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Kachinum Categories

Hierarchy of the Supernatural Realm

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As with all societies, the supernatural realm of the kachina social structure mirrors the Pueblo Indian culture. There are leaders, policemen, clowns, caretakers etc.

Classifications and Categories of Kachina Types

Kachinas are the spirit essence of everything in the real world. They represent game, plants, food, birds, insects, and even death itself is given a kachina form. During sacred dances, men who impersonate kachinas present carved replicas of their kachina appearence to women and children.

In the hierarchy of the kachina world there are chiefs, guards, hunters, clowns, plants, animals and insects.

 

Mongwi Kachinum or Chief Kachinas

The Mongwi or wuya, chief kachinas are wise and hold very important roles in the Hopi culture.

The chief kachinas can only be impersonated by select members of each clan.

Each chief kachina has a specific function and when multiple chief kachinas appear their powers will mesh together for the greatest benefit to the villages.


 

Guard or Tuwalakum Kachinas

Guard kachinas function as warriors, protectors and overseers. They act as sergeants-at-arms or policemen by enforcing ceremonial rules and preventing unwelcome spectators or prevent other kachinas powers from interrupting the ritual proceedings.

They are also referred to as Ichivota, or Angry Kachinas, and Watching Kachinas. Guard kachinas frequently carry yucca whips and bows which they also use to ensure the men perform their chores and keep the villages clean.

Sosoyok't or Ogre Kachinas

Ogre kachinas appear before the Soyoko ceremony which occurs early in the Powamu (Bean Dance). This is a time where young children of the villages prepare for visits from terrifying ogres and their whipper kachina helpers. The Ogres travel in groups and go house to house lecturing unruly children.

Ogres are strict disciplinarians who talk to the children, tell them what they are doing wrong while they stamp their feet, growl and make frightful sounds with their large clacking jaws. The orges demand that each child must prove his or her worthiness by performing such tasks as catching mice or grind corn. If the child fails he or she faces the gruesome prospect of being swallowed whole by the ogres or be carried off in the ogre's big basket.

These monster ogres carry red-stained saws, knives, bows and arrows which add realism to the terrifying experience.

The purpose of the frightful ceremony is to instill into the children that throughout their lives they must contribute food for the benefit of themselves and the survival of the villages. The ceremony is considered a time of regeneration, when purity is renewed and a new life cycle begins.

Momoyam or Women Kachinas

Momoyam Kachinas and Kachinmana (kachina girls) are spirit beings who watch over women, mothers and sisters. Kachina women are social dancers and members of Marau and Qagöl women's societies and like all kachinas are endowed with human characteristics.

Female kachinas generally wear belts tied to the side of their waists and often carry food, water and gifts to bestow on the villagers. Some female kachinas carry weapons such as bows, knives, saws and yucca whips such as the Soyok Wuhti, ogre kachina. Kachinmana can be distinguished bt their hair dressed in large whorls which was the hair style of unmarried girls.

Mana or Momoyam kachinas impersonators are all men or boys with the rare exception of the Pachavuin Mana. There is no negative social stigma attached to any man or boy who is selected to impersonate a female kachina or personality.

When a female kachina accompanyies a male kachina she will always assume the name of that particular kachina.

Sosoyohim Kachinum or Mixed Kachinas

Sosoyohim or Mixed kachinas are a diverse group of cloud spirits primarily used to dance for much needed rain, but to perform other tasks as well and are called upon as the need arises.

When a variety of kachinas dance together it is referred to as Mixed or Line Dances. The Sosoyohim spirits may be cloud, insect and other indian kachinas but all are asked to dance for rain. The Mixed Dances are held during the spring and summer months when the crops are freshly planted and rain is most needed to help plants grow.

The supernaturals do not come if the people are angry or unhappy so every effort is made to throw happy, colorful ceremonies so the visiting kachinas will pause and bring rain to the villages. It is at this time of the season where visitors are most welcome for fear of offending the kachinas.

Sosoyohim Yotam Kachinum or Indian Kachinas

Sosoyohim Yotam Kachinum or Indian kachinas represent the essence, luck, power or any other prominent attribute of neighboring tribes of indians for which they are named.

Since these kachinas they are not accurate portrayals of other Indian tribes they could be thought of as characterizations or stereotypical designs.

The Indian kachinas generally appear as uncles in the Plaza and Mixed Dances.

Wawash Kachinum or Runner Kachinas

Wawash Kachinum or Runner Kachinas are racers who appear in the spring ceremonies to challenge the men and boys of the villages to races.

The belief is that the performance and outcome of these races affects how water will run down from the canyons.

Runner kachinas generally have oversized eyes and scant clothing to enhance their running ability. They can carry yucca whips, throwing sticks and in the case of the Tsil kachina, hot chili peppers.

If the racer kachinas win they may strike the loser with yucca whips, throw sticks, hit or tear clothing from the loser. The Tsin will stuff hot chili peppers in the mouth of the loser.

When the racing kachina loses he must reward the winner with a prize such as Piki bread.

Clown kachinas include: Navajo Clown - Tasavau

Chuchkut or Clown and and Non-Kachinas

Chuchkut or Clown Kachinas provide comedy and entertainment for the villagers during the ceremonies as well as comedic examples of improper or undesired social behavior. Koyemsi the Mud Head Clown is the most popular of the Hopi clowns.

Clown may carry painted gourd rattles and small drums, others may carry food which they both eat and throw at villagers and spectators. Clown kachina impersonators may wisecrack and poke fun at everyone regardless of social standing without fear of reprisal.

