17. Hopi Kachina Dancers
Shown here is a Spirit Dancer
The Hopi are not the only tribe to observe the Kachina tradition in its religious calendar. Almost all other Pueblo villages in the Southwest observe the Kachina ritual in one way or another. The Zuni however, have the nearest resemblance to the Hopi Kachinas, and in many ways the two coincide so closely as to indicate a close relationship in the past.
The Zuni believe that the Kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake which is reached through Listening Spring Lake. This is located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River. Although some archaeological investigations have taken place, they have not been able to clarify which tribe, Hopi or Zuni, was developed first.
The Hopis have built their traditions into a more elaborate ritual, and seem to have a greater sense of drama and artistry than the Zunis. On the other hand, the latter have developed a more sizable folklore concerning their Kachinas.
Hopi Kachina Dancer representing the Bear spirit.
Animal representations were a common theme in Hopi Kachina Dancer regalia reflecting the traits of the animals that they represented. Kachinas are spirits or personifications of things in the real world. These spirits are believed to visit the Hopi villages during the first half of the year. A Kachina can represent anything in the natural world or cosmos, from a revered ancestor to an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept.
There are more than 400 different Kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture. The multiple gods of Kachinas varies in each pueblo community; there may be Kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having human-like relationships; they may have uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, and may marry and have children.
Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use his or her particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example.
Shown here is a Red Tail Hawk Dancer.
The exact origin of the kachinas is not completely known, but according to one version of Hopi belief, the kachinas were beneficent spirit-beings who came with the Hopis from the underworld. The underworld is a concept common to all the Pueblo Indians. It is a place where the spirits or shades live: the newly born come from there and the dead return there. The kachinas wandered with the Hopis over the world until they arrived at Casa Grande, where both the Hopis and the kachinas settled for a while. With their powerful ceremonies, the kachinas brought rain for the crops and were in general of much help and comfort. Unfortunately, the kachinas departed the natural world (actual cause of the Kachina departure is varied in its telling) and their souls returned to the underworld. Since the sacred paraphernalia of the kachinas were left behind, the Hopis began impersonating the kachinas, wearing their masks and costumes, and imitating their ceremonies in order to bring rain, good crops, and life's happiness.
Artist: Doug Quarles
Completed: January 2014