The mask hides as much as it reveals, “denies as much as it affirms”, as Claude Lévi-Strauss asserted. Very often the holder of a secret, the mask conceals that which only the initiated should know.
The mask’s power also lies in its capacity to incarnate spirits, a link between man and his ancestors, between the visible and the invisible world. It is inseparable from a mythical context which structures the mode of existence and thought of the majority of traditional societies.
Central to the life of a group or a community, the mask, an indispensable intercessor, is always active.
Ceremonial mask kegginaquq the "Spirit of the Moon", Yup’ik, Anvik Region, Alaska, USA, early 20th century, Painted wood, feathers, leather, 70.2006.27.1
This mask, called the “Spirit of the Moon”, was worn by an angalkuq (shaman) during a collective ceremony dedicated to the success of future hunts. We can identify the face of a tuunraq, a spirit associated with the lunar star, accompanied by a carnivore, a wolf or a dog. The many thumbless hands attest the great power of this spirit. The wooden disks on the curved rod represent air bubbles, signs of the presence of a seal before it emerges from the water. The elements of this mask highlight the close links between the human world and the animal and spirit world for the Yupiit people at the start of the 20th century.