Wild Beasts and Hierophants: The Lost Faces of Wisdom
Dani Charis Hawkyard
The inspiration for this Creative Project snuck up on me quite unexpectedly – rather like a wild beast in the forest creeps up on its unsuspecting prey. I’ve never thought much about masks before – other than being slightly alarmed by them as a child – so the unprecedented notion of doing a whole project on them took me by surprise.
In July of 2019 whilst on an Astrodrama retreat in Somerset, my Creative Project grasped me tightly and refused to let go. Similar to some adaptations of psychodrama, we enrobed ourselves in costume which represented the planet we were to embody and the ways in which its energies manifested in a querent’s natal chart, and carried out unrehearsed intuitive role-plays; these costumes, of course, included masks. The pivotal moment was when it came my turn to become Mercury.
As a group, we had been embodying planets and ‘performing’ charts all week, and by good chance I had avoided Mercury so far;
something about its mischievous, outspoken and volatile nature made me feel uncomfortable. I even felt silly adorning the bright, jester-like costume.
That is, until I donned the accompanying mask and looked in the mirror.
Without explanation, I was gone; what stood before me was not me, but the incarnation of Mercury. With the simple addition of the mask, my embarrassment evaporated; something significant inside my being had shifted, and it seemed like space had been made within me to accommodate something more than my own consciousness. It is thought that humankind have been crafting and wearing masks for close to 40,000 years, with the intention of transfiguring themselves into gods, animals and other spiritual entities (Leizrowice, 2018), and suddenly I understood why. They are more than just costume – they are a hallowed tool of commune with deities and daimons.
When I eventually left the Astrodrama retreat I felt both enthralled and unsettled. I knew that this ‘power of the mask’ was something profound that I needed to honour.
My own background in studying Celtic animal folklore and symbolism meant my desire quickly became to craft a set of creature masks, with the intention of spending some time working with them in a way that would allow the daimons of the animals to have a voice – just as our Astrodrama planets had. I wanted my beasts to have an input into how they would finally look, and to find a way to listen to whatever it was they had to say.