The Culture of the Kachinas

Topics: Hopi, Kachina, Hopi mythology Pages: 5 (1463 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Native Americans have inhabited this country for many generations. We see so many things that are influenced by the Native Americans and we find ourselves in awe of the independence of these peoples and the culture that they have come from.

When we look at art through the eyes of the Native American we should see a functional and usable art. Art was not for aesthetic reasons; it had real purpose. The folk art that came from these cultures were for religious and moral reasons. Everything that these people had had a necessity in their group. The Kachina is one of these necessities.

The Kachinas were and still are an important part of the religion of the Pueblo Indians, but I will focus on Hopi Indians. The Kachinas were friendly spirits much like our Christian Saints; however there were some evil Kachinas that punish those who disobey Hopi law. The Kachinas play an important role in the various religious ceremonies, many of which take the form of dances and chants. When a Hopi man dresses himself in the costume of a particular Kachina, he believes the spirit of that Kachina has replaced his personal identity. The ceremonies ask the Kachinas to bring plentiful crops, or give the people of the village good health and luck.

Hopi children believe in Kachinas just as American children believe in Santa Clause. In the ceremonies, the children aren't supposed to recognize their fathers, uncles or friends who are taking the role of the Kachinas. And as Santa brings gifts to children, certain Kachinas bring Kachina dolls, fruits, sweets, and other surprises. Kachina dolls are given to the children not as toys, but as something to be treasured and studied so that they may become familiar with the various spirits that are an important part of their religion.

The phenomena of Kachina are relatively new. The religion of the Hopi has not always been in place. As we know, religion is put into place to keep order with in a group or tribe. It sets the standard of how the group is supposed to live. In order to look more closely at the Kachina, we will look at the history of the Hopi Indian.

In the book, The Art of Hopi Carvers, we are told 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 were located in the area of the Four Corners, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. They lived in underground houses called pit houses. "By A.D. 700 they had built houses above ground in adjacent clusters, which over time developed into the typical pueblo structure. (1)". In these structures were built a large number of kivas. A kiva is "an underground ceremonial room which are believed to provide entry from and to the Underworld" (2). "Each Kiva has a symbolic representation of the Sipaapu, the hole to the underworld from which the Hopi believed they came and the pathway to the upper spirit word, the symbol of emergence in Hopi belief. As in the modern Hopi kivas, the prehistoric structures had a fireplace or stove with a heat deflector, benches along the kiva walls, and niches for ritual objects. Then as now, the entrance to the kiva was by a ladder through the roof." (3).

No evidence of the Katsina religion would be found until about the thirteenth and fourteenth century. Archaeological finds state that Katsina most likely came from Mexico and this was because of a great drought in the south. During this drought many tribes moved north. With the sudden population boom, there became a necessity for law, thus comes the religion. "Religion provided the matrix for this cohesion, and the Katsina religion involved every man, woman, and child. Even today every Hopi is initiated into the Katsina religion, thus uniting members of different clans and religious societies. One of the major characteristics of Hopi society is that individualism is de-emphasized; the interest of the community is always placed before that of the...
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