Hopi culture, ceremonial cycle of the year, Katsinas, visitor
Cycle of the Year
information is a general outline of the year gathered from many
sources and my personal observation and presented here for your
interest and education.
life has been so enriched by involvement with Hopi friends over
the years. I have been honored to see many of the ceremonials
of the year that are open to non-Hopis and feel in my bones
how the turning of the year is so amplified by these reverent
and moving ceremonies. These ways have evolved over thousands
of years of natured-based living in community here in the Americas.
I am very grateful the Hopi people have so faithfully kept them
alive and allow us to into their world. That, in fact, they
are carrying on these ways for all peoples.
you go up on your own, please check with village offices, the
Hopi Tribe or even individual Hopi people who may have shops
open, what the rules are for access to the villages. Each village
has their own rules about visitors to their villages. Respect
their privacy. The activities, dances, and ceremonies are part
of a real and living culture and religion and many are not open
to non-Hopi people. No photography or sketching in the villages
is allowed at any time. It is a great privilege that they allow
us to come to their lands.
Please be respectful.
Hopi are a deeply religious people. We follow divine instructions
and prophecies received from the caretaker of this world, Maasaw.
Our religion teaches us a lifeway of humility, cooperation,
respect and earth stewardship. We practice our religion with
different ceremonies throughout the year which are timed according
to phases of the moon and solstices of the sun.
of our ceremonies seek to maintain and improve our harmony with
nature, enhance our prospects for good health and a long, happy
life, and are supplications for rain. Through our dances we
celebrate the renewal of our life pattern, ancient migrations,
and a spiritual connection with our ancestral sites. This, together
with our farming tradition, ties us both physically and ceremonially
to our ancestral land, the sun and the cycle of the seasons.
are held throughout the year, with the location and date determined
according to custom and tradition. Our ceremonial calendar consists
of katsina dances from February to July and social or other
non-katsina ceremonies for the rest of the year."
Visitor Protocols from Hopi Cultural Preservation Office
quotes from other sources:
complex cycle of interrelated responsibilities and concepts
that is the Hopi religious system is all the more complicated
because each of the twelve Hopi villages possesses the autonomy
to carry out Hopi religious practices independently. The timing
of ceremonies, the underlying concepts may vary among the
Hopi villages. Nevertheless, throughout the land of the Hopi,
the religious mission is the same: to
promote and achieve a "unity" of everything in the
Alph H. Secakuku
Following the Sun and Moon,
The Hopi Kachina Tradition
grow crops, particularly corn, in their semiarid land the
Hopis believe it is absolutely essential to have the supernaturals
on their side. However, the Hopis do not approach their supernaturals
as we do. The Hopis feel that their supernaturals have certain
powers which they do not have, and that they in turn possess
things which their supernaturals desire. thus quite often
Hopi rituals are mutual gift-giving ceremonies. the supernaturals
desire prayer feathers, corn pollen and various rituals, and
the Hopis like rain, so this mutual exchange works out very
well for both parties .s
While the Hopis' greatest ritual effort
is devoted to securing favorable weather for good harvests,
this is by no means all of the Hopi religion, a subject so
extremely complex that volumes have been written about it."
A Hopi Artist's Documentary
Hopi year, marked by the sun, the planets, and the stars,
is a ceremonial year as well, a continuum of sacred and mostly
secret rituals in underground chambers called kivas. most
such rituals end in a public ceremony which takes place in
the plazas of the villages. There, from January to July, spirit
messengers called kachinas dance while the Hopi audience watches
and Jake Page,
surviving myths and legends are listened to with care they
may tell us that these restless ancestors were searching for
places of spiritual harmony with nature. For throughout the
myths and myth-legends are references to flights from imperfections
and evil, and to long journeys in fulfillment of moral prophecy."
The Fourth world of the Hopis,
The epic Story of the Hopi Indians as Preserved in their Legends
voices rising out of the depths of an archaic America
we have never known, out of immeasurable time, form a
fathomless unconscious who archetypes are as mysterious
and incomprehensible to us as the symbols found eng ravened
on the cliff walls of ancient ruins.
