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Title: The Katcina altars in Hopi worship

Author: Jesse Walter Fewkes

Release date: February 28, 2023 [eBook #70166]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The Smithsonian Institution, 1927

Credits: Bob Taylor, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)





Chief, Bureau of American Ethnology



(Publication 2904)


Plate 1

Walpi Six Directions Altar

[Pg 469]


By J. Walter Fewkes, Chief, Bureau of American Ethnology

[With 3 plates]


The present article is the fifth of a series published in the annual reports of the Smithsonian Institution on the composition of Hopi worship. The Hopi, the name meaning peaceful, belong to the Pueblo stock and are agricultural Indians. They are descendants of the Arizona cliff dwellers and have preserved to the present many survivals of their ancient worship. The object of the series of five papers above referred to is to record a few of their rites in sun, fire, and ancestor ceremonies that have survived to the present time. The Pueblos performed their secret ceremonies in subterranean rooms called kivas that were entered from the roof.

It is customary for the priest in the course of the ceremonies to erect an altar, so called, on which is placed their tiponi, or sacred badge of office, surrounded by various fetishes, idols, and wooden objects bearing symbols. Here are placed all sacred objects possessed by the fraternity of priests who celebrate the rite. There are four Hopi villages or pueblos that perform the rituals independently, the sacred paraphernalia differing in each. From a study of these altars it is possible for us to learn the aim of their various ceremonies. The present paper compares the four Katcina altars for this purpose.

That element of pueblo worship known as the Katcina forms fully one-half of the Hopi ritual, beginning with the arrival of the Katcinas or masked dancers in January or February, and lasting until their departure in July, inclusive. It is distinguished from other components by the presence of masked participants called Katcinas, supposed to be personators of the ancients, or “others.” The yearly departure of these worthies from the villages is celebrated in July by a great religious observance called the Niman or Farewell Katcina ceremony; their arrival by several rites, one of the most striking of which is called Powamu, or “Bean Planting.” At the times of their arrival and departure there are erected in the kiva of each of the four villages which celebrate them, the same altars, about which certain secret rites are performed. Our knowledge thus far is limited to four of the five Katcina altars,[1] and there still remains the altar of Cuñopavi, regarding which nothing has yet been recorded.[2]

[Pg 470]

Explanation of Plate 2—Katcina Altar at Oraibi

a, Tunwup, or Sun Katcina; as, Aspergill; b, Tcuelawu; c, Corn mound; co, Cotokinungwu; g, Gourd; h, Planting stick; l, Lightning symbols; m, Ears of maize; mb, Medicine bowl; p, Prayer sticks; ph, God of war; pm, Prayer meal; ps, Prayer sticks in basket; pt, Gourd (netted) for sacred water; r, Rattles; rc, Rain clouds; sc, Sun emblems; t, Tiponi.

Plate 2

Katcina Altar at Oraibi

[Pg 471]

Our knowledge of Katcina altars of the Rio Grande in the other pueblos is very scanty, owing largely to the exclusion of ethnologists from the kivas. Katcina dances in the open plazas are repeatedly figured but the secret rites and accompanying altars, if any, are not known.

In the following pages the author presents a morphological study of the four known Katcina altars of Hopi. The illustrations of the most complex, that of Oraibi, have been taken from the excellent memoir of Voth on the Powamu of that pueblo; the others are from personal studies made in 1890-1895.

The structure of the Oraibi Katcina altar is as follows: The reredos consists of two upright wooden slats united above by a crosspiece which in the illustration (pl. 2) is surmounted by a row of four segments of circles with rain cloud pictures representing the four directions, and colored with appropriate pigments, beginning with yellow or north at the right. The decoration of the crosspiece is obscure, but on the uprights there are figures recalling sprouting vegetation, and circles with differently colored quadrants.

Two idols, probably of wood, stand between the vertical slats of the altar, filling nearly the whole space. That on the left evidently represents the Sky God (Cotokinungwu) for it has a conical apex to the head, a painted chin, and near its left hand stands a wooden slat of zigzag form, a prescribed symbol of lightning.[3] This image has several short parallel marks of different colors on the body, and wears horsehair, stained red, about the loins.

The other figurine wears a coronet with triangular-shaped rain cloud symbols, which remind one of the headdress of the Lakonemana,[Pg 472] a tutelary goddess of the woman’s society, the Lalakontu, whose ceremonials in September have been described elsewhere.[4]

The two vertical wooden slats, one on each side of the uprights, bear pictures of the same personage, probably Tunwupkatcina, on whose head is a fan-shaped crest of feathers. On each side the head has a horn, at the extremity of which hangs a symbolic feather.

The human figures have characteristic markings on their foreheads, and their bodies are black, dotted with white spots.

There is no mistaking the symbolism of the remaining idol standing at the right of the altar, as an image of Puukonhoya, the “Little War God,” whose characteristic features are the parallel marks on the body, and the weapons of war in his hands.

