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Gallery of Hamatsa Heyhliwey Masks
ROLE OF THE HILIGAXSTE'
The initiate who is possessed by Bakw- bakwwalanuksiwe and becomes a Dzoonokwa is accompanied by a close, usually high-ranking woman relative. This person is the Hiligaxste' and is responsible for feeding him and making him drink. She works largely behind the scenes until the fourth and final round of dancing, when she dances with the initiate and helps the other Hamatsa dancers draw him fully back to our world.
The initiate and the Hiligaxste' each ware a Heyhliwey mask during the concluding portion of this dance round. These days, Heyhliwey masks are all small forehead masks, such as the three from the Burke Museum seen at the left. These masks leave the faces of the dancers visible when the head is held upright. By showing both the face of the spirit and the face of the human dancer emerging from that spirit face, the return of the dancer to the everyday world with its mundane rules is made manifest. The Heyhliwey masks come in a wide variety. They can include miniature Hamatsa masks, such those of Crooked Beak and Raven, seen to the left, the clan ancestor of the Hiligaxste, or even the Grizzly Bear (lower left), because the Grizzly Bear society furnishes peace-keeping dancers during the Hamatsa dances.Home
There are a much older group of transformation masks that may also have served as Heyhliwey for initiates to the Cannibal Woman Society. These are full face masks, composite masks. The outer mask may represent the Dzoonokwa or one of the fearsome Cannibal Birds. As the dance proceeds, the mask opens to show the emergence of the initiate from the spirit realm into our own, mundane world.
Here, the top example is a Dzoonokwa with large, square white teeth that splits to open to reveal the face of a noble man who is waring a necklace of abalone shell signifying the wealth that Cannibal Woman bestows on her initiates.
The bottom example is a highly compressed Crooked Beak of Heaven whose mouth springs open to reveal the spirit of the man within. If you compare this mask with the early Crooked Beak mask (directly below), you can map its parts to the mask shown at the left.
Text & layout © 2010 by Charles M. Nelson