What they tell is the story of their Creation and their Emergences
from previous worlds, their migrations over this continent,
and the meaning of their ceremonies. It is a world-view of
life, deeply religious in nature, whose esoteric meaning
they have kept inviolate for generations uncounted. Their
existence always has been patterned upon the universal plan
of world creation and maintenance, and their progress on
the evolutionary Road of Life depends upon the unbroken observance
of its laws. In turn, the purpose of their religious ceremonialism
is to help maintain the harmony of the universe. It is a
mytho-religious system of year-long ceremonies, rituals,
dances, songs, recitations, and prayers as complex, abstract
and esoteric as any in the world.
remind us we must attune ourselves to the need for
inner change if we are to avert a cataclysmic rupture
between our own minds and hearts."
Book of the Hopi
"Katsinam are Hopi spirit messengers who send prayers
for rain, bountiful harvests and a prosperous, healthy life for
humankind. They are our friends and visitors who bring gifts and
food, as well as messages to teach appropriate behavior and the
consequences of unacceptable behavior. Katsinam, of which there
are over two hundred and fifty different types, represent various
beings, from animals to clouds.
their stay at Hopi, the katsinam appear among Hopi people in physical
form, singing and dancing in ceremonies. On Third Mesa the katsinam
arrive in December while at the First and Second Mesa they arrive
in February at the Bean Dance Ceremony. Night dances are held
until the end of March, followed by day dances from May to July.
Virtually no weekend goes by during this period without a katsina
dance in at least one Hopi village. Most dances start shortly
after sunrise (mostly on Saturday and/or Sundays) and continue
intermittently throughout the day, with breaks for lunch and rest
periods. The ceremonies usually end at dusk. Several of the villages
often hold dances on the same day, giving visitors the opportunity
to witness parts of several dances by spending a few hours in
(Home Dance), which takes place in July, is the last katsina dance
of the cycle. At the end of this day-long ceremony the katsinam
return to their spiritual home at the San Francisco Peaks, Kisiau
The Katsinam who carry out the religious dances are sacred to
us and require specific codes of conduct in their presence. Misinformation
about these customs and lack of knowledge about the physical conditions
of Hopi plazas were the core of conflicts in the past. While we
believe that the Katsinam perform public ceremonies for all people,
plants, animals and spirit life, modern conditions make it next
to impossible to accommodate all outside visitors. First, there
is limited space in the plazas and our rooftops were not constructed
to support the weight of hundreds of spectators. Second, sanitation
facilities, food, water and emergency services are not designed
to serve large crowds. Finally, spectators were originally Hopi
villagers and invited guests who were fully aware of the purpose
of the ceremonies and how to behave appropriately while attending.
view of the communities' difficulties in resolving the issue of
restricting attendance at public ceremonies, visitors are asked
to be respectful and help monitor the activities of other guests.
Through this we can reach mutual respect and understanding. Your
participation in establishing harmony will be consistent with
the primary purpose of the dances and will be most appreciated
by your hosts."
the official Office of Cultural Preservation, Hopi Tribe website
Soyal Kachina who appears in December
Hummingbird Kachina on roof of a
Hemis Kachina and Kachina Mana
which appear at the Home Dance
Hopi woman in traditional dress
WUWUCHIM is the first of the three great winter ceremonials
portraying the three phases of Creation. This first phase
is a supplication for germination of all forms of life on
earth, plant, animal and man. The patterns and movements of
the stars guide this ceremony.
the Men's Societies, the initiated men celebrate this the
Fourth World of creation. The fire of life is lit commemorating
emergence from he underworld. This is a sacred time of purification
and preparation of the prayer feathers and initiation of men
as adults into their societies.
December is a time of quiet and storytelling.
