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However, it may also come from Provençal mascarar "to black (the face)" (or the related Catalan mascarar, Old French mascurer).
Masks are used almost universally and maintain their power and mystery both for their wearers and their audience.René Guénon claims that in the Roman saturnalia festivals, the ordinary roles were often inverted.Sometimes a slave or a criminal was temporarily granted the insignia and status of royalty, only to be killed after the festival ended.The ritual and theatrical definitions of mask usage frequently overlap and merge but still provide a useful basis for categorisation.The image of juxtaposed Comedy and Tragedy masks are widely used to represent the Performing Arts, and specifically Drama.Masks in various forms (sacred, practical, or playful) have played a crucial historical role in the development of understandings about "what it means to be human", because they permit the imaginative experience of "what it is like" to be transformed into a different identity (or to affirm an existing social or spiritual identity).
Throughout the world, masks are used for their expressive power as a feature of masked performance - both ritually and in various theatre traditions.
At funerals, professional actors would wear these masks to perform deeds of the lives of the ancestors, thus linking the role of mask as a ritual object and in theatre.
Masks are a familiar and vivid element in many folk and traditional pageants, ceremonies, rituals, and festivals, and are often of an ancient origin.
They are usually worn on the face, although they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer's body.
In parts of Australia, giant totem masks cover the body, whilst Inuit women use finger masks during storytelling and dancing.
A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance, or entertainment.