False Face

by Gerald Musinsky

This English term, coined by the seventeenth century British colonials in North America, refers to masks and the making of masks: the gagosha (mask) among the Seneca; the hadu'i (hunchback) among the onandoga; the gagu:wara (face) by the Mohawk.

The reference also applies to certain tribal groups, the Faces Society (also called Society of Faces, Society of the Wooden Faces, and the False Face Company). Each mask has a name associated with a particular mythic persona and are used in various healing rituals and ceremonies.

Among the Seneca, Shagodyowehgowah is the head of all the False Faces. Anyone cured of a False Face illness is initiated into the society that aided in the cure.