Hopi katsinam (popularly known as Kachinas) are the benevolent
spirit beings who live among the Hopi for about half of the
year beginning around the time of Winter Solstice with the
Soyal ceremony. Kachinas are the inner forms, the spirit forms,
of outer life, invoked to assist mankind on their never-ending
The SOYAL CEREMONY is the second great ceremonial and symbolizes
the second phase of Creation at the dawn of life. It accepts
and confirms the pattern of life development for the coming
year. It is often called Soyalangwul, Establishing Life Anew
for All the World. This ceremony helps to turn the sun back
toward its summer path and implements the life plan for the
year. Activities take place in the kiva and include reverent
silence, fasting and humility and eating os sacred foods to
achieve spiritual focus. Prayer feathers are prepared by the
men for every purpose and placed in homes, villages and around
the ancestral homeland in shrine sites.
The moisture moon comes in January. Social dance(non-kachina
dance) such as the Buffalo Dance are performed representing
the animals that roam in mountains now covered by snow. the
dances are a prayer for snow, for nourishment.
POWAMU, the Bean Dance is the most complex of all ceremonies.
This is the third of the ceremonies of Creation which purifies
life. Life manifests in its full physical forms, growth is
consecrated. These ceremonies are not open to the public.
anticipation of the coming growing season to promote fertility
and germination, the initiated males grow beans in the kivas.
Kachinas appear in the villages carrying the bean sprouts
and bringing gifts for the children. Young children are initiated
at this time into their societies. Historical and mythological
events are given as dramatic presentations. The ogres, guards,
whippers appear as disciplinarians, reminders to follow the
Hopi way of life.
KACHINA NIGHT DANCES are performed in the underground kivas.
are NOT open to the public
The Racer Kachinas appear to bless the people and encourage
fitness for short and long distance running. Fields are prepared
and the first crop of corn is planted.
When the weather warms, KACHINA DANCES are held in village
plazas (kisonovis). Many of these are NOT open to the
may be Mixed Kachina Dances with many different types of kachinas
or they may be a dance where all are the same. Feasts are
held and neighbors visit one another. There are often clowns
to entertain the audience between dances. They bring howls
of laughter as they misbehave and show all how not to act.
plaza dances ending with the Home Dance or NIMAN CEREMONY
when the spiritual beings who have been on earth in their
physical form return to their spiritual home in the San Francisco
Peaks. Brides of the year are presented their robes by their
husbands in this last kachina ceremony of the year.
ceremony acknowledges the powerful forces appealed to during
the Soyal and Powamu: germination, heat, moisture and magnetic
forces of the air. So begins the first of the three major
summer ceremonials celebrating progress on the road of Life
which continue the winter ceremonies of Creation. The first
harvest of corn and heaps of food and gifts for the children
are all given by the kachinas.
SNAKE-ANTELOPE CEREMONY OR FLUTE CEREMONY are performed in
alternate years in two of the Hopi villages to bring the last
summer rains to ensure the maturation of the crops. This is
the last of major ceremonies of summer. This dance is NOT
open to non-Indians.
The flute ceremony is an enactment of emergence into this
Fourth Worlds. The snake is a symbol of mother earth and human
sexuality from which all life is born. The antelope symbolizes
fruitful reproduction and its horns the connection to the
higher spiritual powers. Hence the union of the two is symbolic
of the creation of life. Antelope and Snake races are held
on separate days symbolizing the pathway of this union. In
the final phase, the snake priests dance with snakes in their
mouth consummating this union.
BUTTERFLY AND OTHER SOCIAL DANCES
such as dances honoring other tribes (Navajo, Havasupai) are
also performed. They are joyful non-Kachina celebrations primarily
performed by young men and women. They are also a thanksgiving
for the blessings of the season.
The ceremonial year ends with the three women's ceremonies
celebrating maturity and fruition and sets the stage to begin
again with germination.
Women's Ceremonials consecrate the harvest season. Initiated
adult women participate in the fall ceremonials in the kivas
and with public dances.
LAKON and OWAQLT--the Women's Basket Dances are prayers for
P O Box 3288
Sedona, AZ 86340
for quick info calls