In the world of the Hopi all things have both a spiritual and physical form which they believe provides balance. Kachinas represent the spiritual aspect of this natural balance. This belief extends to a wide and varied range of Kachina spirits ranging from local game to even death itself.
In the Kachina Society it is the male members of the Hopi that dress in costumes and masks to portray the Kachina spirits. Through their costumes and actions these men give shape and substance to the Kachina which they are portraying. These men are believed to be invested by the specific Kachina portrayed.
The kachina season begins in late December with the Soyal as several kachinas wake and emerge from the kivas. (Kivas are underground ceremonial rooms which are believed to provide entry from and to the Underworld) These kachinas perform rites which improves the bonds and well being of the Hopi people and their villages before returning to their kivas.
As early or false spring approaches in February the Powamu ceremony is held. This ceremony and its’ kachinas ready the world for a new season of planting and growth. Great numbers of kachinas emerge from the kivas escorted by guards and warriors. Trailing them are the clowns with their constant irreverent behavior. This ceremony also represents the time when children are initiated into the kachina cult.
The Niman ceremony, which is held in mid summer represents the end of the kachina season. The kachinas dance in the plaza carrying stalks of corn and bearing gifts for the children. This is a time of thanks and appreciation for the harvest which the kachinas helped provide as well as a time to bid them farewell. With a final ceremony the kachinas are sent off to their mountain homes to await the renewed cycle of the coming year.
Kachina Dolls (Katsina) or Tihu
While the Hopi men have a substantial degree of “contact” with the Kachinas through their impersonation the Hope women do not enjoy this same degree as contact. Perhaps in a way to satisify the women’s needs, the men carve an impersonation of the Kachina called a Tihu and give it to mothers and their infants as well as females of all ages. The tihus (Kachina Dolls), which are believed to embody the spirit of the Kachina they represent, are than taken home and hung from the wall or perhaps a beam so as to ensure the preservation of what is considered a valued possession.
Kachina & non Kachina Ceremonies for the Hopi
• Pamuya -Kachina : These dances are held in January and are also called the Kiva Dances.
• Powamu – Kachina: Held in February these dances are called the Bean Dances.
• Anktioni – Kachina: Repeat dances held in March.
• Soyohim – Kachina: Plaza dances held in April-May
• Niman – Kachina: Home dances held in July.
• Snake or Flute Dances – Non-Kachina: Usually held in August.
• Marau – Non-Kachina: Womens Society held in Sepember.r
• Oaqole – Non-Kachina: Womens Society held in October.
• Wuwuchim – Non-Kachina: Tribal initiation held in November.
• Soyala – Kachina: Held in December .