Shaman's mask. Sidna.
YAKUT PEOPLES Anonymous
19th-20th c Siberian Yukut Applied Arts
(before 12th c - present)
San Francisco. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
An Eskimo shaman wore the mask shown here, which represented the sea goddess Sidna, one of the many helping spirits with which he communicated. The shaman would put on the mask representing the particular spirit he wished to summon, and thus we find a great number of different spirits represented on Eskimo shaman masks.
The forms used for these masks are extremely elegant as well as evocative, and they were of very great interest to the European Surrealists in the 1920s. The surrealists were interested in bringing up images of the subconscious which they felt had the power to move people at the deepest level. The visions of the shamans can be considered as echoing archetypal psychic images which the psychologist Carl Jung believed to be part of our common human heritage.
In the 1920s the Norwegian anthropologist, Knud Rasmussen, collected visionary accounts from shamans all across the top of the North American continent, from Greenland to Alaska. One Eskimo shaman told him of being devoured by a bear, limb by limb, joint by joint, but it did not hurt until it bit him in the heart: "From that day forth I felt that I ruled my helping spirits. After that I acquired many fresh helping spirits and no danger could any longer threaten me, as I was always protected." Campbell notes that the essential experience was a death and resurrection, a feature that we will note in the rituals of many early peoples.
YUPIK | Shaman's mask. Sidna. | 1800-1999 | Native American | Yupik