History of Katsinas
Katsina Carvings also known as Kachina Dolls are gifts given in hope of future abundance and health, as well as tools for education.
Katsinas are traditionally carved from the roots of cottonwood trees which once were abundant on and near the Hopi lands. The Hopi word for cottonwood root is paako, which means water wood, and the cotton-wood root’s ability to seek and find abundant water, mirrors the ability of the katsinam to do the same for the Hopi people.
For the Hopi, Katsinas are the bridge the spiritual world and mortals. Each year Katsinas come, they walk upon the earth and they dance to bring life and renewal. When the Katsina return to the spirit world at the end of the planting, they return with prayers of the Hopi to continue on this earth for another round in the circle of life.
There are more than 250 different Katsinas, each with its own separate attributes, representing everything from animals to abstract concepts. The Hopi carvers use a single piece of cottonwood root.
Some types of Katsina and What They Represent:
Chili Pepper – one of the runner or racer Katsinam who challenge men and boys to foot races in which the racer follows in hot pursuit. The winners of the races receive prizes, the losers…well, Tsil forces hot peppers into the losers’ mouths or throws mud at them. Tsil has a yellow face and, as with most runner Katsinam, has large round eyes and wears little clothing to allow for free movement.
Warrior Maiden – Long ago this maiden was dressing when the enemy suddenly appeared. Although her hair was half done, she pick up her father’s weapons and successfully defended her village.
Mana – the unmarried girl (reflected by the style of her hair) appears at dances accompanied by another Katsina, usually the Home Dancer.
Eagle – Represents strength & power. He is the ruler of the sky and the messenger to the heavens. He is treated with honor at all times and is the messenger between the people and their spirit guides.
Pueblo Clown – also called Sacred Clown refers to jesters or tricksters in the Katsina lore and his presence is a remind of what NOT to be. He performs during the spring and summer fertility rites. Clowns are portrayed with black and white horizontal stripes painted on their bodies and faces with back circles around the mouth and eyes. Their hair is parted in the center and bound in two bunches which stand upright on each side of the head and are trimmed with cornhusks.
Sun – represents the spirit of the Sun, stands with a spruce tree in his left hand and a bell in his right. May appear in mixed dances with a flute in his hand
Corn Maiden – Said to purify the women who grind the corn for ceremonies and other use. They are said to bring rain.
Hoop Dancer – Amuses the audience of a major ceremony. The rings represent the circle of life.
Hemis – Beautiful, represents happiness of a successful harvest. Wears an elaborate headdress.
Nose Plug Man – comes from the Yuman tribes who wore turquoise nose ornaments. He appears with the Left-Handed and carries a whip or arrows to prod the Clowns when the misbehave.
Wolf – Hunter, uses his knowledge to find and capture game animals.
Ogre – White Ogre represents good. Black ogre threatens small children who are naughty.
Bear – Represents great power to cure the sick.
Owl – Beneficial to agriculture because of his destruction to rodents. Symbolizes intelligence & wisdom.
Deer – Dances to increase his kind for plenty to eat for the future.
Bean – Dances for a plentiful crop of beans.
Ram – Dances for increase of its kind and has power over the rain.
Snow – Brings snow and cold weather essential to the growth of crops.
Badger – Cures the sick, prayers for the growth of healing herbs are given to him.
Priest Killer – He is referred to by the non-Hopi people as the Priest Killer because he carried out the beheading of the priest during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona revolted against the Catholic Church in order to retain and have the freedom of practicing their own religion.
Lizard – Fighter, brings sweethearts together.
Chief – Ancient One, represents great power of knowledge.
Old Man – Grandfather, sings songs for a successful growing season.
Spotted Corn – Aides in the pollination and production of corn for ceremonies and other use.
Crow Mother – Watches over children as they play.
Corn Maiden – Said to purify the women who grind the corn for ceremonies and other use.
Road Runner – Assists in bringing rain, also wards off witchcraft to protect homes.
Hummingbird – Appears often as a runner, brilliant impersonate.
Morning Singer – Appears on roof tops and sing songs to wake the people of the villages.
Santo Domingo – Blesses the seed for a good harvest.
Medicine Man – Mixes herbs and roots to give advice, prevents & cures sickness.
Buffalo Warrior & Wolf Warrior – Assures that there will be adequate food for the winter.
Zuni Rain Priest – Accompanies the Shalako to bring rain.
Red Tail Hawk – Rarely seen, serves many important purposes.
White Cloud – Represents the clouds in the sky, brings moisture for crops.
Buffalo – Most powerful amongst Kachinas, can kill any evil thoughts, great spiritual protector.
Hototo – Preparer of food, most respected of the war Katsinas
Warrior – Serves as a policeman, important war Katsina
Antelope – Dance to increase numbers, brings rain.
Shalako – Most magnificent, towers seven or eight feet, usually appears with its mate.
Mudhead – Well known Katsina, acts as a clown.
Paralyzed – Carried by a friend who was blind, together they were able to hunt and travel.
Butterfly – Represents the butterfly that lands on flowers, then the medicine man uses these in his medicine.
Rainbow – Represents peace and harmony amongst tribes.
1st Mesa – Passage way to other mesas.
Kokopelli – Hunched back flute player, fertility god, seducer of young girls, baby-maker. He carries a bag of presents to distribute to the women he seduces.
Sunface – Represents warmth, shelter for the old, bright future, and playfulness for the young.
Broadface – Carries yucca whips to enforce community cleaning.
Left-Hand – Reversed Katsina, does everything in opposite.
Chasing Star – Symbolizes the planets and the stars.
Snake Dancer – Sends message with the snake to ask the Gods to bring rain.