Several sticks, cut in zigzag shapes with curved appendages and short crossbars at one end, stand between the uprights of the reredos. From their forms, these objects may readily be identified as lightning symbols so common in all Tusayan altars. One of these, which has a complicated tip or head, is placed close to the outstretched arm of Cotokinungwu, with whom it is naturally associated. The straight rod leaning on the same arm is possibly a cornstalk symbol. The rounded stick, tapering at one end, which stands under the extended left hand of the image on the left, is probably a symbol of maize. A somewhat larger pointed object, painted at its base with zones of yellow, green, red and white, and surmounted by a feather, is called “the mound” and suggests the kaetukwi or Corn Mound of the Lalakontu, being similarly situated to an image on the left of this altar. The surface of the latter object, however, instead of being painted, is encrusted[5] with clay covered with different kinds of seeds.

The crook at the extreme left of the altar has attached to it an object which resembles the paddle carried by a participant in the Heheakatcina, or public ceremonial of the Niman at Walpi.

Four pahos, or prayer-sticks, are placed at intervals in hillocks of sand before the images on the altar. The Katcina tiponi,[6] or badge of the chief, stands on the floor before the altar.

Just in advance of the left-hand idol—the image with a coronet—there is a small oblong basket in which are laid a number of sticks with feathers, seeds, and pinches of meal. This is called the “Mother,” and recalls similar objects which have been observed on the Lalakontu altar, whose contents have been described elsewhere.[7]

[Pg 473]

I need not dwell on the other accessories of the Powamu altar at Oraibi save to note that they are common to other altars, and in no respect characteristic. I refer to the basket tray of sacred meal, the rattles, a medicine bowl, aspergill, and six ears of corn used in special rites.

The strange object at the extreme right, surrounded by a tablet, symbolic of a rain cloud, bears the picture of the head of Ho’katcina. It is supported on a pedestal, and appears to be peculiar to Oraibi.[8]


Cipaulovi, the smallest of all the Hopi pueblos, is situated on the Middle Mesa, and its Katcina altar is the poorest in paraphernalia, as shown by a comparison with the altar at Oraibi, the most complicated in Tusayan.

Fig. 1. —Cipaulovi Niman Katcina altar

Omitting the medicine bowl, rattles, sacred meal, and pahos, the Cipaulovi Niman altar consists of a figure of seven rain clouds, with parallel lines representing falling rain, drawn on the floor with sacred meal, and a row of five vertical sticks, symbols of growing corn. Upon the meal picture which represents the falling rain, there are four stone implements arranged in a row. The tiponi, or palladium of the Katcinas is placed on a hillock of sand at the right of the same picture. There are no idols or images of anthropomorphic forms on this altar, and unless the stone implements may be so interpreted, no lightning symbols. The Niman altar at Cipaulovi[9] is very simple, but the essentials of a Katcina altar are included. The two prominent symbols are those representing rain clouds and growing corn, which are elaborated in the more complicated Katcina altars and may be regarded as embodying the two main aims of Katcina celebrations.[10]

[Pg 474]

Explanation of Plate 3—Walpi Niman Katcina altar

a, Tunwup, or Sun Katcina; b, Tcuelawu; c, Corn mound; l, Lightning symbols; m, Ears of maize; mb, Medicine bowl; pb, Path of blessing; pm, Prayer meal; ps, Prayer sticks in baskets; r, Rattles; rc, Rain clouds; t, Tiponi.

Plate 3

Walpi Niman Katcina Altar

[Pg 475]


The Walpi Katcina is next in simplicity to that of Cipaulovi. It has instead of a meal picture, however, a reredos upon which are depicted rain and rain cloud symbols, and the two supplementary uprights, with pictures of Tunwup referred to in the Oraibi altar. There are zigzag slats, symbols of lightning, and rounded sticks with emblematic corn designs, neither of which, however, is as complicated as at Oraibi.

The Katcina tiponi is prominent, but there are no images on the altar, no basket with seeds and feathered sticks, and no crook with attached handle. While, therefore, the altar of the Walpi Niman Katcina is more complicated than at Cipaulovi, it is not as rich in accessories as that at Oraibi.[11]


The Katcina altar in this, the most populous village at the Middle Mesa, is simpler than at Oraibi, but more complicated than the Walpi representative. It has, in addition to the objects found on the Walpi altar, two idols or images, one on each side. The zigzag sticks are lacking, but stone implements similar to those on the far simpler Cipaulovi altar are present. There are two emblems of maize, as at Walpi, and numerous sticks, representing growing corn, recalling the same symbols of the Cipaulovi equivalent.

It will be seen, therefore, that while it is the nearest of all to the Oraibi altar, an additional idol, the “Mother” or basket of seeds, etc., the crook (naluchoya), and the picture of Ho’katcina are unrepresented at Miconinovi.

