Word into Art, £16.99
Painted wooden mask of a demon
Sri Lanka, late 19th-early 20th century AD
This mask represents one of the eighteen disease demons, and probably Demala Sanniya who is often associated with delirious fever. Demon masks are still used in healing rituals in Sri Lanka, particularly in the south of the island. An individual faced with a physical or mental ailment may consult a number of healing specialists, including exorcists, for diagnosis and cure. An exorcist will identify in a patient's life the significant event which may have lead to an attack by demons and identify the particular demon responsible.
One of the most powerful cures he may prescribe is a masked performance in which the demon associated with the ailment, and others who may also have played a role in causing it, are made to appear. The performance includes both dramatic moments and comedy and the demons are eventually sent on their way. If successful, the performance will rid the patient of the cause of the ailment, but other cures, such as herbal preparations, may also be prescribed to help alleviate the physical symptoms. Indeed, these may be prescribed by the exorcist himself or he may be consulted alongside Ayurvedic doctors or specialists trained in Western medical science.