In Germany this summer, I visited a museum documenting the peculiar carnival celebrations the region once held. Like other carnivals across the world, masks were central to the festivities, an example of which is shown above. I was reminded of the German celebration several times while learning about the native peoples of Alaska, who also used masks often in their rituals.
That these two peoples, living on opposite sides of the world, both developed intricate mask making skills is fascinating to me. I realize they by no means are the only two cultures to do so, but encountering them in places as divergent as Southern Germany and Alaska imparted upon me how there must be something very human about wanting to put on a mask. And, apparently, anti-Christian. When the Reformation occurred, protestant clergy banned the carnival celebrations in Europe, leading to a decline in that mask-making tradition where Catholicism lost hold. Likewise, when protestant missionaries came to the American arctic, human masks were banned amongst the indigenous people.