The two images of the Miconinovi altar are apparently the Little War God and the Germ Maid. There may be a doubt of the accuracy in identification of the latter, but she has the symbols of rain clouds on the head and in the hand. The other image has the parallel marks on the body, symbols of Puukonhoya, but it must be confessed that the same marks are found on the Cotokinungwu idol[Pg 476] although the latter image has the characteristic cone on the head which is not present in the Miconinovi image. The evidence would thus favor the conclusion that the right hand figurine of the Miconinovi altar represents Puukonhoya rather than Cotokinungwu, and as far as known Oraibi is the sole pueblo which has an idol of Cotokinungwu on the flute altars, of which those of four pueblos are known.[12]

A comparative study of the symbolism, simple and elaborate, of the Katcina altars leads me to the conclusion that the most complicated altar, that at Oraibi, is the result simply of elaboration of the less developed altars, of the introduction of new elements. Analysis reduces this composite symbolism to rain clouds, fertilization, growth, and maturity of corn, the elements which dominate the whole Hopi ritual.

Fig. 2.—Miconinovi Niman Katcina altar

A somewhat more detailed statement of this point is perhaps desirable. In the Hopi ritual three methods of representing supernatural personages are adopted. First, personifications by men, women, and children. Second, representations by images or idols. Third, representations by pictures, conventionalized objects, or symbols. These three methods may coexist; they are interchangeable, and may be phylogenetically connected in the development of rituals. In the public ceremonials the first method is almost invariably[Pg 477] adopted, but in secret rites all three are employed.[13] The representations on the Katcina altars at Cipaulovi and Walpi are limited to the third method; those at Miconinovi and Oraibi include likewise the second.

There is no need of going into detail regarding the meanings of the symbols of the third method of representation as used on Katcina altars. The simplicity of this method, here applied, is apparent, and the symbols are those of rain clouds, lightning, and corn in various stages of growth.

A discussion of the second method, or representation by images and what they mean when used on Katcina altars, will bring out several points of interest. These images, commonly called idols,[14] occur on the Katcina altars of Oraibi and Miconinovi and represent the same conceptions as the symbols. The idol with the raincloud coronet is a representation of a corn-rain supernatural personage who has many names and appears in ceremonials both public and secret of many different priesthoods. In the ceremony called the Lalakontu she is either personated by women in the public dance or represented by images on the altar and is called Lakonemana (Lakone Maid). In the October ceremony, called Mamzrauti, she is likewise represented by the first and second methods,[15] and is called Mamzraumana.[16] The same is true of the Owakulti, still performed at Oraibi, although extinct at Walpi, where she is known as Owakulmana.

During the dramatization in the Antelope kiva of the Snake Ceremonials at Walpi she is personated by a maid called the Tcuamana[17] (Snake Maid) and no effigy of her is employed in this archaic ceremony. The Flute Society represent her in their rites in both the first and second ways, with two girls in the public dance, and images on the altars in the secret observances, where she is called Lenyamana[Pg 478] (Flute Maid).[18] In Palülükonti[19] she is personated by the first method, and is called Calakomana. The most elaborate images of this being, also called Calakomanas, are secular in character, and are used as dolls. All her different names, and some others which might be mentioned, are aliases, sacerdotal society names of the same mythological conception, which may more accurately be called Muiyinwu, the Germ Goddess, who is likewise associated with rain.

The symbolism of images on the left side of the Katcina altars of Miconinovi and of Oraibi is highly conventionalized, but clearly enough developed to show that the images represent the same Rain-Germ Goddess who, in some ceremonials, is personified by a girl; in others by a similar image. This image is called the Rain-Germ (Corn)[20] Maid because in the most elaborate representations of her this bifid nature is strongly indicated by symbolism. Her idol on the Miconinovi Flute altar has four symbols of corn on the body, and bears three rain cloud tablets on the head. In numerous dolls[21] she has a symbol of an ear of corn on the forehead and an elaborate raincloud tablet with a rainbow on the head.

The other idol, likewise known in various ceremonials by tutelary sacerdotal aliases, is the male cultus hero, the fructifying principle symbolized by lightning and personified according to the society, by such supernaturals as Cotokinungwu, Puukonhoya, Tcuatiyo, Lentiyo, and the like.

In this totem-pole-like doll we have Hehea, the male, with two Calakos, females, as their symbolism clearly indicates. The Hopi have a legend that the Calako maids brought the first corn to their ancestors, and in that legend it is said that Calakotaka, or the male Calako, a sun god, initiated the youth into the Katcinas by flogging them, as Tunwup still functions in Powamu.

The etymology of the word Calako is unknown to me, and it may have been derived from the same source as the Zuñi word. A corn husk, and by derivation a cigarette paper, is called by the Hopi a calakabu.

The symbolism of the male Calako is identical with that of Tunwup and resembles that of the Zuñi Shalako. The Hopi celebrate[Pg 479] their sun-prayer-stick making in July, the Zuñi in December, or at different solstices. The Hopi say that they derived their celebration from the Zuñi (see Fifteenth Ann. Rept. Bur. Amer. Ethnol.). When this interesting ceremonial is performed at Sitcomovi the Calako maids do not appear, and the four giants with avian symbolism apparently personate a sun drama, but as a derivative from Zuñi we must await an interpretation of the original for conclusive evidence of its meaning.

