Kachinas

Kachinas

Kachinas
Definition of Kachinas: What are Kachinas? "Kachina" is a Hopi term that means a variety of things, but it is most simply defined as sacred and means 'Spirit Father'. The term 'Kachinas' can refer to spirits, dancers and carved dolls:

  • Kachinas are spirits: Deified ancestral spirits of the Pueblo people and spirits of natural phenomena

  • Kachinas are dancers: A masked dancer believed to embody a particular spirit during a religious ceremony or ritual
  • Kachinas are costumed dolls: A carved doll wearing the costume of a particular Pueblo spirit; usually presented to a child as a gift

Information about Kachinas
Kachinas are powerful beings or spirits who, if given due veneration and respect, could use their magical powers for the good and well-being of the people, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection. There are more than 400 different types of kachinas in the Southwest Indian Pueblo culture, and each Kachina holds different powers and influence. Kokopelli is the most famous of all the Kachina spirits. Kachinas are understood as having human like relationships and may marry and have children. Kachinas can have brothers, uncles, sisters, and grandmothers. Every Pueblo community has a local pantheon of Kachinas that represent the spirits of departed ancestors, spirits of nature, celestial bodies, plants, insects, birds and animals. Kachinas are believed to reside in the pueblo for part of each year.

Kachinas - Kachina Dolls
The Kachina spirits are represented by dolls and emulated at ceremonies, that are also called called kachinas. The ceremonies consist of rituals and dances in which the participants wear masks and highly colorful costumes depicting specific kachinas. The purpose of the Kachina dolls are to teach children to identify the various spiritual figures and the symbolism of their regalia and costumes.

Kachinas - Kivas
Festivals, ceremonies and dances of the Pueblo and Hopi tribes feature the Kachina dancers. These celebrations and rituals are carefully prepared in advance of the event. The preparations for the Kachinas are made in a Kiva which is a special sacred building, usually built underground, that is used for spiritual ceremonies, religious rituals and ceremonial preparations by the Pueblos and are strongly associated with the Kachina belief system. The Kiva is symbolic of the fourth world, the home of the Kachina spirits.

Kachinas - Festivals, Ceremonies and Dances
The Pueblo Indians have two cycles of ceremonies, the summer dances and the winter dances, that are performed to coincide with the Summer and Winter solstices. Many of the rituals, ceremonies and dances feature kachinas, or the Pueblo clowns or Tricksters, called Koshare that are believed to be the spirits of the dead and as departed souls have the ability to intercede with the deities in behalf of the living. The purpose of the summer dance ceremonies is to bring rain for the crops. The winter solstice dance ceremonies, such as the Buffalo and Deer Dance, are strongly associated with hunting, in which the Pueblo harmonize with the animal world by imitating animals as Kachinas in both dress and movement. The Kachina dancers act as mediators between the Kachina spirits and the Hopi people. Though there are male and female Kachinas, all of the Kachina dancers are male. The Kachina dancers are believed to be invested by the specific Kachina the male dancers portray. The following ceremonies and festivals feature the dances and costumes of the Kachinas:

  • Kachinas feature in the Soyal Winter Solstice Ceremony, the Great Feast of the Winter Solstice
  • The Niman, the Going Home Dance (Summer Solstice)
  • The Powamu (the Bean Dance) held in February to promote fertility of the fields
  • The Snake Dance in which snakes become living Prayer sticks
Native American Culture
Native Indian Tribes Index

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