Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kachinas, Koshari, and the Navajo Spirits surrounding them

Hopi Kachinas, and the Navajo Spirits surrounding them

Photos by Karen Hughes. Comments by H. Overton

The Hopi got there first, such Time being lost to Antiquity, but the Navajo were quick to incorporate some of their Mythology after arriving from Athapascan (previously Athabaskan) Canada about 1300 a.c.e. The Navajo culture and language have no connection with that of the Hopi (Navajo being part of a common tongue with Apache and Athapascan), which is one of the Aztec-Uto-an family, such as Tewa and Towa. The Hopi have many Kachinas, or minor deities, and some of these are shown below. The Koshari(a type of Kachina) are still active- being the clowns who perform at their ceremonies; I have seen these doing their “tricks” from which the ordinary villagers are not immune (such as committing suggestive blunders on the women). Usually these can be identified by their “prisoner stripes”, and the clowns may operate on the tourists which are allowed to view the ceremonies. There are many Kachinas, and the Zuni which reside SE of the Hopi (in AZ) have elevated these to man-sized statues, exhibiting them in the local Church.
Those who have read Hillerman’s books on the mysteries of the two Reservations may recognize the Navajo Ye’ii Bechei’ and other Chindii (Chiidii). Dine' Navajo surround Hopi in both culture and reservation space. This devil name Chindii sounds similar to the geological formation Chinle, but the natives assure me that it is not. Chinle is a place name (village) north of Canyon de Chelly, meaning “place where the water flows out”, whereas Chindii connotes a Hex or Evil Spirit which must be avoided. The colors blue, red, green, and white (sometimes black and yellow) are found in their costumes, possibly relating to the four colors of the sacred mountains in the four directions. I have thought that the colors related to the dominant views found in the four cardinal directions (red for hot western sun, blue for the glacial ice of the north, green for the morning vegetation, and black for the darkness of Hell, but the colors change between the two cultures- black being north for Navajo).