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Thank you again Kachina House!-From the Nest!

SNOWWOWL-December 2001

    Within various Native American cultures, and more than a few non-Indian cultures as well, there are spirit beings whose existence and acknowledgement thereof has figured prominently in their cultural heritage. In many instances, to the point where this prominence can not be denied as being, very likely, the most attributable factor in the "people's" emergence as "a people" to begin with and most assuredly their continued, to this day, survival and existence.

    Within all these varied people a common thread is woven: either they have dances with the dancers being elaborately painted and made up with costumes to which they attribute the origins as being given by, or racial memories of, "star beings/spirit beings"; or they have created over the past many and lost centuries, effigiesfacsimiles.dollssculptures, etc. - or both. This particular writing has nothing to do with any type of argument as to the validity of these "legends" or the "truth" behind them. It has nothing to do with whether I, personally, believe in them or not. Personally? In fact, I do. Less so, in some cases, more so in others, but most assuredly I believe that Truth does in fact lay as the basis for all of these instances. 

This writing is, instead, a minor revealing, if I can put it that way, of just a few of the names and roles of the "Kachinas", or "Katsina" in the original, which/who play such an enormous role in the Way of the Native American Hopi. The Hopi not only have raised the creating of these dolls or effigies, to an extremely beautiful art level, they have kept the legends behind the Kachinas and their roles alive down through the centuries. In accomplishing this, they have kept alive The Truth which the stories and legends that simply must, to one degree or another, be altered through the passage of time. It should be noted the use of the word "Kachina" is controversial. "Katsina" has special meaning to the Hopi, while "Kachina" is used colloquially for the Zuni Dolls.
This alteration can not be denied, especially when the passing down is limited to voices and memories, no matter how dedicated the ones specifically "chosen" to ensure the passage continuation may be. For even the storing of Truth and Memory upon written pages is susceptible to the ego of the author no matter, again, how honorable that author may be. Perhaps though, greater credence can be given to the Native American method of "story telling" than the European style of written recordings. 

For it has been my experience that while there will be various minor departures of this or that "story" from one generation of the people to the next within the Native American Circle, it is only the non-Indian mind who is not satisfied many times an with original translation. Not being satisfied with the "appearance" of a word rightfully translated or one done in error, they bend some words to make them appear to "fit a mold" better, or omit/add some. 
Then, when those translations are put to paper the author's mind, be it consciously or sub-consciously, even at that very moment further distorts the translations in order to put a "personal/identifiable print" on it. All this upon a translation, which by its very nature is a form of distortion, from the "original", so is it any wonder that grave inconsistencies appear and that the "public" is thusly led to believe that many Native American Stories are but flights of fancy?

It must be noted that while the "The Church" and its representatives first believed that the Hopi worshipped "idols" in the form of these Kachinas and that the Kachina Dancers were priests and disciples of a heathen "religion" most people to this day and age who have truthfully looked into the subject and the Hopi have discovered this is simply not so. 

    Now, you may have to think for yourself a bit about this, it will do you good (s), but the fact is, Hopi no more "worship" the Kachina than "Christians" "worship" the Cross. The Christian, if they are even halfway learned and intelligent in the ways of Judeo-Christian faith, hold the Cross as Holy and/or Sacred and they regard "Angels" as Sacred and Holy, but they worship The One the Cross represents, that is G*d. In short, they realize the difference between Sacred and Holy as "being set aside for G*d's Purpose within the realm of "worshipping G*d". 
So it is with the Hopi. They acknowledge the same purpose with regard to Kachinas, be it the "dolls" or the Dancers and the traditions held forth within the dances and the history behind them. In short, the Dancers enact the long held racial memories, while the Kachina Dolls are used more so for "teaching".