The images of the altars as well as symbolic designs depicted upon them show us that fructification, growth and maturing of corn, and rain clouds are predominant in representations on Niman Katcina altars.

I have not offered a suggestion in regard to the identity of the strange being, Tunwup, nor am I quite sure that he can be interpreted, but I strongly suspect that he is none other than the Sun, a worship of whom pervades the whole Katcina ritual.[22]

The element which predominates in the worship at the Powamu ceremony is the fructification of germs; and as beans figure so conspicuously in it as symbols, it’s popularly called the “Bean Planting,” while a ceremony following it is Palülükonti,[23] in which corn is sprouted, is called the “Corn Planting.” As in Hopi conceptions the Sun is father of all life, a ceremony called the Powalawu, appropriate to the object or aim of Powamu, precedes the planting of beans in the kivas. The ceremony is strictly a part of Powamu, showing it is a form of direct sun worship. In it a special sun altar is made of a sand mosaic upon which, during ceremonial songs, a tray of meal composed of all kinds of seeds used by the Hopi is copiously sprinkled on the picture of the sun; medicine water is then thrown upon the same to typify the rains which under the sun’s action causes these seeds to germinate and grow.

My comparative study of the Hopi Katcina altars has therefore led me to the following conclusions: Their symbolism, whether in pictures, rites, or of images, refer to two elements, or supernaturals, which control rain and growth of corn. The latter are male and female, representing the sky god and the earth goddess, the[Pg 480] father and the mother, the lightning and the earth, the two sexes without whose union life is impossible.[24]

The ceremonials performed about the Katcina altars admit of the same interpretation, and it remains for me to indicate their nature and bearing on the above conclusions.


A sand picture of the great paternal deity, Tawa, the Sun, has never been reported from any Tusayan altar except Oraibi. Such a picture is made in Powalawu, the opening ceremony of Powamu and described by Mr. Voth.

The altar is made on the floor of the kiva, and is placed on a layer of valley sand on which are made four concentric zones of different colored sands surrounding a middle circle of white sand on which is drawn a stellate figure of the sun. These different concentric zones are yellow, green, red, and white, beginning with the smallest, and ending with a peripheral in white. They are separated by black lines, and a quartz crystal[25] to which a string, with attached feather, is tied, is placed in the middle of the picture of the sun. A quadrant apart on the periphery of the picture, beyond the white zone, there are four arrow-shaped projections, colored yellow, green, red, and white, following a circuit with the center of the whole sand painting on the left hand. These, like the zones, are made of differently colored sands and are rimmed with black. Across the yellow arrow-headed figure extend several parallel red lines of sand; across the green, white; across the red, yellow; and across the white, green.

On the supposition that the inner figure represents the sun, the four peripheral arrow-shaped appendages are supposed to represent heads of the lightning snakes of the four cardinal points, north, west, south, and east, as their colors indicate.[26]

The accessories used in the celebration of the Powalawu are arranged on the floor radially about this sand picture, and fall into two groups, one on lines in continuation of the rays of the central figure, the others on intermediary lines. There are, therefore, four sets of both groups alternating with each other.

The objects which form a single group of the former in this quaternary arrangement are as follows: A yellow reed, a paho-stand,[Pg 481] and a ball made of powdered pikumi.[27] Intermediate between these, also with a quaternary arrangement, there is a ball made of clay painted black in which a feather is attached, a blackened reed, and a stone arrow point. The paho-stand with these objects consists of a cubical block in which the following objects are inserted in line: A small crook, a green double paho, several sticks (called civapi, howapki, honyi, masiswapi), a black eagle feather with four nakwakwocis tied to it and a ring with netted cord, and finally a paho of a color corresponding to the cardinal direction in which the paho-stand is placed.

The details of the Powalawu ceremony have been described by Voth, from whose account I will mention a few generalities.

The celebrants gathered at the altar at about noon and sang many songs with accompanying events which were performed by Siima, the chief, now dead.

1. White earth, roots, and honey added to the medicine bowl.

2. Meal made of watermelon, melon, squash, bean, and corn seeds, sprinkled carefully over the sand picture.

3. Charm liquid stirred and sprinkled on sand altar.

4. Priest ascended ladder of the kiva and blew a yellow feather through a reed from the north paho-stand out of the hatch toward the north, after which he blew a whistle pointing it the same way. This was done in sequence to the west, south, and east, taking objects from the altar each time.

5. Priest ascended ladder with a black reed from north cluster, and blew from it, toward the north, a small feather. He then blew a feather in sequence from the four stones, ascending the ladder each time.[28] He licked honey from the stones and spat to the four cardinal points.

6. Couriers carried the clay balls to distant shrines, and four priests bore the four paho-stands, reeds, and yellow balls to other shrines, also at cardinal points.

