When looking for a subject for my Pagan Blog Project post for the letter V it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, difficult to find a subject to write about. Searching through V words on Google brought me a word that I didn’t know, that of Vizard, meaning mask or disguise. This then got me thinking……
In shamanism we often speak about Shapeshifting which can be taken to mean changing shape within a journey and becoming like as an animal, or changing form in some way, i.e to take on a disguise. Like a lot of fantasy writers, Terry Pratchett uses examples of shapeshifting in his work, more specifically in his witches books where Nanny Ogg is proud of her ability to ‘borrow’ the minds of animals. Mythology and folklore are also full of Shapeshifting through divine intervention, magic or spells and early works such as the Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh also feature shapeshifting as do children’s fairy tales such as Puss in Boots, where the ogre is tricked into becoming a mouse so he can be eaten. The very popular series of both Twilight and Harry Potter books also feature shapeshifting.
Literature is full of examples of characters who put on a vizad in order to deceive, to secure freedom or to fit in. Shakespeare frequently used this as a plot device e.g. in Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and Midsummer Nights Dream. Homer used it in the Odyssey as did Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens in Edwin Drood and Agatha Christie in many of her novels.
Vizads or masks are also used by shaman to take on the energy and power of animals. Tribal shaman are often depicted as wearing masks. One of the ways of connecting with a power animal is in fact to make a mask that represents them. Some shaman also use a vizad in the form of robes and elaborate headdresses as a form of disguise to protect them as they journey in otherworld.
If we think about it we take on vizads frequently in our own lives. Maybe we don’t construct a vizad physically but there are many other ways that we do this. Perhaps we feel we cannot fully be ourselves in our work place so we put on a vizad and play the role we create for ourselves there. If we live in a community where we feel our beliefs would not be appreciated then again we use a vizad so we can be accepted or fit in. If we try and fit into a role that others expect of us then this too is a form of vizad as we use it to hide our real self.
Sometimes even the clothes we choose to wear are a form of vizad. The suit we wear in the office when we really feel ourselves in jeans and Tshirt, the beige outfit that hides us so that we don’t stand out, the red dress or shirt that makes us look confident and outgoing when we feel anything but. All of these hide our true nature or feelings.
There is nothing wrong with doing this at all. Sometimes we need to do so in order to protect ourselves or be part of something, it is often a form of self preservation. At other times putting on a vizad may give us a way to try something on for size, to see if it fits us and if we feel comfortable there.
The stronger we are though in who we are, in what we believe and what we stand for, the less we need to wear a vizad and the more we can show our true self and not hide behind any kind of disguise or mask.