The Masked Fool
My first direct experience of the fool in masking was watching Morris Dancing here at home in Yorkshire, England. The Morris dancers were dressed up in their usual dancing shoes with bells and baggy pants. To be absolutely honest I have always found Morris men a bit funny! Perhaps I should explain about Cecil Sharp, no I'll leave that to a footnote.
The Boars Head Morris Men were dancing in a pub car park. ( Pub short for Public House a place for drinking beer etc. in the UK.) They were doing the usual dances that are related to fertility, good crops and harvests etc. But of course they really don't quite have the pagan beliefs off pat. Mind you when you see them drink ale in the quantities that they did then you would realise that they had perhaps fully understood the pagan ways of having a good time. ( Not to say all people who follow the pagan ways drink lots of ale, just a convenient concept )
What you are probably asking by this juncture is this to do with fools?
Well the Boars Head Morris Men had a masked fool. He was complete with boars mask pantaloons and boars headed stick. He also carried a bucket for collecting cash donations for charity, or maybe beer money. He followed the dancers mimicked them and cajoled the watchers for change to fill his bucket.
Interestingly I knew the fool quite well and in real life, with out the mask, he would never do what he did with the mask. Being English he was just far too polite!
The Boars Head stick became a threatened cudgel, never used, just pointed and waved. The mask was a place to hide behind, for a normal everyday person. As you will find by looking further on this site the mask allows people to change personalities. He bullied and pranced and enjoyed his dual mission to collect money and to protect the dancers from the crowd. Sometimes the children get too close. That is not allowed. Sometimes the dancers space is threatened by cars entering the parking space. Wow! That is not a good idea!
But suddenly the fool sets off in pursuit of three attractive women. He rattles his bucket and rounds them up as a sheep dog would. They are pressed into donating generously. He just leaves his dancers unprotected to fend for themselves. The next ten minutes is exchanged in good natured banter. ( The wife of the fool is present! )
The above is from memory, probably about 20 years ago. In terms of mask traditions that is very recent. For mask traditions can be traced back at least 25,000 years. I am certain they go back to the time of the first questioning peoples; 50,000.................or more years?
What then is this reference to fools and masking traditions. Well as you dig through this site you will find that the fool crops up in several other traditions.
In Masquerade the fool is an essential figure. On the surface he, occasionally she, is the one who keeps order. He controls the children, he stops their prying eyes invading the dressing room. His stick maintains the performance area. He cracks jokes, entertains, juggles pulls faces and GETS VIOLENT. He chases the children with a whip and hits them mercilessly if he gets the chance. He tries to seduce women, and does if he can!
Suddenly he becomes bored and goes away to sit and talk philosophically with a group of friends from his unmasked time. As the conversation progresses he introduces new ideas. He begins to ridicule the accepted norm. He questions the accepted reality. He attempts to turns arguments on their heads
The Ubiquitous Fool
The fool is a ubiquitous. The fool occurs in the masking traditions of North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, China, ........................ if you know some more please fill in my blank.
Universally the fool treads the line between normality and the incongruities that the world. The fool is both sensible and totally none-sensible. Not that he does not use his senses he just uses then in a different way. He questions and cajoles. He jokes and makes fun of others. Yet when someone over steps the arbitrary boundary, (who decided ) he changes. Suddenly he becomes the quiet hearth cat, the sleeping feline, domesticated, sleek and silky. And as you stroke and pleasure the cat she begins to become claws and teeth and worse growls. He becomes the raging tiger, claws and teeth.
What is the role of the fool?
The fool traditionally questions. S/He challenges the norm. S/He goes beyond the routine and everyday. S/He crosses the boundary between the physical and the spiritual. The fool knows both sides but sadly does not understand either. The fool is beyond judgement but is incapable of judging. The fool is a go-between, a hinderer, a creator and destroyer. He sets things up only to break them down.
To be honest I love the fool, because I feel I am one, at times. The fool embodies the contradictions of the world. He accepts our human frailties and simultaneously challenges them. For those of you who know the symbols on the tarot cards consider the fool, for those of you who do not make some time to find out.
Some Examples of Fools in Masquerade Italy In Masks the Art of expression Cesare Poppi describes the Carnival at Moena in the Italian Dolomites. Two Arlechign, a local version of Harlequin, lead the masked group. They are dressed in chequered costumes, with a tall pointed cap below which is a loose veil giving them a featureless appearance. They carry horse whips. Around them the crowd of cheering young boys follows their moves. Suddenly the dash into the youths slashing fiercely with the horse whips, striking vicious blows to the confused youngsters. Panic ensues. A pleasing village scene has suddenly been turned upon its head.
China In China, or your local China Town, when the New Year is celebrated the Lion Dance is performed. This often acrobatic masked dance is performed by, usually two dancers accompanied by two Happy Face dancers wearing their papier mache masks complete with large grins painted on them. As the dance progresses through the streets the dragon collects lettuces and money to help bring luck in to the New Year. Around the dragon the two fools pester the crowd for money and simultaneously keep the crowd, especially the children, at a safe distance.
Pacific West Coast
During Kwakwaka'wakw Potlatch ceremonies in the West Coast Areas of Canada another fool prowled around. He is Noohlmahl. A filthy creature with a long nose from which snot streams he is up for a laugh but should the watchers mention his state, especially his nose, a violent reaction can be expected.
Iriquois False Face Society
The Iriquois False Face Society also have a fool mask to support the processes of healing that they undertake. These corn husk mask are relatively simple and disposable. As with other traditions the fool plays his amusing and organising role.
Playfulness has a major place in many masquerades.
