Clay Masks


This middle school student did not want to research her ethnic culture. I encouraged her to create her own culture. She did.

"This is the culture of the adolescent," she stated. She created a heart (always in love) a phone attached to the head, ear phone permanently in place and cast her face with her mouth open. I questioned this strategy but she told me it would be clear during the presentation.

She began by playing alternative music and then recited a series of pop buzz words.

"None of the adults will know the language of my culture," she asserted. She was correct.

When we had decoded all the symbols on the mask, I asked her, "So... why the open mouth?"

"We always get the last word," she replied. Brilliant solution to the assignment.

This girl's story included Germanic heritage and a
story passed down in the family for years.

One day her ancestor, who was a huntsman in the kings forest, was accused of shooting one of the king's rabbits without permission. He was given the choice of immigrating to the new America or dying. He chose a new life. Her mask is a duality mask (two sides). Her symbols represent the old style huntsman cap and a rabbit. The jewel represents royalty and the rune on the cheek represents depression. He was sad to leave the home he had known.

Critical thinking question: What stories do you have about how your family came to this country or perhaps have always been here?

The Scandinavian/German iconography (study of symbols and their meanings) is completely intertwined. The cult of Odin (pronounced Wotan -- the chief god of the Scandinavian Mythology) may have spread from Germany to Scandinavia long before the Nordic myths were recorded.

Joseph Campbell spent his lifetime studying cross-cultural human myth. He found many similarities. In Scandinavian mythology Odin and Frigg (pronounced Frig -- goddess of the home) ruled the gods and goddess in Asgard (pronounced As-gard). The principal of evil was represented by Loki / Nidhogg (a trickster/ serpent-contemporary devil). The underworld was controlled by the goddess of Hel. The Valkyries (pronounced Val-kri iz were a band of warrior maidens that included Svava and Brunhild (pronounced BROON hilt).

Berserkers (meaning bare-shirts) were Viking warriors noted for their ferocity in battle. This word is known today to mean sudden, extraordinary acts of violence. It is interesting to note, however, that Sweden has not been involved in a war for 150 years.

This mask displays symbols representing Thor (god of strength) and protector of humans, the Celtic cross representing the Christianization of the Vikings (arriving in 800 A.D. with Frankish missionaries), the animal totem, fur power symbols and the eagle (constant companion of Thor) are represented in the symbols of this mask. His helmet holds a special totem. Logam (balance and proportion of all things) is represented by the balance and symmetry of the mask.

Neil, P. (1995). The Illustrated Book of Myths. N.Y.
Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc.

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