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FOR AGES 3 YEARS TO 18 YEARS
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Kachina figures are carved dolls given to young Hopi girls and new brides to teach them about Kachinas or immortal spiritual beings.
Kachinas are considered the spiritual beings that bring rain and support in other aspects of society or the natural world. These Kachina figures are the religious beliefs of the Hopi tribe people, which are given as gifts.
Since the Hopi people live in such an arid climate, it's really hard to grow crops. Threats of drought conditions worry them constantly. Because of this, Hopi believed in Kachinas and depended on them for rain and other aspects as a part of their religious belief.
Kachina ceremonies are very colorful to watch. Tribe people perform dances and other rituals during the ceremony in which they communicate with Kachina spirits and ask for blessings.
The men dress up as these Kachina carved dolls during the ceremony and dance. The Pueblo people believe that these ceremonies inspire the Kachina spirit to bless the arid regions with rain and grant the community with the tool-making expertise that can be used for hunting. This ceremony, named the Neiman ceremony, takes place once a year in July. At this ceremony, children receive these painted Kachina figures. These painted dolls are treasured and kept in a place where they can watch them constantly. The reason behind it is to help children learn about the Kachina spirits.
Kachinas represent icons of Hopi mythology and natural elements and celestial objects such as crops, animals, and the sun.
Kachina dolls are categorized into two groups, Hopi Kachinas and Navajo Kachinas. Hopis originated from southwestern Arizona, whereas the Navajo come from northeastern Arizona. Hopi Kachinas are made of Cottonwood roots, whereas the Navajo Kachinas are works of feathers, furs, and claws.
There are four different forms of Kachina figures representing the different stages in postnatal development.
Putsqatihu: The physical appearance of these figures is their flat shape. These are specially made for infants.
Putstihu taywa’yla: For this, the body is in a flat shape, but the face is three-dimensional, and these are for toddlers.
Muringputihu: The doll's body is shaped like a cylinder and the face is fully carved. These are specifically meant for infant girls.
Tithu: These dolls are the last form of postnatal development and are given to Hopi girls of age two and above. These are fully developed Kachinas and are considered Kachina dolls by many people.
The Kachina figures' heads are crowned with birds' wings or imitations of animals' heads with horns. The nose looks realistic and a ruff wraps around the neck. Weaved or painted fabric is used for clothing.
There are various eye types for Kachina figures which are painted in half-moons, a rectangular shape, with popped eyes, round, or pot-hooks. These eyes are separately carved on wood and attached to the figures.
When it comes to the mouth, there are two different mouths. One is painted on a carved figure in a triangular, crescent, or rectangular shape. The second one is a carved mouth, and it can be a horizontal mouth with a narrow or wide beard, and a short or tube snout.
The Hopi tribes' first Kachina figure was collected by Dr. Palmerin in 1857 and presented to the National Museum of the United States. But Kachinas were discovered and discussed even before 1857. For example,a Spanish sailor in the 16th century wrote 'strange images of the devil' and was talking about the Hopi figures.
At the Neiman ceremony, Kachina dolls are handed over to children, not as a toy but as a tool of education. According to Hopi beliefs, there are around 200-400 different varieties of Kachinas. Here are some of the different types of dolls.
Crow mother: In Hopi culture, it is called Angwusnasomtaka. It looks like its head is dressed with the wings of a crow as a crown and this figure represents dignity.
Eagle: Hopi tribes call it kwahu, and feathered wings are attached to it. This represents the power and strength which rules the sky. Kwahu is the message carrier to the heavens.
Black ogre: Its appearance is a black head with large eyes with feathers or spikes attached to it. The purpose of this Kachina doll is to threaten mischievous children.
Buffalo: As headgear, this Kachina doll wears a buffalo head. The purpose of this is to eliminate fears of the worst-case scenario.
Deer: These Kachina dolls have antlers on their heads. This figure promises more deers so that villagers will have enough food to eat.
Hopi tribes use cottonwood trees' roots as a material to make Kachina dolls. These are used because the cottonwood tree can stay moist even in a dry climate.
Facial features are painted in detail. The neck ornamentation is either painted or jewelled with metal or other materials. They also use animal feathers or fur to embellish the doll.
What do Kachina dolls symbolize?
These dolls symbolize the spirits of nature. Kachina dolls are handed to children at a ceremony for educational purposes.
Are Kachina dolls sacred?
Kachina dolls are sacred. These dolls are given to children and are not meant for playing but are to be used as an educational tool for children.
When was the first Kachina doll made?
Kachina dolls are known to have been produced since the late 1800s.
Why are Kachinas so important?
When the Hopi people are in drought conditions, they start believing in the Kachinas to help them to survive.
What tribes have Kachina dolls?
Hopi, Zuni, Navajo tribes all have Kachina dolls.
Are Kachinas Hopi or Navajo?
Kachinas are believed to be spiritual beings by Hopi and Navajo. But the use of Kachinas was started by Hopi.
What is the meaning of Kachina?
The word Kachina means spirit.
Who created Kachina dolls?
Native American tribes created Kachina dolls.
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