In our lives we all play the fool, despise the fool in others and love the fool who entertains. Sadly the fool who entertains can also be torn apart by internal mental divisions.
The masked fool is the one who maintains order and at the same time questions it and sometimes on a whim destroys it. Traditionally the fool treads a fine line between the known and the unknown, the acceptable and the unacceptable. Even without the mask I am sure you recognise the fool in your life.
The fool is a universal being. Today (15/12/04) I lost my fool, she was our cat. If you wish to know she died of old age. She had the soft luxury of a purring fur to stroke and in a moment she transformed into a fanged biter. She had the gourmet taste of a French chef yet licked her own arse. She refused to go outside when the wind blew, because it was cold, yet sat happily on the wet grass when it was raining and blowing a gale. Tango, the cat, was my fool, just as I was hers when playing hide and seek. I loved her affection and was saddened by her rejection of the food I gave her. All in all Tango, our family cat, was all contradiction and beautifully herself. She is a very missed little being.
Cecil Sharp collected folk sings in the British Isles. Amongst folk enthusiasts he is something of a hero as he preserved may folk songs and traditions. He was instumental in helping preserve the hundreds of different Morris dances. Yet as with the song lyrics he collected they were purged for naughty bits. Anything that went against his strict Victorian morality was censored. The whole of British folk tradition was made "nice".
Inspired by Masks the Art of Expression ed. John Mack ISBN 0-7141-2530-X and other sources that I have read and internalised long ago.
Š Ian Bracegirdle 2004 1 Elderberry Close East Morton BD20 5WA UK 01535 692207
http://mask-and-more-masks.com You may use this article freely on condition that you include this copyright line and URL and that people who subsequently use this article follow the same conditions. Thank you for accepting these conditions.
Ian Bracegirdle is a teacher, course leader and therapist. He is the creator of the site http://www.mask-and-more-masks.com a site for all interested in masks. Ian is fascinated by the art form of masks as well as the cultural connotations. He has researched many areas of masks and recognise common links in many ancient traditions. He believes our current masking traditions are linked back to the time of shaman and other forms of magic predating monotheist religions. The earliest masking records are at least 25,000 years old.
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When We Was Kids In Chicago
Radio was the big communicator, back when I was a kid. Whole families huddled around the speaker of that hulk.
Top 10 Questions about Body Piercing
Body piercing has grown so much in popularity in recent years that it has become almost mainstream, with more and more people sporting navel rings and multiple ear rings. Facial piercings, surface piercings and lots of others to choose from can make things confusing.
Nelsons Last Words: Kiss Me, Hardy or Kismet, Hardy?
"Kiss me, Hardy" or "Kismet, Hardy"? Both versions are commonly used, the former being clearly more universal . The easy answer is that, whatever variation, these were not his final words (that is a trick question!).
Mars, the Mighty and Marvelous
Martius, the month of March, is named after him. So is the fourth planet from the sun and a bar of chocolate, but we know him mainly as the god of war.
Original Tribal masks are often seen by unknowing eyes as art objects in themselves. That is not the case, unless of course they are modern copies.
Mexican Living: Myth Busting
Myth One: Mexicans are lazy, good-for-nothings.I mention this one first because it is one of the vilest myths and an excellent example of Americans' xenophobic stereotyping.
Authenticity of Eskimo Inuit Art & Native Indian Art
Both Inuit Eskimo art and Native American art have gained international recognition as valuable art forms over the past few decades. However, the rising popularity of both Inuit Eskimo art and Native American art has resulted in the increased proliferation of imitations and mass-produced reproductions of original Native arts.
Painting as a Spiritual Expression
Is a painting no more than a piece of paper with lines and color or is it more than that? In the hands of the master painter, who is painting in the spirit; the lifeless piece of paper with its lines and colors, is transformed into a creation that has life, just as the master creator gave life to his creation. The painter transmits the essence of his spirit to his creation, the "painting.
Man and His Machines
A woman creates life from her womb, and man tries to create life through his machines.I have always had a close relationship to machines, any kind of machine.
Return to Ouvea, New Caledonia
"Ouvea is everything you'd expect in a South Pacific island. Twenty kilometers of unbroken white sands border the lagoon on the west side of the island and extend far out from shore to give the water a turquoise hue.
Canada is an emancipated country in the relative scheme of things. But it has a dark history that some people aren't aware of, and others would like to keep it that way.
History of the Royal Barges - a Timeless Tradition
The history of the royal barges dates back to the Sukhothai era in the 13th century when the first royal barges were reportedly seen. The barges were originally troop carriers at a time when it was more expedient to transport troops into battle along rivers.
Carly Patterson: What Makes A Champion?
If you have been following gymnastics for any length of time, odds are you have heard of a particular gymnast by the name of Carly Patterson. You probably also know that she is one of the youngest female Olympic gymnasts ever - and that she has stunned the world of late with her astounding abilities.
The Symbolism Behind an Anchor Tattoo and Anchor Tattoo Design
Anchor tattoos were all the rage for sailors. It was often the symbol of a very experienced sailor.
Working With The Generations
For the first time in history, there are four generations in the work force. Although this is an exciting time, it is not without challenges.
A Brief Biography of Rene Boissevain the Agate Adventurer and Creator of The Crystal Caves Museum
In 1964 myself (René), Nelleke my wife, and our daughter Iefje emigrated from Holland to Australia. I was 29 years old and Nelleke a few years younger.
FABULOUS: - Many 'fabulous' personages and concepts are created by man. Some are attempts to make sense of a confusing array of real things he doesn't understand, others are created by those who would have us 'believe'.
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