Hopi Kachina Dolls




High on the mesas in the arid land of northeastern Arizona live the Hopi, westernmost of the Pueblo people. A small, peaceful and friendly group, they have occupied their barren mesa tops and farmed their arid but fertile valleys for many centuries. Clinging tenaciously to their marginal land, they have withstood drought, famine and the onslaught of nomadic raiders. The pressure of Spanish domination, pestilence and, more recently, cultural inundation have diminished but not destroy their traditional pattern of life. The Hopi are bound together by their religion, a multi-stranded cord uniting them to withstand the hazards of a harsh environment and in rebuffing foreign incursions. Their religion is both their bulwark and the lure that attracts forces that would destroy them (Wright 1).

Hopi traditions and lifestyles have not changed significantly over the years. To this day the Hopi Indians are still found where they have been found for many years. The Hopi have withstood great loss and disappointment, but have never lost their faith and union between each other. A major part of the Hopi life is their religious beliefs and ceremonies. Many of the religious ceremonies that the Hopi Indians perform are still performed to the present day. An important part of the Hopi religion is the Kachina. Along with the religious aspect the Kachina has other meaning to the Hopi. The three main aspects of the Hopi Kachina are the supernatural beings, the dancers who impersonate these beings and the wooden dolls.

To the Hopi Indians of Arizona the first aspect of the Kachina is the supernatural beings. The Hopi do no necessarily worship the Kachinas so much as they consider them as a supernatural force to be recognized and worked with. The supernatural beings of the Kachina are part of the religious beliefs of the Hopi Indians. ³The Kachina cult has been described as a common denominator in Hopi religion² (Wright 11). This cult is something that nearly every Hopi takes part in. So from that it is shown as to why the Kachinas are a much talked about part of the Hopi life.

The San Francisco Peaks of northern Arizona are said to be the home of the supernatural beings of the Kachina. For six months of the year the supernatural beings return to the Hopi villages and take part in the seasonal ceremonies. These ceremonies are said to be able to bring about rain, wind and even sunshine (Wright 12). The Hopi Kachina calendar tells when and what ceremonies take place. The calendar time for how long the ceremonies take place is six months.

The Kachina season begins in late December with a ritual opening of the kivas. These kivas are underground ceremonial chambers which are believed to be the entryways to the Spirits of Underworld. There are usually several in each village incorporating most of the men as kiva members. Once the way is opened Kachinas will come and go from the kivas until the path is again closed to them toward the end of July

(Fewkes 4).

During this time frame the Kachinas will help in doing many different things for the Hopi Indians. Some of the different things that the Kachinas will do during this time is, ³they will renew the world and begin to get it ready for the coming seasons crops² (Wright 13).

³The Kachinas will also insure growth and abundance and, as always, bring moisture. They will bring discipline to some and give direction to all in proper behavior, but their greatest gift will be happiness, good health and a long life² (Colin 9). These are very important tasks that the Hopi Kachinas accomplish during the six months that they are present. The way that the Kachinas are able to accomplish these tasks is in a very unique way. ³Hopi Kachinas embody the spirits of living things and also the spirits of ancestors who have died and become a part of nature. Kachinas are believed to possess powers over nature, especially the weather, but higher gods limit the extent of their powers² (Colton 7). While the kivas are open and the Kachinas are present the Hopi Indian males have a lot of things going one. Since the supernatural beings of the Kachina can not be seen, the