Shape shifting and masks

The Bewitched Man: by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Medieval Latin- Masca: Specter; nightmare; person who uses magic (witch).

“…the aspect of anonymity which is so much a part of the Sabbat and other banned folk practices such as guising. Witches attending the Sabbat are likewise described as masked, disguised and veiled… witches were called masca , masks, by the Lombards and this is the root of the carnival celebration of masquerade, surely a form of the Sabbat itself. The etymology of mask intrigues with its chain of associations and accords. Infiltrating our vocabulary via Medieval Latin masca which evocatively signified a nocturnal female spectre, or a nightmare, or the mask by which the spectre was evoked,”Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey.

Once again, the magical use of masks creeps it’s way into my craft, and makes a den inside my heart. Masks of rabbits, toads, serpents, wolves, cats, weasels, and so on; they can embody our very transformation. The act of shape shifting. Like the tales of witches flying to the Sabbat and becoming beasts of great power, we too can change our very form. But why do witches change their form? To fulfill their deeds in animal guise, to change into their familiar’s shape and race into the darkness with them, to dive into the otherworld with spirits and fairies, to unlock a hidden part of ourselves. As Peter Gray so elegantly put, “The animal which is not an animal. The man who is not a man.”

What exactly is shape shifting? I speak of it in terms of the non-physical. As Sarah Lawless states; “…shapeshifting as a magical practice involves either a part of the magician’s soul transforming into a spirit animal (known in the Germanic tongue as the fetch) and leaving the body to journey vast distances in both our realm and the otherworlds, or, another method is for the magician’s soul to leave their body and “ride” a living animal or external spirit animal or familiar in this or the otherworld.” (Source)

Like practices of the past, we too can imbue our masks with the skills of animal transformation. Take the mask and create it in accordance to the lunar phases. At the new moon, you gather your items and begin to forge the mask. The moon passes into its later cycles, and your mask shall grow in power. Its connection to your spirit grows as well.

Upon the night of the full moon, you shall take the mask to the witches’s meeting, the Sabbat. It is here you shall write the name of the beast backwards on the inside of the mask. Put on the mask, so that you may become on of the Masca; a specter of the night. It is in this state that you can change into the animal form that embodies your mask.

Become the cat, it runs with the Fairy horde into their mounds. Become the raven, it flies along side spirits of the dead. You will become what shape your heart desires, so that you may know yourself as an animal; so that you can experience the beast that is witchcraft.

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