Europe 1200 BCE-400 AD
Europe at this time had a number of groups and tribes who were working themselves into organized living groups. We will start with The Celts. The Celts were various tribal groups who lived during the Iron Age in Europe (1200 BCE-400 CE). The Iron Age called such because the use of Bronze was slowly falling into disuse with Iron and it’s mixtures being found to be stronger and hardier for use in day to day living. The Celts were prominent during this time, but did not use Iron in their masks the way other cultures would use in their theatre and other applications. The Celts instead would use wood or hemp masks. This is believed to be in large part because the Celts had their connections to the earth as part of their spirituality. It is possible they either shunned metals as not being organic, or perhaps they simply didn’t have the know-how to smith and forge metal. Whatever the reason, wood, stone and animal head masks were used. The Celts had many rituals they celebrated over the course of the year, often coinciding with various seasonal transitions, an important part of the culture as it related to their farming. The Celts celebrated, the start of the year with , Samhain, the forerunner to modern day Halloween. During this time they celebrated their new year, which began on October 31. The fall was considered the end of the old year, with the winter time beginning the year anew. It was a time of remembering the old year, bringing in the new; not very much different from North American New Year celebrations. During this festival, the celebration of past ancestors comes heavily into play. While remembering and trying to communicate with those passed on, masks were predominant during this time and believed to be a form of communication. It is believed that during this celebration we would possibly see the forerunner of “ghost and spirit” masks, as they worked to communicate with the dead and pass on their greetings as they started the new year. This would be followed by Imbolc, or the lambing season for the birth of lambs, as well as celebrating the end of winter. Heads of animals, probably sheep and ram were worn during these celebrations, as well as the “Green Man”, who symbolizes the beginning of spring as the trees spring forth. Beltane would be next, celebrated around the first of May. Beltane is well known as the rite and celebration of spring, and probably many animal and fertility related masks would be used during this time. Dances around bonfires and probably mating rituals occurred during this time as it was the celebration of life. The last festival for the year is Lughnasadh, a celebration of the God Lugh, who was responsible for skills and related. This celebration occurred around July 31, either two weeks before or after date. It was a time of trading and testing of skills. Horse masks could have been predominant, with skills and equine trading the big part of the celebration. It was probably believed that wearing the animal heads also allowed them to stay in touch with nature, possibly trying to channel animal spirits. The connection with nature as well as with ancestors was an important rite with the Celts. There were bonfires, feasting and celebrations. Sacrifices were common during this time as well. We know of animal sacrifices, as well as the possibility of humans as well. These days were celebrated with masks of animals and spirits in their rituals. Masks would be used, depending on the celebration, to invite, drive away, celebrate, or give offerings in their various rituals. Other cultures that also existed during this time period included the Halstatt and Koban cultures.