Talismanic COVID-19 Face Mask
Mixed Media
Folk Art

Talisman Face Mask for Protection and Healing During COVID-19

for Gene Autry Museum of the West - Community Heritage Collection May 2020 

This mask was a product of many ideas and inspirations percolating in the remarkably uneventful events of quarantining at my mother’s home of my adolescence– during the month of Ramadan. During this Islamic holy month, I found such peace and joy reconnecting with not only my religious mother and the spiritual heritage of my birth, but also the billion other Muslims experiencing this very communal month in isolation.

This face mask is a contemporary adaptation of a traditional Islamic talismanic garment, historically created by trained artisans for ritual, ceremonial, and practical use designed to protect and bless the wearer. As a visual artist with an extensive background in mysticism and theurgy, this project was an exciting and natural combined expression of many years of study and practice. As is characteristic with talismanic implements, this wearable face mask was designed and constructed under very specific conditions, utilizing an effortless, yet painstaking process incorporating the appropriate symbols, measurements, numerology, divine names and various other inscriptions. NOTE: While this mask was constructed under strict planetary (☿ and ☉) and lunar guidelines, traditional astrological elections were not implemented for this particular project. 

Once a week, I join with fellow Sufi dervishes (disciples and initiates) across time zones on Zoom to receive teachings, discussion and short prayer sessions of virtual dhikr, or meditative group chanting of Divine remembrance. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been collectively chanting dhikr of the name “Ya Shafi”, invoking the Divine attribute of “The Healer” for all in need during this time. The idea of this mask came about after one of these sessions, when going through storage bins at my mom’s I came across a stack of practice notebooks from when I had first started training in Arabic calligraphy as a child.

The central inscriptions Arabic calligraphy on this mask read يا شافي
(Ya Shafi) the divine attribute, or name of God translating to calling upon “The Healer” as well as المهيمن (Al Muhaymin), “The Protector” and الجامع (Al Jami’) “The Unifier” related in Islamic cosmology to Humanity. Elements of color, shapes, letters and numerology were also used for implementation of these holy words.

A majority of the best preserved Islamic talismanic garments were created for soldiers and sultans to be worn beneath their armor, as an added layer of protection and blessings of victory. This mask represents that feeling we could now all relate to, of donning the armor of our essential clean face mask when we are called to duty of venturing into the public battleground for essentials. However, as this mask IS the armor, instead of a magical undergarment, the inscriptions were designed to simultaneously protect the wearer as well as send a public blessing of healing and protection for all who outwardly observe the mask.

May all of you and your loved ones remain safe, healthy and protected–especially during these times. ︎

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