While the above events were transpiring songs were sung by the assembled priests, and at the close the quartz crystal on the Sun picture was raised from the stand and handled by each priest, who sucked it, and pressed it to his heart.

7. Ceremonial smoke.

8. Prayers.

9. The sand gathered up and carried outside the kiva.

10. Feast.

[Pg 482]

The aim of the ceremony appears clear. Meal of all kinds of seed sprinkled on the Sun typifies fructification of all Hopi food plants. Water is poured on the meal as symbolic of the rains which the celebrants hope will increase their crops.

The details of the nine days’ ceremonials of the Powamu at Oraibi need not be described here, but it may be well to indicate their general character.[29]

Beans were planted in boxes in all the kivas on the day after Powalawu (February 5, 1894) and were forced to germinate in the heated rooms, where they grew for 16 days. From February 13 (the first day of the nine days’ ceremony) until the 17th, Siima, the chief, visited all these kivas, and when not so employed passed his time in one of the rooms fasting, or making prayer objects.

I am indebted to Mr. Voth for my knowledge of the secret rites of the Powamu at Oraibi. They supplement that which I have published elsewhere on the Walpi representation, from which, however, it differs very considerably. (See Fifteenth Ann. Rept., Bur. Amer. Ethnol.; also Amer. Anthrop., Vol. VII, No. 1, 1894, and Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band VIII, 1895.)

The Powamu altar was erected on February 17, and from that day until the ninth (February 21) daily songs of interesting character were sung about it.

Many dolls, bows and arrows[30] for children are likewise made in the kivas, and the chiefs prepared prayer emblems and other ceremonial objects.

The culmination of Powamu, when we should expect the acme of the series of rites, occurred on the afternoon of the ninth day (February 21), when the sprouting beans were pulled up, and distributed with dolls and other presents, and when certain personages of supernatural character brought significant gifts to the priests. It is the last event to which I wish especially to call the reader’s attention.

This episode, which seems to me to bring out clearly the aim of the Powamu ceremony, may be called the advent and departure of Hahaiwuqti[31] followed by the Eototo and other supernaturals. The[Pg 483] main events of this episode were as follows: The man who personified the “Old Woman” (Hahaiwuqti) having masked and otherwise arrayed himself at a shrine[32] outside the pueblo, began to howl vigorously. Siima the chief of Powamu, made offerings at this shrine and drew on the ground, with sacred meal, several figures of rain clouds about 20 yards nearer the village. Hahaiwuqti, as if tolled along by this mystic sign, moved to it and again began to howl. Siima made another set of rain cloud figures, again about 20 yards nearer the village, and the howling Hahaiwuqti advanced to the second meal figures. Halting thus at intervals, and howling as she went, the “Old Woman” at last stood in the public plaza of Oraibi, and in answer to her cries people came to her, sprinkled her with pinches of meal and took objects from the basket she bore.

She then sought the entrance to the kiva in which the priests were engaged in ceremonial smoking and singing. She stood like a statue at the hatch, howling as if to announce her coming to the priests within the room below. They soon responded, and came out of the kiva headed by Siima with a bowl of medicine and an aspergill, followed by a second priest with a reed cigarette and a coal of fire, and others with bags of sacred meal. Hahaiwuqti was asperged, smoked upon and sprinkled with meal, and presented with a paho accompanied with a prayer, after which the priests returned to their room and the “Old Woman” went away to the west. A few minutes later men disguised as Eototo and Ahul approached the kiva hatch near which some unknown Katcina had made in meal on the ground a cross and rain cloud. Eototo rubbed meal on each of the four sides of the kiva hatchway[33] and poured water into the kiva entrance from the sides, as I have described in my accounts of the Walpi and Cipaulovi Niman Katcina. Ahul followed his example, whereupon the priests again emerged from the kiva and treated these two visitors in the same way they had used Hahaiwuqti. They received corn in return, after which the visitors retired, following the “Old Woman.”

After their departure, two “mudheads” (Koyimse) and three Katcinas, two men wearing Humis, Jemes, Katcina masks and one[Pg 484] the maskette and apparel of the female Humis, approached the kiva entrance.[34] Then came personifications of Ana, Hehea, and two Tacab Katcinas. Following these were three lame Howaik Katcinas, masked as their predecessors, and clearly designated by appropriate symbolism.

At each new arrival the priests in the kiva responded, emerged from their room, and treated these visitors as they had their leader, Hahaiwuqti.

