The recitation mask is a ritual object used by believers in the Oralian Way, a Cardassian religion. Oralians believe that the wearing of the mask provides a connection to their deity, Oralius, and their Guides usually wear the recitation mask while leading prayer or reading from the Hebitian Records. The mask is usually carved to resemble the face of a Cardassian woman, who represents Oralius. During the persecutions following the fall of the First Hebitian civilization, these masks became prized objects passed clandestinely from generation to generation and the Obsidian Order sought wherever possible to destroy them. (A Stitch in Time, Terok Nor trilogy)
Recitation masks are carved by hand, by an individual known as a mask-shaper, who usually belongs to a religious order, and the process is aided by the prayers of both shaper and wearer. The carving of a Cardassian mask also requires that the mask-shaper pay careful attention to the wearer's ridging patterns, for the mask must conform to the facial ridges on its inside in order to be worn comfortably. This necessity gives rise to the belief that one cannot hide behind a mask--rather, as the proverb states, "As one wears the mask of Oralius, so the mask wears you." (Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius--"The Desolate Vigil")
Alternate universe customsEdit
It is unknown whether the following customs have analogues in the main Star Trek: Sigils and Unions universe. However, in the Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius universe, various sects approach the wearing of the recitation mask differently.
Some sects, such as the one to which Skrain Dukat belonged, believe that laypersons may possess recitation masks and use them while leading prayers in addition to ordained Guides. Such masks are typically given as gifts by an adolescent's parents. They may be worn in both public or private prayer, though in the case of public prayer where a Guide is present, they are typically only donned once the Guide has granted one the opportunity to speak. Other sects do not permit non-clergy to wear a recitation mask, reserving this for the Guide alone.
In sects where males may serve as Guides, or where laypersons, including men, are permitted the use of the recitation mask, the features on the visible side of the mask when carved for men may be less blatantly female, instead taking on a somewhat more androgynous appearance, though generally still rather feminine-featured. (Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius--"The Desolate Vigil")