History of Kachinas
Kachina Carvings also known as Kachina Dolls are gifts given in hope of future abundance and health, as well as tools for education.
Kachina 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 Kachina to do the same for the Hopi people.
For the Hopi, Kachina are the bridge the spiritual world and mortals. Each year Kachina 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 Kachina, 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 Kachina and What They Represent:
Chili Pepper – one of the runner or racer Kachina 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 Kachina, 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.
Snow Kachina – The Snow Kachina is a favorite character during the winter months. Because he lives on top of the San Francisco Peaks he is credited with bringing the cold and snows to the Hopis. This winter moisture is absolutely essential for the growth of the crops.
Snow Maiden – Known as Nuvak’chin Mana, this kachina brings blessings, snow and cold weather which are essential to the growth of crops. She is seen during the Niman Ceremony.
Soyok Mana – One of several women ogres, who along with Soyok Wuhti (Monster Woman), visit the houses in the villages during the Powamu ceremony. During their visits they threaten children who have misbehaved and ask for food. They either whistle their disapproval of or accept the food which is put in their baskets and taken to the kivas.
Soyok Wuqti or Natacka Wuqti – (Monster Woman) The name Soyok is applied to certain monsters called Natackas, which appear in the Powamu ceremony. These kachinas are thought to have derived from the eastern pueblos as they are represented at Zuni. Besides the Soyoko or monsters which regularly appear in the Walpi Powamu ceremony, there are other similar monsters which make occasional visits. Soyok Wuqti has a large black mask with great yellow goggle eyes, and red beard and hair, in which is tied a red feather, the symbol of death or war. She carries in one hand, a crook to which several shell rattles are attached, and in the other, a huge knife. She is much feared by the little children, who shudder as she passes through the pueblos and halts to threaten with death those she meets. She appears at Powamu ceremony at about the same time as the Natackas, but does not accompany them.
Soyal Mana – Soyal is a winter solstice ritual designed to turn the sun back in its course. Mana means maiden. This kachina appears along with Ahulani
on the morning of the last day of the Soyal Ceremony.
Squash – Known as Patun or Patung this plant kachina like others, is of great importance because of the dependence upon them for food. This kachina is a favorite to many collectors. Among the Hopi, the Patung kachina is a runner from First Mesa but this kachina is originally from Zuni. He is a Chief Kachina in the Pumpkin Clan. Carvers make many version of this doll and most still follow the basic form of him holding a flower in his right hand and a yucca whip in his left. In the image at right, he wears a mask and body paint of green with black stripes, breechcloth, and carrying squash blossoms.
Spotted Corn – This kachina helps to pollinate corn plants which increases the amount of food available at harvest.
Sun – Called Kawa or Dawa, this katsina symbolizes growth, abundance, life and strength of spirit. He comes during the solstice to beckon the sun’s return.
Sunface – Represents warmth, shelter for the old, bright future, and playfulness for the young.
Talawiqpiki – A lightning god with zigzag symbol of lightning from the rain cloud and rainbow carried over the head.
Tcolawitze – Zuni fire god.
Tecab Tenebidji – Another common Navajo kachina, this one is personated by the Hopi. They eyes are black, horizontal bands, curved at the outer ends with a long snout. On that side of the head which is turned to the observer there is a symbol of a half-formed squash surrounded by red horsehair, and to the opposite side of the head, are attached two vertical feathers. On the crown of the head are variegated parrot feathers. The red fringe on the forehead represents the hair.
Tecab Yebitcai – The name of this Navajo supernatural is translated to Grandfather kachina and the Hopi say that the Navajo name has a like meaning. The artist has depicted on the mask a stalk of corn on a white face. The eyes and mouth are surrounded by two half rectangles. A conventional ear of corn is painted on the left cheek. There is likewise a crest of eagle feathers on the head. Yebitcai wears a blue calico shirt, black velvet pantaloons, and Navajo leggings. Both the pantaloons and the leggings have a rose of white disks along the outside which represent silver buttons, and he wears a belt of silver disks strung on a leather strap. A buckskin is represented over his right shoulder, and in his left hand he carries a bow and two arrows, and a skin pouch for a sacred meal.
Turkey – Known as Koyona this kachina dances with the other birds in the kivas at night or during the Mixed Dances of spring. He is from First Mesa and is a very rare. Birds or animals in general, are very important in the Hopi culture. Animals are advisors, healers, and hunters to the Hopi people. The Hopi have learned a lot from animals.
Turtle Maiden or Woman – The Turtle Maiden or Kahaila Mana, this maiden, like others, is simply a Katsina Mana, but because it accompanies Kahaila, it also picks up his name. Also, the face of the Mana is painted differently. The Turtle Maiden is very rarely carved into a Katsina. All animals and mammals are an important part of the Hopi culture, they are believed to provide guidance, health, and protection.
Velvet Shirt Navan – The Navan or Velvet Shirt Kachina is a new Kachina. It was introduced in the 1900’s to the Hopi culture. He is believed to have come from the village of Moenkopi. Navan usually appears in the Kiva Dances. He is seen wearing ribbons and bright colors. He is a very colorful Kachina. The name Velvet Shirt comes from the shirt he is seen wearing.
