About Hopi Kachina Dolls

 

General Hopi Kachina Information

The Hopi Kachina Doll (Pronounced: Ho pe kuh CHEE' nah) is a significant part of the Hopi religion. traditionally called tihu the dolls are not play things, but rather representations of Hopi spirits that are used as teaching aides for the benefit of the Hopi children. Each Kachina Doll is believed to also contain a portion of the power of the Kachina spirit it represents.

Traditionally, the Hopi Indian Kachina Doll is hand carved out of cottonwood root. The root of the cottonwood tree is light, sturdy, and perfect for carving. The Hopi artist begins with a rough log of cottonwood root and then begins to carve out the basic shape of the Kachina. Patiently and intricately, the Hopi artist carves finer and finer details into the doll. Once finished the doll is painted by hand with the traditional colors that are appropriate to the Kachina that is being depicted. There are over three hundred different Kachinas. So, the choice of color and detail is very important in the creation of a doll.

The Kachina season happens in the Hopi pueblo from late December to July. This is when ceremonies take place in which the men of the tribe will dress up as the Kachinas and perform dances in hopes of bringing rain, a good crop, health, and abundance. It is at these ceremonies when the Kachina dancers will give gifts of Kachina Dolls to all of the little Hopi children passing the Hopi tradition from one generation to the next.

These days, many Kachina Dolls are not created solely for the Hopi ceremonies but also for the sake of artistic expression. Many Hopi Indian Kachina Dolls stand alone as impressive works of art often selling to collectors for anywhere between $150 to $30,000!

Whether it's a spiritual guide or a highly collectible work of art the Hopi Indian Kachina Doll is an important piece of Hopi Indian culture. It has been a part of Hopi life for many years in the past and will continue to be for many years in the future.

Understand Hopi Kachina Dolls

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To understand Hopi Kachina Dolls, one must understand something of their purpose. The Kachina doll of the Hopi, which so many of us admire and collect, is the representation of a Hopi spirit or deity. Kachina dolls originally were, and still are, made to be given away as gifts to Hopi children so that they may learn the different Kachinas and the stories and religious significance attached to them. Kachinas are holy spirits that live upon the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and other sacred mountains in the Southwest. During the period beginning with the Winter Solstice (December 21 or 22 each year in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 or 21) in the Southern Hemisphere) and extending to about mid-July, masked dancers initiated into the various clans of the Hopi Pueblos impersonate these spirits. Men portray both the male and female spirits and when an initiate wears the mask of his Kachina, he becomes that spirit personified. During the open dances, the Kachinas dance in the plaza or from Kiva to Kiva distributing the Kachina dolls, toy bows, rattles, fruit and sweets to the children between dances.

Kachinas can be spirits of deities, animals, and even deceased members of the Pueblo known for special kindness or prowess. One such Kachina, Hai-i-wuhti, wears the black face of a warrior. She is powerful and terrible to behold. She holds a bow and her hair is tied up on one side onto the wooden form used to create the "Whorl" hair design of a Hopi maiden. Her hair is down and flowing on the other side, the aspect in which she was found as her mother was preparing her hair when an enemy attacked the Pueblo. The men were tending their fields and the young maiden jumped up to take her father's bow and lead the women in a valiant defense of the Pueblo until the men could join the battle and defeat the enemy. This Kachina is so powerful that Whipper Kachinas stay the spectators from her path to keep them from being harmed by her spirit. The Kachina impersonators give the spirits a form that can interact with the human and can be seen as intermediaries between the Hopi Pueblo and the spirits themselves. While the Kachinas are present, they are constantly offered prayers by spectators who sprinkle the dancers with corn pollen as they pass or are encountered. In this way the blessings between the Kachinas and the people can be exchanged before the Kachinas return to their mountain homes in the summer. Plaza dances were at one time open to all, but because of the ignorant and sometimes reprehensible behavior of increasingly large groups of tourists, all dances are now closed to the public.

How Hopi Kachina Dolls are Made

The Hopi Kachina Doll images below are from Hopi Kachina Doll Carver Milton Howard

StepsImageDescription
Step 1
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The Hopi Kachina Doll carver begins with a log of cottonwood root.
Step 2
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The Basic form and pose of the Hopi Kachina Doll is cut out of the cottonwood root.
Step 3
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Finer details are added to the Hopi Kachina Doll, such as feathers, rattles and yucca whips are made from a pieces of the same cottonwood root log.
Step 4
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All parts of the Hopi Kachina Doll are brushed with a natural stain.
Step 5
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The Hopi Kachina Doll carver intricately hand paints the traditional colors and details on the to Hopi Kachina Doll.

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