The False Faces of the Iroquois

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Author: Fenton, William Nelson (1908-2005)

Year: 1987

Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press

Place: Norman


xxi+522 pages with plates, illustrations, figures, maps, charts, bibliography and index. Quarto (11 1/4" x 8 1/4") bound in original beige and reddish-brown cloth with black lettering to spine. University of Oklahoma Civilization of the American Indian series number 178. First edition.

The False Faces of the Iroquois is the culminating achievement of William Fenton's lifetime study of Iroquois culture and history as manifested in the Society of Faces. The society is one of the central features of Iroquois life, and the masks made and worn by society members in their various rites are outward expressions of religious beliefs, representing a long tradition of relationships between human beings and supernaturals. The Society of Faces is still viable today among traditionalist Iroquois of New York and Ontario, but until the author's work began to be published in the early 1940s, the society had been largely undocumented. This book, which moves from a study of the masks themselves to an investigation of the tradition and its fulfillment in ceremony, records the society's paraphernalia, origin myths, beliefs, and rites, especially the purification of houses, the "traveling rite," which the author had rare opportunities to observe repeatedly at Allegany Reservation. Special attention is also given to linguistic evidence. As a comprehensive description of the Society of Faces in all its aspects, ultimately this work is a delineation of the meaning of life to the Iroquois. Although the book takes into account the observations of earlier ethnohistorians and ethnographers beginning with Lewis Henry Morgan, Fenton's work is definitive, based on his own prodigious research in the field as well as in museum collections and library archives in the United States and abroad. Utilizing the morphological features of the masks, he provides a system of classification to help the laymen, the collector, and the curator in identification and chronological ordering. He has followed the careers of ten mask carvers, observing and recording them at work and producing a clear picture of their art, its uniformities, individual variations, and local styles. The analyses are supported by a rich collection of more than 300 photographs and drawings in color and black and white.


A fine copy in like jacket.

SOLD 2013

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