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Masks Keep Order in Transylvania

I’m always delighted to see hand crafted masks and those I encountered in Romania were most impressive. Masks represent the strange symbolic world. They serve to protect the home by warning off evil or beckoning good wishes. Romanians hang masks on their homes, in the forest, and display them on mantles and walls. They create masks and wear them in ritual dances for life’s greatest passages like birth, marriage, and burial. As the year passes through time, masks worn in ceremonies ease the passage from one world of time, or season, to the other, especially at New Years rituals. I photographed the masks I saw on my tour with the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania. But fear not, the faces I encountered were not all so scary. Some were downright fun. Petre Vlase tells about Romanian masks expertly here if you want to learn more about the tradition.

Wood masks 3Our inn’s host Lorenzo at, Mamacozonacilor Pensuine in Bran set these on the mantle in the dining hall to scare off evil during our writers workshops and tours. These two were hand carved by an elderly man in Bran.

Richard's chairLorenzo gave this mask to Richard Thomas, our guest horror author and instructor in exchange for Richard’s promise to return next summer. Richard took this protection home to guard his writing chair where he composes some wicked tales. Photo by Richard Thomas, enhanced by me.

masks and flowersRomanian masks aren’t all so frightening. These fiber masks hang on homes. The male head of the household wears one in a ceremony and asks for certain wishes or hopes for the home. I found these displayed on ancient homes that were moved from various sites in Romania into Herastrau Park in Bucharest. They are hand crafted from fabric, animal hair, fibers, dried beans, and other materials. The inside where you put your face is all black felt. In some mask wearing traditions the person wearing the mask goes into the void when putting it on, becoming the character of the mask. That’s why masks are often black inside. I don’t know if that’s true in Romanian tradition.

2 masks on treeMany of these furry masks have something dangling off the nose. Most wear this sort of hat attatched.

1 more mask on wallThe teeth are made from dried beans drilled and sewn in.

1 mask on wallFur can be real or otherwise.

3 macrame facesThese look to be more for display than wearing. They are macrame, probably hemp. Now here’s a use for wooden spoons.

4 macrame facesNo two are quite alike.

wall of masksOwls see more than we can, so useful to display on the home.

2 white fur masksThese are the only old man masks I saw. They are at a souvenier shop at an ancient fortress we visited.

blood drooling faceRather absurd, don’t you think? This face is on the wall in Dracula’s birth home, now a bar and restaurant. I couldn’t hold the camera still. Yikes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome masks like this ceramic candle holder in a restaurant in Brasov are just decorative and plain old fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA mask on the wall helps set the tone of the place. Relax and enjoy a pipe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

or whatever.child faceChilren are represented in some masks. The lighter side. It’s not all dark and scary.

horse faceAnimals, too. This is not really a mask. It was made by a film crew that used the Bran Castle as a setting. Now that’s scary. It inspired a new horror story for me. You can’t miss this monster and rider as you enther the fortress.

skull with horns at Bran entranceWe couldn’t figure out the meaning behind this but no doubt it means to be scary. This was at the top of the steep path to Bran Castle.

face in forestFigure out this one. It’s on a hill alongside the road in one of Transylvania’s most haunted forests. We were warned that wolves do live in this forest. If you were in the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania, dont’ tell what we discoverd about this spooky sight.

I’m thrilled that as soon as I came home from Transylvania I was asked to direct a spooky play this fall. You can be darned sure I will use some of this inspiration for masks, props, and the set.

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