Warrior Maiden – Called He’e’e or Hehee, this kachina represents a warrior spirit. It can appear as a man dressed in women’s clothes or a woman with a man’s tools. This kachina is a potent warrior and during the Pachavu Ceremony, she leads the group of fearsome warrior kachinas in a battle to protect the line of dancers. Because she is so potent, there are other guards who protect certain ceremonies from her dangerous presence.
Water Drinking Girl – Called Palhik Mana she is often seen grinding corn, while sometimes she is seen with colorful plants and birds. She brings rain creating life, whether it is corn or animals, and is highly thought of by the Hopi. She is often mistaken for the Poli Mana (butterfly maiden) and the Salako Mana, as their functions are similar.
Warrior Ahote The Ahote is a hunter that originates from the Plains Indians, but has been adopted into the Hopi culture. He comes in two colors; yellow or blue. His long and trailing eagle’s feather headdress resembles a Plains Indian warrior. The colorful triangular patch with pendant colored circles between the eyes, represent the flowers of spring. Ahote appears in the Mixed Dance and the Plaza Dance. Sometimes, he carries a roast or boiled corn to give to the audience during his performance.
Warrior Mouse -The Warrior Mouse Katsina is a central figure in Hopi folktale. He is not a dance figure at all , but rather the hero of a Second Mesa legend. A mouse undertook to rid the village of a pesky chicken hawk. He did that by taunting the hawk and tricking him to dive into a stake and impale himself. The Warrior Mouse, as he is called, is not to be confused with the any other folktale mice. The mouse and other animals have always played an important role in the Hopi ceremonies and tradition. Hopi’s believe that through animals, one can learn many things about life.
Warrior Woman – Known as He Wuhti this kachina can either be a man dressed as a woman or a woman using men’s equipment depending where you hear the story. For the story of the man, the story states that he did not have enough time to find his clothes when the enemies approached, so he had to wear his bride’s costume to quickly fight them. As for the woman, they say that she was just finishing doing her hair with her mother when she saw the enemies approaching. With only one side of her hair complete, she snatched up her bow and arrow, and proceeded to defend her village until the men returned from the field. Despite the differences in stories, the He Wuhti functions as a warrior spirit that leads a band of warrior kachinas to protect the procession of the Pachavu ceremony.
White Bear – Thought to be powerful and capable of curing bad illnesses, these kachinas are great warriors and are usually seen in the Soyohim or Mixed Dances of springtime.
White Cloud – Brings rain for needed food crops and is a representative for the presence of clouds.
White Buffalo Dancer – Called Kocha Mosairu this is not a kachina, but rather a social dancer. It is usually seen in ceremonies in January on First Mesa. It is a doll that most carvers do not mind doing as part of their repertoire. It is now a favorite among collectors. All animals are an important part of the Hopi culture, they are believed to provide guidance, health, and protection.
White Chin – Also called Tuma-uyi this katsina is amongst the oldest known Hopi Katsina around today. He got his name because he has a very colorful face, but his chin is painted white. This Katsina’s main function is unknown. He is now rarely seen in ceremonies.
Wiktcina – This being assists the clowns and amuses the spectators by throwing mud during the dances and festivals. He wears a helmet mask with circular eyes and mouth and appendages.
Witch or Guard Known as Hilili the origin of this kachina is believed to be from the Zuni Tribe. In the Acoma and Laguna pueblos he is known as Heleleka. His name comes from the call or noise that he makes. When he first came to the Hopi , people were very suspicious of him. He is mainly seen holding Yucca whips. He has become a popular guard at the ceremonies due to his dancing style. He can bee seen in the Powamu and Night dances.
Wolf – Also known as Kweo this katsina often seen in dances accompanied by the Deer kachina or Mountain Sheep kachina during the Soyohim Dances. He carries a stick that represents the trees and bushes that he uses to hide in whenever he stalks his prey. During ceremonies the Wolf Kachina’s sharp teeth are always visible along with its lolling tongue. They are made visible to boast the wolf’s prowess as a hunter. After the dance, it is customary for the Hopis to offer the Kweo Kachina cornmeal, and in return, the Kweo Katsina blesses them on their hunt.
Yellow Corn Maiden or Woman – Known as Takursh Mana she appears with Angak’china, Ma’alo, Pawik and other Kachinas. They dance in a line separate from the other line Kachinas, but following the same pattern of turns and gestures. The Takursh Mana does make one different move. She kneels and places a large gourd on the ground to rasp. She usually carries a scapula and a notched stick, which produce a sound with different tones like a music instrument.
Wolf – This kachina is a hunter who uses his knowledge to help villages locate and catch needed game animals, making certain that there will be enough food for the coming winter. Highly respected, the Wolf usually shows up at the dance sneaking behind the antelope, deer or rabbits hiding behind his stick which represents trees and cover. Towards the end of dances he is showered with offerings in hopes that the people may channel his skills as a hunter.
Zuni Chief – Called Pautiwa, this kachina chief summons the Zuni people to the Katsina Village and is the most prestigious of all Zuni deities. Illustrating Zuni virtues of dignity, beauty, leadership, and benevolence, he is concerned for the welfare of all people and kachina spirits. Though he has a role in many zuni stories and coordinates the Zuni ceremonial calendar, he appears on only three occasions, all during the Winter Solstice rituals. No Katsina may visit the Zuni pueblo of unless Pautiwa approves and sends it. He is a Sun Katsina and a member of the Sun Clan.
Zuni Rain Priest – Accompanies the Shalako to bring rain.