    An interesting (to me, anyway! lol) sidenote here is: It is interesting that actors within Japanese Nobuku plays are always men even those roles depicting females. The same applies to the Kachina Dancers. Many instances you will see "females" Kachinas, which in truth are called "kachin-mana" but when the Dancers are the depiction as opposed to "dolls", they will be always males behind the costumes.
It has been said by some that the Navaho basically make Kachinas for tourist trade, while the Hopi are the real artists who have raised such endeavors to sculptural art. To me, that smacks of a derogatory and prejudicial mindset. It is akin to saying that the Navaho are supreme in Sand Painting while the Hopi dabble in a sand box. This type of attitude has no business in the mind of any who are seeking Light, regardless of the Path they walk upon to seek it.

    Depending on which book you read or which person you speak to, there are (rounded off) some 400 to 650 Kachina types/models/aspects. Certainly though, as far as availability to the non-Indian, you are only going to find some 100 or so as being listed on any modern carver/artist menu. 

It is also said that within the Kachina sphere of influence, various rituals were developed to bring the blessings of the rain-makers to their crops. I am not so sure whether it is "belief" that the ritual in and of itself will bring the rain, or that for the Hopi the ritual is a physical demonstration of Faith to "G*d" to show in a physical way that the people remember the knowledge given to them, of the way they were to walk upon the earth, and that by the enacting, the people are not only showing their continued obedience but also, subtly, reminding G*d of His Promises to them. This applies to the other areas as well: seeding the ground, sprouting of plants, harvesting, healing, physical and spiritual protection, etc.

    Many times I shake my head in disbelief at how various peoples around the world insist on focusing in on what they perceive to be "differences" of other peoples, instead of realizing that those so-called differences are not so different after all. The first is a major, if not the major, reason behind this world's acceptance by any given common populace of non-stop warring on one another; while the second, if not eliminating it, would surely decimate the instances of it.

    Be this as it may, I put the following here for those of you who have marveled at the art of Kachina making, that is the "dolls" which are known as Kastinam by the Hopi, yet do not know of what they depict; and, to those of you who have yet to discover this beautiful method representation.

There is a Ceremonial Year for the Kachina. It begins around mid-December by today's time of reckoning and continues through to mid-July. Notice the importance of the "Winter Solstice", a common thread woven into virtually every culture every known by every people who ever lived in at least this earth's present existence.
The Winter Solstice ceremonies are called "Soyal Ceremonies" and connote the beginning of the Kachina Ceremonial Year. 

    Now we have another common thread, for Soyal begin as some of the Kachinas wake up and make their way down the San Francisco Mountains. Where is the common thread? Have you not wondered why, say in the Judeo-Christian testaments that the "high places" are reserved for G*d? And most assuredly there are many instances in all kinds of cultures whereby the high places or mountain peaks are said to be the "dwelling places of the gods". Or another people's legends forbid the ways to the mountain tops for "great and terrible" are the one's who live there?

    At any rate, the initial Kachinas come down from their abodes in the high mountains to initially begin to strengthen individual, clan and people for the upcoming "season".
It begins when a few of the sleeping Kachinas wake up, "come down from the San Francisco Mountains," to renew the strength of the individual, clan and basically the people as a while. The 2nd set of ceremonies come coincides with the month of February, this is to say, the period many people used to know as the False Spring. 
These ceremonies are known as the "Powamu or Bean Dance" ceremonies. Nowadays, most Americans have blithely warped the season of False Spring with Groundhog Day or some such other nonsense. As well, most folks think that the ground/earth is ready for new life when the snow disappears and green can actually be seen to emerge. 

    Actually, this is not so. It is during the False Spring, as it were, that the "earth" begins to wake up from its winter slumber. The earth might stumble and mumble around a bit just like humans do upon wakening from a long slumber, but just like we have the morning cup of coffee the earth is in fact, getting ready for the new season. It is during this 2nd set of ceremonies as well, that children are newly initiated in mysteries, knowledge and ways of the Kachina. For is not the child the springtime of the adult? And it is while the child is in fact a child or seedling that the true seeds of growing are sown. 


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