kachina dancers

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Zuni Kachina Dancers

Kachinas are spirits or personifications of things in the real world. These spirits are believed to visit the Pueblo villages during the first half of the year. 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, Zuni 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 his particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. One observer has written: The central theme of the kachina (religion) 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 dancers, Shongopavi pueblo, Arizona
Photo of dance by kachina dancers of the Hopi pueblo of Shongopavi, Arizona, USA taken sometime between about 1870 and 1900. The dancers, which would be members of the local kiva religious societies, represent spirits called kachinas and wear elaborate masks. Changes to original work: Cropped out right image of stereo pair, converted to greyscale, adjusted brightness and contrast.

A kachina (/kəˈtʃiːnə/; also katchina, katcina, or katsina; 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. The kachina religion 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 figures representing kachinas which are given as gifts to children.