As the masked personages left the village they passed westward.[35]

When the priests had retired to their kiva for the last time they smoked on the presents left by their strange visitors, and the chief divided the gift Eototo had brought into 10 bundles, and gave one package to each Powamu priest. Then followed minor events, as taking down the altar, which do not now concern us. The departure of Hahaiwuqti and her band closed the main ceremony.[36]

It certainly seems legitimate to conclude that this acme of the Powamu is a dramatic representation embodying the aim of the whole ceremony. It is a visit of Hahaiwuqti in her disguise as known to Katcinas, followed by her children bringing gifts and receiving prayers. What other prayers are more appropriate to Hahaiwuqti than petitions for abundant crops, or what gifts more desirable than those Eototo[37] gave in a symbolic way, viz: water and sprouting vegetation? The rejuvenescence of nature is always to a primitive mind akin to sorcery, and believed to be brought about by the sorcerer’s arts, and hence this ceremony takes place in the Powako-muyamuh, or Wizard Moon, which gives it its name by syncopation, Powamu.[38]

[Pg 485]


We are justified in regarding the Katcinas as spirits of the dead, or divinized ancestors, shades or breath-bodies of those who once lived, as mortuary prayers clearly indicate. The theory of ancestor worship gives us a ready explanation for the fact that ancestral spirits are represented by masked persons, and as a corollary, a suggestion regarding the significance of the different symbolism of those masks.

The Hopi, like many people, look back to mythic times when they believe their ancestors lived in a “paradise,” or state or place where food (corn) was plenty and rains abundant, a world of perpetual summer and flowers. Their legends recount how, when corn failed or rain ceased, cultus heroes have sought these imaginary or ideal ancestral homes to learn the “medicine,” songs, prayers, fetishes, and charms efficacious to influence or control supernaturals, which blessed these happy lands. Each sacerdotal society tells the story of its own hero bringing from that land a bride, who transmitted to her son the knowledge of the altars, songs, and prayers, which forced the crops to grow and the rains to fall in her native country. To become thoroughly conversant with the rites he is said to marry the maid; otherwise at his death they would be lost, since knowledge of the “medicine” is believed to be transmitted, not through his clan, but that of his wife. So the Snake hero brought the Snake-Maid (corn-rain girl) from the underworld; the Flute hero, her sister, the Flute-Maid; the Little War God, the Lakonemana and other supernaturals.

A Katcina hero in the old times, “on a rabbit hunt came to a region where there was no snow. There he saw other Katcina people dancing amidst beautiful gardens. He received melons from them and carrying them home told a strange story of the people who inhabited a country where there were flowering plants in midwinter. The hero and a comrade were sent back, and they stayed with their people, returning home loaded with fruit in February. They had learned the songs of those with whom they had lived, and taught them in the kiva of their own people.”[39]

In the ceremonies with unmasked personifications, or those celebrated yearly between July and January which are not Katcinas, an attempt is made to reproduce rites which legends declare the cultus or ancestral heroes saw in the lands they visited, which lands are reputed to be variously situated, but generally in the underworld, to augment the efficacy of the ceremonies. In the ceremonies between[Pg 486] January and August, or those called Katcinas, the same feeling is dominant. Each performance is an endeavor to reproduce a traditional ancestral Katcina celebration. The performers are masked because, according to their stories, the participants in those ancient rites are reputed to have had zoomorphic, or at least only partially anthropomorphic forms. The symbolism of the mask portrays the totems of those legendary participants, and those of corn, rain, water-loving animals, lightning and the like, therefore predominate.

I have shown in preceding papers that both the symbols and figurines on Katcina altars refer to the sun, rain clouds, and the fertilization, growth and maturation of corn. It has likewise been made evident that the ceremonial acts of the priests are employed to affect the supernaturals who control these elements or produce these necessities.

The priests strive to reproduce traditional ceremonials without innovations, and are guided in their presentation by current legends. Masked personations of ancestral spirits are, therefore, introduced that the performance may be more realistic, or closer to the reputed ancestral ceremony. This feeling is at base the reason why the priests, unable to explain why they perform certain rites in certain ways, respond, “we make our altars, sing our songs, and say our prayers in this way because our old people did so, and surely they knew how to make the corn grow and the rains fall.”

It appears from what is written above that the cosmic supernaturals which appear on the Hopi Katcina altars are the same as pointed out in the previous article, the Sun, the Sky, Earth, Fire, Ancestors, and that idols are likewise prominent. The Hopi, like all the pueblos, are commonly called sun worshippers, but the relations of the altars of the Katcina cult to Sky God (Sun) worship is very instructive.

In conclusion it should be said that, although the ceremonial practices of the Hopi Katcinas appear very complicated, they are in reality simpler than the literature of them would seem to indicate. In the first place, we must bear in mind that in the Hopi religion the association of religion and ethics is very weak, the duty of the priest being to perform his part of the ceremony as nearly as possible in the traditional way it was inherited from his ancestors. Secondly, the rite and ceremony show that the main object desired is a material not a spiritual one, primarily to fertilize Indian corn, his national food, and incidentally to protect his own life and that of his family. The objects of his worship form together a complex composed of closely allied elements in which the supernatural powers that control the food are preemiment.


[1] Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1. Sitcomovi and Hano have no Niman Katcina, nor do they celebrate the Tusayan ritual in its entirety. The word Katcina is used to designate both a dance and a participant in a dance. Between July and January there are no Katcina rites in Tusayan.

