Schweizer Masken und Mas\enbräuche, by Karl Meuli. 163 pages, with 60 full-page illustrations and a frontispiece in color. Zurich: Atlantis-Verlag, 1943. Price, $4.50.
Shakespeare’s Henry IV says that death is a mask. Among primitive peoples the belief exists that, at certain times of the year, the dead return in the guise of demons to commit all sorts of nuisances in revenge for injustice. The Swiss masks, which originated in the dawn of history, are thus related to the masks of Africans, South Sea island tribes and the Indians of North America; they represent the departed spirits. One usually thinks of the Lötschenthal as the principal valley of origin for the wooden masks of Switzerland, but this author shows definitely that they occur in practically all the cantons. They are brought out not only at Hallowe’en, but in the spring, when quaint ceremonies take place to mark the end of winter. It is a curious fact that these masks are still being made as they were three centuries ago. Certain woodcarvers of the Lötschenthal are almost fully occupied by this craft. You really must see the pictures in this book: the masks will scare the living daylights out of you.