Just the mere word "Kachina" conjures up vivid images of masked figures
dancing and chanting on ancient mesas. Well it should, because that is
part of what a Kachina does. A Kachina is a God to the Hopi and Pueblo
tribes. The Hopi have over 300 different Kachinas which are part of their
daily culture. The actual "Gods" are believed to live high atop the San
Francisco peaks outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, and near the Hopi Reservation.
Each God has a job to do and a lesson to teach. The Kachinas arrive at
the Hopi Mesas in February in the form of a Hopi man dressed in traditional
attire to represent a certain Kachina. The arrival of the Kachinas in February
for Powamu or the Bean Dance starts the cycle of Kachina appearances. They
appear regularly through harvest time in the fall ending with the Niman
Dance or Home Dance, whence the Kachinas return to their ancestral home
on the San Francisco peaks.
Kachinas: Hopi and Pueblo
In actuality, there are three "forms" of kachinas; first there are the
mystical deities who reside high upon the San Francisco peaks. Second,
there are the masked dancers and performers who are actually men of the
tribe portraying their Gods in their ceremonies, and third there are kachina
dolls or carvings. These were originally carved to be passed on to the
children by a Kachina during a ceremony as a remembrance and teaching aid.
Each Kachina has an important role in the daily lives of the Pueblo people.
Ogres teach discipline, Chief Kachinas teach wisdom and have powers comparable
to that of a religious elder. There are Kachina women, who with the exception
of only one Kachina, the Pachavuin Mana, are portrayed strictly by the
men of the villages. The "women" teach values such as a mother would. There
are cloud spirits called Shalakos who bring rain. There are also clown
Kachinas whose primary function is one of amusement during pauses in Kachina
dancing or as leavening for the seriousness of a major ceremony. "Borrowed"
Kachinas are deities which have traveled from one Pueblo to another at
an earlier date and have since been "adopted" by that Pueblo.
As mentioned earlier, the Kachina "doll" was originally carved as a
gift and learning tool for the child to learn about its many Gods. Today
they are highly sought after sculptures in wood, but are still carved traditionally
by hand, out of cottonwood root, and painted with earth tone colors as
well as rainbow hues. The early Kachinas were quite simple in appearance,
entirely of wood, with simple or little adornment. The 1950's through the
1980's brought changes in appearances with feathers, fur, shells, leather,
yarn etc. being popular accents. The 90's Kachinas returned to a simpler
all wood carving without the bright feathers, paints, etc. We offerseveral
styles of Kachinas to choose from. We have the original older style, the
Kachinas of our generation with their many adornments and also the currently
carved revised older style being done by many artists today. All Kachinas
shown are one of a kind hand carved Pueblo Kachinas, unless otherwise noted.
We do carry a few Navajo carvings depicting a Kachina. Prices
will vary according to age, carvers, and detail. We hope that with this
explanation of what a Kachina actually is, that you will make your purchase
with the knowledge and understanding that an item as important as a Kachina
(Jill Holmes, © 2007)