Clowns can be multi-faceted, clowning in one situation or ceremony and serious or singing in the same or another ceremony. The Koshari clown, for instance, is considered both sacred and profane in Hopi mythology. He creates chaos in ceremonies by acting out and engaging in such improper behavior as making loud and boisterous conversation or pigging out with food, and disrupting important rituals.

The Guard or Tuwalakum Kachinas responsibility is to keep the clowns behavior in check. Frequently at the end of the ceremonies the Guard kachinas may beat the clowns and drench them with water as the clowns promise to behave better in the future.

Borrowed Kachinas

Borrowed kachinas are those spirit beings whose origins are from the Zûni's, the Hopi's nearest pueblo neighbors, or of unknown origins and which have been adopted or incorporated into the Hopi kachina culture.

These adopted kachinas are valued because they bring rain or other special powers to the kachina spiritual reserve.

Many of these borrowed kachinas are passed from group to group and have stories intertwined with religious or historic folklore. Many of these borrowed kachinas have changed in appearance and meaning over time to more closely resemble other Hopi kachinas.

Chiro Kachinim or Bird Kachinas

The primary purpose of Chiro Kachinim or Bird kachinas (as with all other kachinas) is to bring water to the villages. It is believed that long ago, strong birds of prey taught the Hopi people and provided advice and guidance to help them emerge from the Underworld.

Chiro Kachinim or Bird Kachina impersonators take great care in duplicating the motions and actions of the birds they represent.

Owl kachinas serve as warriors and like the Crow kachina, serve to control the clown kachinas. Some bird kachinas are racers who challenge the men and boys in the villages to races.

Birds are very important in Hopi culture, especially water birds such as ducks, cranes, herons and snipes. As with many other cultures, Hopi's use bird feathers to decorate costumes, masks, alters and people for celebrations and ceremonies.

Popkot or Animal Kachinas

Popkot or Animal Kachinas have special medicinal powers and are considered advisors and doctors. Animal kachinas can take on the appearance of men by removing their skins to sit alongside men in the kivas and join in serious conversations.

It is believed that animal kachinas help the Hopi overcome ogres and monsters, plus assist in curing disease with their medicinal knowledge of roots and herbs.

Some animal kachinas are warriors who advise men how to become more animal-like to avoid dangers.

Tusak Kachinum or Plant Kachinas

Tusak Kachinum or Plant Kachinas are very important as they represent food, particularly maise or corn, a Hopi staple.

Because the Hopi lands are so dry and arid, all kachinas spirits pray for water and rain, however it is believed, since plants need water in order to exist, plant kachinas obviously carry their own water.

The Corn Dancers and Corn Kachinas are the two primary plant kachinas. Other plant kachinas exist such as the Navuk'china, Prickly Pear Cactus Kachina, for wild plants and Patung, Squash Kachina, for domestic crops but are not seen as frequently as the Corn variety.

Mahk Kachinum or Hunter Kachinas

Mahk Kachinum or Hunter Kachinas are hunters and use their knowledge to find and capture game animals for food.

Hunters may appear in the processions and ceremonies as warriors against clown kachinas or provide humerous entertainment. They are not considered to be in the same category of warriors, policemen or guards.

Some hunter kachinas may be borrowed in order to represent individuals from other groups and neighboring tribes

Sosoyohim Kachinum or Insect and Reptile Kachinas

Sosoyohim Kachinum or Insect and Reptile Kachinas hold a variety of roles in the Hopi religious culture. For instance, the spirit of the butterfly is commonly personified in Hopi kachina figures, sewn into clothing or weaved into baskets or painted onto pottery.

Insect kachinas have specific roles and appear at certain times during the year perhaps to coincide with the natural cycle of the insect. Momo the Bee kachina, which prays for bountiful populations of bees and spring flowers, appears during the winter and summer dances.

Sivuftotovi or dragonflies are associated with water, springtime, fertility and rebirth and is also a racer or runner kachina. Hopi have included several butterflies into the kachina family:

In Native American folklore, moths and butterflies are considered visiting past relatives and must not be harmed in any way. Butterflies are prominent characters in the Hopi myth and ritual. The Butterfly Dance personifies the spirit of the butterfly through the Kachina figure. Kachinas represent the spirit essence of everything in the world from plants, food, insects and even the concepts of life and death. Popular insect butterfly kachinas are the Poli Sio Hemis Kachina (Zuni Hemis Butterfly Kachina), Poli Taka (Butterly Man), and Poli Mana (Butterfly Girl).

Printable Insect kachina style paper masks for young children to print, cut out with scissors, color, and decorate with crayons, markers, glitter, feathers, yarn, colorful papers and fabrics. Decorate your masks with pre-shaped cut and paste designs.

Dragon flies are associated with game animals as well as representations of water, fertility and healing. The Sivuftotovi, or Dragon-Fly Man, is also a popular spirit. Each kachina mask pattern has a brief overview of the Hopi religious and ceremonial meaning and purpose of the design plus links to one or more existing native American kachina doll photo or drawing. Many kachinas can belong to more than one group or category, for example, a chief kachina can also be a clown or a runner, and might be listed in those categories as well. Children can decorate the masks using their own imagination or refer to the the photos of actual native American designs and make the masks come to life with stories and song.

  • Poli Sio Hemis Kachina (Zuni Hemis Butterfly Kachina)
  • Poli Taka (Butterly Man)
  • Poli Mana (Butterfly Girl)

Miscellaneous Kachinas

Miscellaneous kachinas include all of the Sosoyohim kachinum. They are a mixed bag of kachina types which have never been assigned a group or classification but are called upon as the need arises.

Some of the Miscellaneous kachinas have long histories dating back into antiquity, others are fairly new or recent kachinas still undergoing development or change.

Many powerful celestial kachinas such as the Sun Gods, star and planet chasers can be found in this group.