I hope you enjoy this article that explains how I ended up creating crazy animal masks for the healing of others! This is also the first installment of a series of posts that will focus on the stories on some of the first masks. You also might want to check out the blogs on Shamanism too, helps with the whole context thing.
And so it begins(Didn’t know how to start, and so it begins…like this)……
I finally arrived back at home at around 11 pm. I had just enjoyed a night around a friend’s house where she hosted a shamanic journey circle. Every one in my family were sound asleep, it was a quiet Summer night I believe. As I walked into the kitchen to for a bed time snack, a little voice in my head said, “Go look out the back door”. Yes, I have little voices in my head telling me stuff sometimes. Call the psychiatrist! Although, I just left a psychotherapist’s house and she has already given me a clean bill of health sanity-wise (or she just thinks I have the good kind of crazy as opposed to the bad kind). It really helps to have a mental health professional on your side in my line of work.
Anyway. back to the story. I Obeyed The Voice, moved to the patio door and opened the blinds. There, dolefully staring back up at me was a rather large raccoon resting on his hind paws. He looked slightly surprised to see me staring down at him, as if to say “Oh…hello. Didn’t know you were in.” He didn’t even have the good manners to flee in terror from the Human Menace. Just kind of hung out for a bit, and then ambled off as if to show me just how little he was actually impressed by me, and trying a little too hard to appear innocent if you ask me ( I swear I could hear the telepathic equivalent of tuneful whistling). As for myself, I stood slack-jawed and stupefied, and I experienced that special electric tingling up my spine and all over my body whenever something quite extra-ordinary and amazing happens.
“Big Deal!”, you’re thinking,”Silly Brit gets all wobbly over a Raccoon!”. Which as we all know here in the U.S., raccoons are everywhere; running amok in street gangs, spraying graffiti and devoting their time to being generally very naughty. They are second only to Coyotes, who are seen by others as the more hardened, mafioso types. Raccoons are considered a pest here by almost everybody. Me, I just love ’em! I love animals in general, and would happily go all wobbly for a David Bellamy moment, but this was not the reason for it this time.
Flashback four hours before to the journey night. I had just received a shamanic journey, and eagerly listened to what the lady had to say. Guess which animal featured heavily in her account. Seriously, do I really need to tell you?
Okay here’s a clue:
Before the journey, I asked her if she could get any information on what it was I was actually meant to be doing with my life. Apart from the obvious fatherly duties, work, and so on. I was in a lot of therapy at the time (not because of the voices!), working through a lot of childhood trauma, trying to find my way through a very dark tunnel, or maybe maze, or maybe tunnel-like maze. Because of this trauma, I felt like a broken soldier, and the dream of becoming a capable and whole man seemed impossible to attain. I was very keen on moving on from this very un-fun chapter in my life. At least I already knew I was meant to be practicing shamanism. It came so naturally to me, and I seemed to be able to help people move through their own crazy stuff. But in a way, my vocational future was so unbearably vague at the time. I mean it’s not as if you can look on the Job’s Page for a Medicine Man position.
The Journey: She said she came to a beautiful river, bathed in sunlight. And there perched next to it was a Raccoon. He was dipping his cute. tiny hands into the river as if he was fishing. He finds a Salmon (a symbol of prosperity), and flips it onto the bank. She asked him the question: What am I meant to be doing with my life? He doesn’t speak, he just starts rubbing his hands together. I’m meant to be doing something with my hands, right? What is the name is of this website now ? Journeys something, something? Summin’ like that. My appointed shamaness (in her spare time, her other job is housewife and mother, another equally indispensable and applaudable role.) for that night did not know that I was looking into massage therapy as a way to bring in the healing work that I already did.
Great, I thought. I knew that already. But the imagery stuck with me. She said his nimble hands were creating magical gold swirls in the air, and his long thin fingers (I have long thin fingers), were all a twiddle. Besides, the first animal I that would choose to be the Poster Child of Massage would certainly not be a Raccoon. An Octopus would be good, maybe. I just don’t think a Raccoon would be that interested in it. They like to use their hands to get into stuff, manipulate objects and so on, plus they have those mask-like faces (I know!), and hence they naturally look a bit shifty. If you walked into a Spa and saw that a raccoon was going to massage you, you would say, “No fucking way! (I asked for an octopus!)” Or if you were not so prejudiced towards raccoons (aren’t you so special!) you still would not be able to resist the urge to check your wallet or your wedding ring finger afterwards. So it just didn’t add up.
I pondered this on the way home. The thing about shamanic healing work, is that it is, by its very nature, a bit mysterious. It’s supposed to be. It’s meant to dig deep into your subconscious and bring out parts of you that you didn’t know were even there. And yet when the Ah-Ha! moment happens, you can see how everything has been leading up to that moment anyway. It’s kind of cool like that.
So, yeah there’s this great big Raccoon, standing there as if to say “Yep, you know this stuff is true. So keep digging!” So dig I did. And like any self-respecting hippy would do, I grabbed my Animal Speak, by the late, great Ted Andrews. Here are the lines that stood out the most, that almost jumped off the page when I read them:
“Raccoons are fascinated by water (remember the shamanic journey?)..actually water increases the sensitivity in their hands, and they can feel their food better……One of the most striking features of the Raccoon is the mask that it wears. Although some associate this with thievery (Wedding rings! Octopus!), it actually gives the raccoon a very powerful mystical symbolism. The use of masks to achieve altered states and for other healing and ritual purposes has been part of every society. Mask making is an ancient art employed all over the world for ceremony, celebration, and in magical practices.
Concealed behind a mask, people could become something or someone else. We can become whatever we want by wearing masks. Masks are invested with mystery. They are tools for transformation. It helps us to change what we are to what we want to be, giving us magic.”
The line: “It helps us to change what we are to what we want to be.”, that resonated deep within me. That moment a distant, hazy memory came back to me. I must have been around seven years old, and I was watching my father make a mask out of chicken wire and papier mache. Even at that age, I could feel the significance, the mystery. I remember being so entranced as the mask took shape. I remember the texture of the wet paper mush. So satisfying to squelch it through my fingers! I remember my little eyes peering through the mask’s eyes. It was this big grey Easter Island-looking thing, and I loved it. It felt…magical.
That was it for me. As soon as I see the writing in the wall, I rarely question it further. I intended to make a mask for myself, I am my own guinea pig in cases like this. Things still had not clicked into place as to how I was going to do that, but I know from experience that the universe provides us exactly what we need to make the next step in our journey. It is more so when working with powerful magic and therefore all the more reason to make sure the next step is the correct one. So the riddle of the Raccoon was solved, and, as is the case, it invited more questions and riddles. As I said before I was eager to change, to heal, to become more than what I was at the time, and this felt like an exciting way to do it!
Hope you enjoyed the article, feel free to make comments! Stay tuned for more articles on mask making. Next up: Atlantean Warrior Mask.