These were wax casts kept in a lararium, the family shrine.
Rites of passage, such as initiation of young members of the family, or funerals, were carried out at the shrine under the watch of the ancestral masks.
Equally masks may disguise a penitent or preside over important ceremonies; they may help mediate with spirits, or offer a protective role to the society who utilise their powers.
Biologist Jeremy Griffith has suggested that ritual masks, as representations of the human face, are extremely revealing of the two fundamental aspects of the human psychological condition: firstly, the repression of a cooperative, instinctive self or soul; and secondly, the extremely angry state of the unjustly condemned conscious thinking egocentric intellect. In West Africa, masks are used in masquerades that form part of religious ceremonies enacted to communicate with spirits and ancestors.
However, it may also come from Provençal mascarar "to black (the face)" (or the related Catalan mascarar, Old French mascurer).
Males wear the mask, although it does depict a female. Some African tribes believe that the animal masks can help them communicate with the spirits who live in forests or open savannas.Such an artist holds a respected position in tribal society because of the work that he or she creates, embodying not only complex craft techniques but also spiritual/social and symbolic knowledge.African masks are also used in the Mas or Masquerade of the Caribbean Carnival.The word "mask" appeared in English in the 1530s, from Middle French masque "covering to hide or guard the face", derived in turn from Italian maschera, from Medieval Latin masca "mask, specter, nightmare".This word is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Arabic maskharah مَسْخَرَۃٌ "buffoon", from the verb sakhira "to ridicule".