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To be honest I love fool, because I feel I am one, at times. The fool embodies contradictions of world. He accepts our human frailties and simultaneously challenges them. For those of you who know symbols on tarot cards consider fool, for those of you who do not make some time to find out.
Some Examples of Fools in Masquerade Italy In Masks Art of expression Cesare Poppi describes Carnival at Moena in Italian Dolomites. Two Arlechign, a local version of Harlequin, lead masked group. They are dressed in chequered costumes, with a tall pointed cap below which is a loose veil giving them a featureless appearance. They carry horse whips. Around them crowd of cheering young boys follows their moves. Suddenly dash into youths slashing fiercely with horse whips, striking vicious blows to confused youngsters. Panic ensues. A pleasing village scene has suddenly been turned upon its head.
China In China, or your local China Town, when New Year is celebrated Lion Dance is performed. This often acrobatic masked dance is performed by, usually two dancers accompanied by two Happy Face dancers wearing their papier mache masks complete with large grins painted on them. As dance progresses through streets dragon collects lettuces and money to help bring luck in to New Year. Around dragon two fools pester crowd for money and simultaneously keep crowd, especially children, at a safe distance.
Pacific West Coast
During Kwakwaka'wakw Potlatch ceremonies in West Coast Areas of Canada another fool prowled around. He is Noohlmahl. A filthy creature with a long nose from which snot streams he is up for a laugh but should watchers mention his state, especially his nose, a violent reaction can be expected.
Iriquois False Face Society
The Iriquois False Face Society also have a fool mask to support processes of healing that they undertake. These corn husk mask are relatively simple and disposable. As with other traditions fool plays his amusing and organising role.
Playfulness has a major place in many masquerades.
In our lives we all play fool, despise fool in others and love fool who entertains. Sadly fool who entertains can also be torn apart by internal mental divisions.
The masked fool is one who maintains order and at same time questions it and sometimes on a whim destroys it. Traditionally fool treads a fine line between known and unknown, acceptable and unacceptable. Even without mask I am sure you recognise fool in your life.
The fool is a universal being. Today (15/12/04) I lost my fool, she was our cat. If you wish to know she died of old age. She had soft luxury of a purring fur to stroke and in a moment she transformed into a fanged biter. She had gourmet taste of a French chef yet licked her own arse. She refused to go outside when wind blew, because it was cold, yet sat happily on wet grass when it was raining and blowing a gale. Tango, cat, was my fool, just as I was hers when playing hide and seek. I loved her affection and was saddened by her rejection of food I gave her. All in all Tango, our family cat, was all contradiction and beautifully herself. She is a very missed little being.
Cecil Sharp collected folk sings in British Isles. Amongst folk enthusiasts he is something of a hero as he preserved may folk songs and traditions. He was instumental in helping preserve hundreds of different Morris dances. Yet as with song lyrics he collected they were purged for naughty bits. Anything that went against his strict Victorian morality was censored. The whole of British folk tradition was made "nice".
Inspired by Masks Art of Expression ed. John Mack ISBN 0-7141-2530-X and other sources that I have read and internalised long ago.
© Ian Bracegirdle 2004 http://mask-and-more-masks.com You may use this article freely on condition that you include this copyright line and URL and that people who subsequently use this article follow same conditions. Thank you for accepting these conditions.
Teacher, Course Leader, Mask enthusiast and collector