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kachina

kachina (kəchē´nə), spirit of the invisible life forces of the Pueblo of North America. The kachinas, or kachinam, are impersonated by elaborately costumed masked male members of the tribes who visit Pueblo villages the first half of the year. In a variety of ceremonies, they dance, sing, bring gifts to the children, and sometimes administer public scoldings. Although not worshiped, kachinas are greatly revered, and one of their main purposes is to bring rain for the spring crops. The term kachina also applies to cottonwood dolls made by the Hopi and Zuni that are exquisitely carved and dressed like the dancers. Originally intended to instruct the children about the hundreds of kachina spirits, the finer carvings have become collector's items. The name is also spelled katchina.

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Kachinas

Kachinas

Spirits known as kachinas are central to the religion and mythology of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest, in particular the Hopi who live in Arizona. These groups believe that kachinas are divine spirits present in features of the natural world such as clouds, winds, thunder, and rain. They are also ancestral spirits that help connect humans with the spirit world.

Each Pueblo tribe and village has its own distinct kachinas. There may be more than 500 in total, and all are equally important. The Pueblos revere the kachinas and look to them for help, especially in bringing rain to water corn and other crops.

The kachinas dwell in sacred mountains and other sacred places. However, they spend half of each year living near Pueblo villages. During this time, the men of kachina cults perform traditional rituals linked with the presence of the spirits. They wear costumes and elaborate masks and perform songs and dances associated with specific kachinas. The Pueblos say that during these rituals each dancer is temporarily transformed into the spirit being represented.

Kachinas are also portrayed in elaborately carved wooden dolls adorned with the costumes and masks that identify them. The Hopi and other Pueblo peoples use these dolls to teach their children about the hundreds of different kachinas.

See also Corn; Kokopelli; Native American Mythology.

cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

ritual ceremony that follows a set pattern

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kachina

kachinaabstainer, arcana, campaigner, Cana, caner, cantilena, complainer, container, detainer, drainer, entertainer, explainer, Gaenor, gainer, Gaynor, grainer, Jena, Lena, maintainer, Marlene, N'Djamena, obtainer, ordainer, planar, planer, profaner, Rayner, retainer, scena, seiner, Sinn Feiner, strainer, sustainer, trainer, uniplanar •straightener •Adelina, Angelina, arena, Argentina, ballerina, Ballymena, Bettina, Bukovina, Burkina, cantina, Cartagena, casuarina, catena, Christina, cleaner, concertina, congener, contravener, convener, Cortina, demeanour (US demeanor), deus ex machina, duodena, Edwina, Ena, farina, Filipina, galena, Georgina, Gina, gleaner, hyena, Ina, intervener, kachina, kina, Magdalena, marina, Martina, Medina, Messalina, Messina, misdemeanour (US misdemeanor), Nina, novena, ocarina, Palestrina, Pasadena, Philomena, piscina, retsina, Rowena, Sabrina, scarlatina, screener, Selina, semolina, Seraphina, Serena, Sheena, signorina, sonatina, subpoena, Taormina, tsarina, verbena, vina, weaner, wiener, Wilhelmina, Zena •sweetener • pipecleaner

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Kachinas

Kachinas

Nationality/Culture

American Indian/Pueblo

Pronunciation

kuh-CHEE-nuhz

Alternate Names

Qatsinas

Appears In

Pueblo Indian oral mythology

Lineage

Varies

Character Overview

Spirits known as kachinas are central to the religion and mythology of the Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest, in particular the Hopi who live in Arizona. These groups believe that kachinas are divine spirits present in features of the natural world such as clouds, winds, thunder, and rain. They are also ancestral spirits that help connect humans with the spirit world.

Each Pueblo tribe and village has its own distinct kachinas. There may be more than five hundred in total, and all are equally important. The Pueblos hold the kachinas sacred and look to them for help, especially in bringing rain to water, corn , and other crops.

The kachinas dwell in sacred mountains and other sacred places. However, they spend half of each year living near Pueblo villages. During this time, the men of kachina cults perform traditional ceremonies linked with the presence of the spirits. They wear costumes and elaborate masks and perform songs and dances associated with specific kachinas. The Pueblos say that during these rituals each dancer is temporarily transformed into the spirit being represented.

Kokopelli Kokopelli (pronounced koh-koh-PEL-ee) is one of the most important kachinas among the Pueblo. A complex character, he plays various roles, and is regarded as a fertility spirit, a trickster, and a hunter.

The Hopi have several fertility kachinas connected with Kokopelli. In some Hopi tales, Kokopelli's bag contains gifts that he uses to attract women. In others, he carries a baby on his back and leaves it with a young woman. The Hopi also have a female kachina called KokopelP Mana. During ceremonial dances, a performer dressed as KokopelP Mana challenges Hopi men to race with her. If she catches her opponent, she knocks him down and pretends to mate with him.

Kokopelli is identified with various insects. Kuwaan Kokopelli, or the Robber Fly Kachina, is named after a humpbacked fly that is always mating. Like KokopelP Mana, this kachina represents fertility. In a tale about how Kokopelli guided the Hopi to a new land, Kokopelli is either a locust or a grasshopper. When an eagle dares him to pass an arrow through his body, he cleverly slips the arrow under one of his wings.

Kokopelli's flute is similar to the flutes used in American Indian religious rituals. As a hunter, Kokopelli may play the flute to attract the mountain sheep he is hunting. The Zuni call him a rain priest and connect him and his music with the gift of rain. According to the Hopi, Kokopelli warmed the land and the winds by playing his flute as he led them to their homeland.

Kachinas in Context

Kachinas reflect the unique worldview of the Pueblo people. They do not limit the presence of spirits to people and animals. Instead, they view spirits in all parts of the natural world, such as clouds and soil. This reflects a basic belief in the interconnection of every part of nature.

Key Themes and Symbols

To the Pueblo people, different kachinas symbolize different aspects of the natural world. In all cases, they represent a way for people to connect to the world. This is shown in Pueblo dance ceremonies where the dancers are believed to become possessed by various kachinas as they perform.

Kachinas in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Kachinas are typically portrayed in elaborately carved wooden dolls adorned with the costumes and masks that identify them. The Hopi and other Pueblo peoples use these dolls to teach their children about the hundreds of different kachinas.

Images of Kokopelli are among the oldest that survive in ancient rock art in the Southwest. He is also a popular figure on painted pottery. Usually depicted as a humpbacked figure playing a flute, he often carries a large bag on his back and has antennae like an insect. A silhouette design of Kokopelli is popular on many modern decorative pieces from the American Southwest.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The creation of kachina dolls and other traditional Pueblo artifacts specifically for tourists to buy is an important part of the modern Pueblo economy. These objects usually differ in some way from similar objects created specifically for tribal use, so they can be easily identified as souvenirs by knowledgeable Pueblos. However, some Pueblos still believe that selling copies of cultural artifacts should not be allowed. Do you think this type of business hurts or helps the Pueblo people? Why?

SEE ALSO Corn; Native American Mythology

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