[2] I have been interested to discover what proportion of the whole number of Hopi ceremonials have been described, and the results are such as to allay any conceit that we know much about the subject. Without considering the abbreviated ceremonials there are in the ritual 12 which are of nine days duration. There are five variants of this ritual, differing in altars, paraphernalia, and rites, so that we may say there are performed in Tusayan about 60 ceremonials, each nine days long, to be investigated. Of these there are 40 of which we know nothing, save their existence; 15, fragments of which have been described; and 5 which have been fairly well studied. There are about 30 Hopi altars which have never been figured or described, or as far as I know seen by ethnologists. It thus appears that there is plenty of material in this province to occupy the students of primitive ritual for some time to come. An adequate comprehension of the Hopi Katcina ritual requires a consideration of five different modifications of the same altars.

[3] The image of Cotokinungwu in the Oraibi flute altar (q. v.) has zigzag figures down the legs, which would appear to associate this deity with lightning.

[4] Amer. Anthrop., Vol. 5, No. 2, April, 1892, Pl. I, fig. 1; Pl. III, figs. 1 and 2.

[5] The Hopi, ancient and modern, were adepts in this craft of mosaic encrustations, using for that purpose turquoises, shells, and other substances.

[6] The chief who flogs the children in the initiation, which occurs in Powamu, holds this object in his hand. This flogging at Walpi is performed by a man masked to represent Tunwup. Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band viii, 1895. 15th Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol., pp. 283-284.

[7] Amer. Anthrop., Vol. 5, No. 2, April, 1892.

[8] A great many observations remain to be made before any one can claim to know the exact meaning of pueblo rites, but the material awaits investigation, and can be obtained by persistent work in the field. The time, however, is past when any compiler can write an account of the aboriginal religions of America and neglect the Hopi for want of published material.

[9] For Niman altars of Cipaulovi, Miconinovi, and Walpi, see Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1.

[10] The character of the public ceremonials of the Katcinas, even when abbreviated, as in the so-called rain dances, justifies the theory that their main objects are the two above mentioned. Even the clowns, a priesthood directly connected with Katcinas and absent in all other ceremonies, are concerned with the growth of seeds.

[11] It may be borne in mind that the same altar is made in Powamu and Niman, and whether called by one or the other of these names it is the same thing—a Katcina altar.

[12] Journ. Amer. Folk-Lore, Vol. VIII, No. XXXI. The conical prolongation of the head is also found in many figurines and images and while the similarity of symbolism would lead to the belief that the two supernaturals are identical, the presence of two similar images on an altar indicates that they are distinct.

[13] In other secret rites, not considered in this article, the first method is employed as in Powamu. Personifications in public dances are ordinarily masked, and as a rule Katcinas doff their masks when they dance in kivas. In certain instances, however, the mask is worn in kiva ceremonials.

[14] I regard them as complicated symbols, not intrinsically objects of worship.

[15] In the public dance she is represented by a girl, but there is a beautiful instance in this ceremony where the third method is substituted for the first in the public dance. For some reason unknown to me, in the 1891 exhibit at Walpi no girl performed this part, but her place was taken by a participant in the dance who bore in her hands a flat board with a picture of the Germ Maid (see Mamzrauti, Amer. Anthrop., Vol. V, No. 3, 1892, Pl. IV, figs. 9, 10). The picture, not the bearer, represented the Germ Maid. It is a remarkable confirmation of my theory that Mamzraumana is the same personation as Calakomana; that this picture is identical in symbolism with pictures of the latter, and was so called by the priests. Comparing the picture Mamzraumana on the Mamzrau altar and of the same on this tablet we see differences in old and new Hopi art. The picture publicly exhibited conforms to modern conception of her symbolism, as shown in dolls, etc.; that on the altar, which the uninitiated can not see, is the older form, before innovations and modifications.

[16] Amer. Anthrop., Vol. V, No. 3, 1892.

[17] Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. IV.

[18] Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II; Journ. Amer. Folk-Lore, Vol. VIII, No. XXXI; Vol. IX, No. XXV.

[19] Journ. Amer. Folk-Lore, Vol. VI, No. XXIII.

[20] As maize is the most important food of the Pueblo Indians there is a tendency to make this name more specific, “Corn Maid.” This appears to be the name of the doll Calakomana, “Corn Maid.”

[21] The range of variation of the dolls of the Calakomana may be seen by consultation of my memoir on Tusayan Dolls (Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band VII, pp. 45-74, 1894). One of the strangest of these represents two Germ Maids, one above the other, surmounted by a male figurine, Hehea Katcina, which has lightning emblems on the cheeks and phallic symbols on the body.

[22] He is intimately connected with the “flogging” ceremony, when children are “introduced” to the Katcinas (see Fifteenth Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol., pp. 283-284). The radiating crown of feathers and the two horns on the head, together with the symbol on the forehead, ally him with Calakotaka (male Calako) whose kinship with the Sun-bird is elsewhere referred to. Tunwup appears to be a local name of this worthy in Walpi kivas.

