A kachina (also katchina or katcina, pronounced /kəˈtʃiːnə/; Hopi: katsina /kətˈsiːnə/, plural katsinim /kətˈsiːnɨm/) is a spirit being in western Pueblo cosmology and religious practices. The western Pueblo, Native American cultures located in the southwestern United States, include Hopi, Zuni, Tewa Village (on the Hopi Reservation), Acoma Pueblo, and Laguna Pueblo. In later times, the kachina cult has spread to more eastern Pueblos, e.g. from Laguna to Isleta. The term also refers to the kachina dancers, masked members of the tribe who dress up as kachinas for religious ceremonies, and kachina dolls, wooden dolls representing kachinas which are given as gifts to children.
A kachina can represent anything in the natural world or cosmos, from a revered ancestor to an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept. There are more than 400 different kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture. The local pantheon of kachinas varies in each pueblo community; there may be kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having humanlike relationships; they may have uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, and may marry and have children. Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use their particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. One observer has written:
The central theme of the kachina cult is the presence of life in all objects that fill the universe. Everything has an essence or a life force, and humans must interact with these or fail to survive.
- Kachina was the most widespread and practiced religion by the Pueblos two hundred years or so before the Spaniards came to the West.
The Zuni believe that the kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake which is reached through Listening Spring Lake located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River.
Full article ▸