single feather or a gracefully fashioned sheaf.
Occasionally a crown of tall feathers, eagle or turkey, stands upright
from the fillet of cornhusk about the upper edge of the mask, or a horizontal stick (p1. 3) with a series of feathers projecting at an angie may be worn forward from the center of the head, giving to the wearer a pompous and regal mien.
Occult symmetry is skillfully handled by the artistic Indian craftsman. For example, he places a long, pointed blue horn with a single fringe of black horsehair on one side of a mask, and balances it with a round, flat eartab of white broken by a horizontal black line, the whole completely surrounded by heavy fringes of horsehair in gleaming black. By carrying the black horizontal line of the ear across the mask to the eye, he is able to offset the simple square of the other eye, the blank space of vertical white, and the horizontal length and accent of color in the horn (pl. 3). The Indian uses the pointed bud of the Jimson weed (Datura stramonium ) in the same manner. It sticks out on one side of a mask surrounded by red, dyed horsehair and is balanced by the heavily accented vertical line of two tall eagle feathers tied to the other side (p1. 13). Rarely, this symmetry is achieved by the use of color alone.
Unsymmetrical patterns, however, are not the usual forms. Bisymmetrical design is more common and can be seen in painted features or applied appendages. Variety is often obtained by the interchange of colors in exact space relations, as in the Humis mask, on one side of which the large, turquoise blue square is outlined in black and earth red while on the other the earth-red square is outlined in black and turquoise (pl. 16).
Small decorative designs painted on the masks may have a definite symbolic relation to the characterization. An example is the black chevron of the birds of prey (p1. 24) or the spots of color on the Zuñi Fire God. However, these designs are ordinarily nothing more than decorative pictures of rain, clouds, lightning, corn, frogs and tadpoles, bird tracks, feathers, or any number of other things executed in stylized form on pottery and altar slats as well as on masks. All these painted forms have their origin in the dependence of the Indian on the natural elements,
sunshine and rain, for the germination and maturity of the corn and other vegetation. In some way each design is concerned with the constantly revolving pattern of life and the symbolism connected with it; the general and not the specific need is stressed.
On the masks of individual gods certain designs appear as marks of decoration and association rather than as symbols of characterization and identification. Often butterflies, frogs, dragonflies, and flowers are painted on the blank spaces just to make them pretty.
Noticeably ingenious and original is the manner in which the lower edge of the helmet mask is handled. Seldom is the appearance crude or unfinished. The desired elaboration is often accomplished by the use of those animal pelts which are plentiful, especially gray fox (pl. 29), coyote, mountain lion, rabbit, and goat; or great collars of evergreen (pl. 17) or feathers (pls. 5, 24) are used, which are effective but more difficult to construct. Occasionally a scarf of dark, native cloth, or an embroidered dance kilt is draped over the shoulders and fastened in front. A collar characteristic of Zuñi is a large roll of leather stuffed and painted either in a solid color or in black and white stripes (pl. 3). This same identifying feature is displayed on many Hopi masks the origin of which can be traced directly to Zuñi.
Sometimes the horsehair beard is used on the helmet mask; it then hangs down over the collar (pl. 35). On this kind of beard as used by the Hopi and the Zuñi are found horizontal strips of kaolin or eagle's down, stuck in place with yucca gum. Jemez displays beards of the hair of buffalo and bear, the latter with the center stained red.
It is among the Hopi and the Zuñi that the craftsmanship and artistry of the Pueblo masks reach their highest development. Masks made in the villages of the Rio Grande are, by contrast, primitive, and lack variety.
The Indians hold in great reverence a certain type of sacred mask which, they believe, have been given them by the supernaturals. This
mask is owned by a clan and is handed down from one generation to another. To the household which keeps it, it is supposed to bring a sacerdotal distinction because of its power, and an eminence because of their knowledge of the secret rituals which concern it. Such masks are stored in sealed jars and are very carefully handled. They are considered 'dangerous' and must not be touched by those who are not in possession of their secrets. Although the masks may be renovated and redecorated, the individual characters which they depict are believed never to change.
Another type of mask is made for an individual and is owned exclusively by him. At Zuñi it is thought of as "his personal fetish so long as he lives, and is his guarantee of status after death." Whenever a dance is performed, these masks are redecorated and made over into the likenesses of other supernaturals. In order that he may be able to take part in whatever dance is being performed, a man of standing owns several of these masks, one of each form. The masks are made by the priest, usually the kiva head, and his assistant, and they are made inside the kiva, where all their work is done. After the first ceremonial appearance of the mask, it may be taken home by its owner, and thenceforward it becomes his most prized possession. It is always treated with reverence and is kept in secret in the back room of his home. It is put on and taken off with the left hand only. If it needs to be renovated, he carries it to the kiva and does the work there.
There are two other masks, and they go a step beyond the scope of normal impersonation, becoming doubly effective because of their great stature and impressive bearing.
At Zuñi there are six Shalako who are believed to be the messengers of the gods (pl. 7). They appear for the one great ceremony, the culminating event in the annual cycle of rites observed by the kachina priests. This occurs shortly after the winter solstice. Each of these giant figures is ten feet high. His huge blue mask, scaled to his size, has a long, hinged snout which clacks and clatters when operated by strings controlled by
the wearer. The great, bulging, black and white eyes stare unblinkingly at the world. On each side of the mask is a long blue horn tipped with a downy red feather. A large fan-shaped crest of eagle feathers spans the head, and standing upright behind it is a sheaf of brilliant orange macaw feathers combined with downy white eagle feathers. The wig is of shiny black horsehair banged at the forehead, bobbed at the sides, and hanging down at the back with three puffs of eagle's down at intervals. The body, made on a series of hoops, is covered with two of the white ceremonial robes, a skirt and a mantle. A white embroidered kilt covers the top section, and two foxskins encircle the 'throat' below the ruff of glossy ravens' feathers. The tails of the foxskins serve as 'arms.' "The effigy worn by the Shalako is so ingeniously arranged that the wearer has only to step under the hoopskirt structure and carry it by a slender pole, which is supported by a piece of leather attached to the belt. The top of the blanket skirt has a triangular opening through which the bearer of the effigy sees."
This same Shalako figure has been introduced from Zuñi to the Hopi. It is possible that the more ingenious western artists went further and produced a goddess who accompanied the Shalako god. In the Laboratory of Anthropology at Santa Fe there is a fine example of an antique head with the elaborate headdress of such a female effigy (pl. 18). This head was no doubt carried above an impersonator and dressed in a feather robe with a white ceremonial mantle about its 'shoulders; and adorned with many strings of beads about its 'neck'. "The tablet represents terraced rain clouds ... the object with bifid tips on each side of the tablet represents the squash blossom, symbolic of maidens' hair dress. Across the forehead is a symbol of an ear of corn, with two feathers attached to each end. ... There are imitation flowers made of wood represented in the hair." Each part of the tablet is separate, and it is either pegged to the main form or tied together with thongs.