Liminal masters

​A confrontation with impermanence, an interaction with the divine, a journey into a place with no form nor time. Liminal masters are those who assist in the occurrence of death and are dancers upon the boundaries of dimension. While all cultures and religions have unique explanations for the processes of death and what lies beyond, most mythologies include a psychopomp, a guide of souls in transit.

Who will take your soul into the next phase of existence after its brief stay inside the human form? Ancient cultures have asked these questions, and most have given a face to this deity. I have chosen four of these gods from four of the most influential cultures in human civilization; Greece, Native America, Egypt, and India. These four cultures have also been the most remarkable to me personally in my journey several times around the world over the span of 15 years. 

The motivation for my personal journey through travelling has been to connect the cultures of the world and to find cross-cultural similarities that bind all of humanity and indicate that we are all of one origin. Everyone contemplates the next phase of existence sometime during the life. The investigation into this realm of the afterlife has revealed cultural parallels and deepened my own understanding of being itself. 

Anubis the pharaonic jackal faced god, leads the dead into the afterlife and is present during the weighing of the heart, where it is determined if the deceased will be allowed to enter the land of the dead, Duat. He is the protector of tombs, the overseer of mummification and the guide of souls. This canine faced deity is sometimes portrayed in ancient Greek sculpture as Hermanubis a hybrid of Hermes and Anubis. The dog has a frequent connection to death in many cultures as Xolotl is also the Native Mesoamerican dog faced god of the underworld. 

Xolotl was the Aztec {ancient Indigenous group of modern day Mexico}, god of the underworld. In Aztec mythology he was both the god of lightening and death, he protected the sun as it travelled through the underworld every night. He was also associated with twins. Xolotl and a dog were believed to lead souls into the underworld, Mictlan. Xolotl is a master transformer and can appear in different forms. 

Hermes, the divine trickster, the god of boundaries and transgression of boundaries, was the conductor of souls into the afterlife. He was also viewed as the protector and patron of roads and travelers. He could move freely between the world of the mortals and the divine 

The Roman equivalent of Hermes is Mercury, the icon bearing similar form. 

Yama, Yamataka, or Yima a deity present in in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism. Yama in Sanskrit can be interpreted to mean ‘twin”. According to the Vedas Yama is said to be the first mortal who died. He entered Buddhist mythology in Southeast Asia and in Tibetan Buddhism. Yama gave every individual the power to tread any path they choose. He is a protector deity and a prime mover of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. 

Many other cultures featured a horned psychopomp with resemblance to Yama. 

How do people react when faced with death, and the faces representative of death? I have taken the faces of the soul guides and produced wearable masks from their images. Atechnique I learned while living in Lhasa, Tibet PRC. The forms are first created with clay and cast in a plaster mold. The mask is made by pasting paper and textile bound with animal glue. The finished form is then painted with acrylic pigment. The same technique used to make ritual masks in Tibetan temples. The body is also a mask, a temporary manifestation, a transient phenomenon.  

Published by stellajaeart

I am a traveling artist who spent 15 years in over 30 countries. I have recently settled in the mystical land of Egypt. I am a visual artist who works with pottery, painting, photography and jewelry design.

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