[23] In the so-called “screen drama” of this ceremony, we have pictures of the Sun painted on disks. On the theory that Palülükonti is a fertilization ceremony, it would be explained as referring to corn, and the thrusting of the snake effigies through openings closed by Sun-disk symbols connected with this event.

[24] In the same way that I have compared the Little War Gods and the Germ Maids of Katcina altars we might also compare the male and female figures of the flute altars which we know from variants. The same will be possible with the cultus hero and his female double of Lalakontu, Mamzrauti, etc. There is a striking morphological identity in many altars of different societies.

[25] A quartz crystal is used to deflect the light of the sun into the medicine bowl in Niman Katcina. Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1.

[26] Similar projections at intervals a quadrant apart are common on symbols of the sun, and I have found them on ancient pottery from Homolobi. The arrow-headed appendages are not, as far as I know, found in any other instance of palæography.

[27] Pikumi is a kind of hasty pudding, a favorite dish in ceremonial feasts. It is baked in small pits lined with corn husks, which have previously been heated by building fires within them. The coals are raked out, the mush put in, and a stone slab luted over the pit. Upon this a fire is maintained over night, and on the morning of the final day of a great ceremonial they are opened. The soft part is eaten immediately, but the mush which has caked to the corn husks is reground and made into other forms of food. The above-mentioned balls are made of the latter products.

[28] Evidently this and the following acts are to bring the summer birds.

[29] The Oraibi Powalawu, witnessed twice, took place Feb. 4, 1894, and Jan. 14, 1896. The chronology of the succeeding events in 1894 was as follows:

Feb. 5-9, bean planting in all kivas.

Feb. 13-21, nine active days of Powamu ceremony, q. v. The Powamu, according to my enumerations, includes not only the nine active days but also several preceding in which the beans are planted, beginning with Powalawu, and making a complete ceremony of 16 days.

[30] These gifts for little girls were made in the Niman Powamu and Palülükonti at Walpi. They were fashioned in the form of Katcinas. (Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band VII, 1894.)

On the eighth pahos were made for Hahaiwuqti and Eototo, who visit the kiva on the ninth day. The former personage appears to be known by different names in Oraibi and Walpi, but I believe the same personage is intended by both names.

[31] For a picture of Hahaiwuqti, see Amer. Anthrop., Vol. VII, No. 1, 1894. For symbolism of Eototo, see Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band VII, 1894.

[32] In the shrine he put a paho, several nakwakwocis, and meal, after which he took a little honey in his mouth and spat to the four cardinal points. He gave a basket with a paho, sprouted beans, and other objects to Hahaiwuqti after he left him at the second meal figures.

This method of tolling the gods is practiced in the march of the Flute priests from the spring to the pueblo. (Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II; in Lalakontu, and in Mamzrauti, op. cit.)

The Katcinas are tolled along by meal deposited on the trail by the priests. A trail is closed by a line of meal at right angles to the same.

[33] Those in one of the kivas received meal (prayers) and nakwakwocis (personal prayers). Hahaiwuqti gave them the basket she bore and the objects remaining in it, upon which at the close of the ceremony, all the priests smoked (prayed).

[34] From the belts of Humis the priests took a sprig of spruce. This is only customary after the Humis Katcina dance. (Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1.)

The Humis (humita, corn) wear terraced (rain cloud) tablets on the mask. (Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1.)

[35] For symbolism of their masks and dress see Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1; Int. Archiv für Ethnog., Band VII. Ana wears a long beard and is therefore called the bearded Katcina. Hehea has zigzag marks on the cheeks. The symbolism of Tacab varies considerably, but is readily recognized.

[36] A Hopi prayer combines two elements of ceremony—prayer proper and sacrifice, the former spoken or not, the latter always expressed by symbols. As they are an agricultural people, their aboriginal wealth is an agricultural product, as corn. Their poverty of corn and the requirement of their ritual necessitated sacrifices of meal, a highly practical substitution. So likewise tobacco smoke is a sacrifice, the burning of rare herbs, or the pine needles in the “New Fire” ceremony.

The act of sacrificing animals or human beings is not a part of their present ritual, but a knowledge of its efficacy exists. They have legends of human sacrifice on rare occasions in the past. The killing of an animal and smearing the body of the man representing Masawuh with its blood, at the time of Lieutenant Brett’s visit to Oraibi in 1891, is an instance of animal sacrifice. Several survivals of animal sacrifices in warrior ceremonies might be quoted from legends.

[37] Eototo is believed to be a god of metamorphism, or growth, intimately associated with germination, a sacerdotal equivalent of Masawuh, as far as these functions are concerned.

[38] I have elsewhere called Powamu a purification ceremony or lustral observance, which it is in certain particulars, but I am now convinced that its main object is to further the fructification of vegetation.

[39] Journ. Amer. Ethnol. and Archæol., Vol. II, No. 1, p. 152. The Katcina hero in this story would appear not to have brought a wife from this people.

[Pg 487]


Transcriber’s Notes