Hopi Kachina Dolls (Katsina) or Tihu and the katsina society ceremonial dances

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Hopi kachinas or katsinas.. KEYWORDS: hopi kachina hopi katsina kachinas hopi ceremonial dolls hopi spirit dolls hopi religious dolls kachina dance hopi ceremonial dances

Hopi kachinas (or katsinas as the Hopi people call them) are supernatural beings who live among the evergreens of the San Francisco Peaks south of the Hopi Mesas, and at the Spring of the Shadows to the east. From these cloud homes, they travel to the villages several times a year and appear in many elaborate kachina dances.

The kachinas bring blessings, rain and fertility. In exchange, the people give prayer feathers, corn pollen, and various rituals.

About 300 kachinas appear regularly, and another 200 or so appear intermittently, to help the children learn to identify them.

Hopi kachina dolls

Kachina dolls are carved out of cotton wood and given to the children by the kachinas during the ceremonies. These dolls also symbolize the perpetuation of all life forms.

Kachina dolls have evolved over the years from the flat slabs of cottonwood with arms and legs simply painted on, to the present day elaborate carved and decorated types.

Katsina Society

In the world of the Hopi all things have both a spiritual and physical form which they believe provides balance. Kachinas represent the spiritual aspect of this natural balance. This belief extends to a wide and varied range of Kachina spirits ranging from local game to even death itself.

In the Kachina Society it is the male members of the Hopi that dress in costumes and masks to portray the Kachina spirits. Through their costumes and actions these men give shape and substance to the Kachina which they are portraying. These men are believed to be invested by the specific Kachina portrayed.

The kachina season begins in late December with the Soyal as several kachinas wake and emerge from the kivas. (Kivas are underground ceremonial rooms which are believed to provide entry from and to the Underworld) These kachinas perform rites which improves the bonds and well being of the Hopi people and their villages before returning to their kivas.

As early or false spring approaches in February the Powamu ceremony is held. This ceremony and its’ kachinas ready the world for a new season of planting and growth. Great numbers of kachinas emerge from the kivas escorted by guards and warriors. Trailing them are the clowns with their constant irreverent behavior. This ceremony also represents the time when children are initiated into the kachina cult.

The Niman ceremony, which is held in mid summer represents the end of the kachina season. The kachinas dance in the plaza carrying stalks of corn and bearing gifts for the children. This is a time of thanks and appreciation for the harvest which the kachinas helped provide as well as a time to bid them farewell. With a final ceremony the kachinas are sent off to their mountain homes to await the renewed cycle of the coming year.

Kachina Dolls (Katsina) or Tihu

While the Hopi men have a substantial degree of “contact” with the Kachinas through their impersonation the Hopi women do not enjoy this same degree of contact. Perhaps in a way to satisify the women’s needs, the men carve an impersonation of the Kachina called a Tihu and give it to mothers and their infants as well as females of all ages at the ceremonial Kachina Dances.

The tihus (Kachina Dolls), which are believed to embody the spirit of the Kachina they represent, are then taken home and hung from the wall or perhaps a beam so as to ensure the preservation of what is considered a valued possession.

Kachina & non Kachina Ceremonies for the Hopi

Some Hopi ceremonies are private affairs, others are open to the public even though they are still ceremonial dances. The Hopi believe these dances are for the benefit of all peoples. See The Three Mesas of the Hopi Reservation for tips on the proper etiquitte to follow if you attend one of these ceremonies:

Pamuya -Kachina Dance Ceremony

These dances are held in January and are also called the Kiva Dances.

Powamu – Kachina Dance Ceremony

Held in February these dances are called the Bean Dances.

Anktioni – Kachina Dance Ceremonial

Repeat dances held in March.

Soyohim – Kachina Dance Ceremonials

Plaza dances held in April-May.

Niman – Kachina Dance Ceremony

Home dances held in July.

Snake or Flute Dances – Non-Kachina Ceremony

Usually held in August.

Marau – Non-Kachina Ceremonial

Womens Society held in Sepember.

Oaqole – Non-Kachina Ceremony
Womens Society held in October.

Wuwuchim – Non-Kachina ceremonial

Tribal initiation held in November.

Soyala – Kachina Dance Ceremony

Held in December.