We believe they (Kachina Dolls) are personifications of the katsina spirits, originally created by the katsinam in their physical embodiment. ..." - Alph H. Secakuku
To understand the meaning of the kachina dolls, it is necessary to understand Hopi culture, because one does not exist without the other. It has been found that the Hopi's main ancestors were the Anasazi, a group of people who at about the time of Christ came to depend on agriculture. They represent various beings, from animals to clouds. They are believed to be in some form of hierarchy, a form of kingdom. Kachina dolls are depictions of masked men impersonating supernatural beings that predominate the Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo Spirit dances. These Spirits are believed to be descendants of a prehistoric people. They have lived in the Northern parts of New Mexico westward into Arizona near Flagstaff for some fifteen hundred years. To honor them they have many sacred dances throughout the year. The dolls which contain the kachina spirits are often given to children to remind them of their heritage and of their Gods. However, the Kachina Dolls are not just toys, but objects to be treasured and studied. Through these dolls they learn about Kachinas as part of their religious training and background. In Pueblo Indian religious practice, any of more than 500 divine ancestral spirits who act as intermediaries between man and god. They will allow themselves to be seen by the community if the men properly perform a traditional ritual while wearing kachina masks. The spirit painted or carved on the mask is thought to be actually present with the performer, temporarily transforming him into a Kachina spirit. The identity of the spirit is depicted not by the form of the doll, which is usually simple and flat, but primarily by the applied color and elaborate feather, leather, and, occasionally, fabric ornamentation of its mask. Also the identity of a true Kachina doll is depicted and then carved of cottonwood...
Bibliography: Excerpted from "Following the Sun and Moon: Hopi Kachina Tradition" by Alph H. Secakuku in cooperation with The Heard Museum, published by Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Arizona.
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