Hopi Theories of Creation
By Robert Morningside
The Hopi believe the Creator of Man is a woman.
The Sumerians believed the Creator of Man was a woman.
The Hopi believe the Father Creator is KA.
The Sumerians believed the Father Essence was KA.
The Hopi believe Taiowa, the Sun God, is the Creator of the Earth.
The Sumerians believe TA.EA was the Creator.
The Hopi believe two brothers had guardianship of the Earth.
The Sumerians believed two brothers had dominion over the Earth.
The Hopi believe Alo to be spiritual guides.
The Sumerians believed AL.U to be beings of Heaven.
The Hopi believe Kachinas (Kat’sinas) are the spirits of nature
and the messengers and teachers sent by the Great Spirit.
The Sumerians believed KAT.SI.NA were righteous ones sent of God.
The Hopi believe Eototo is the Father of Katsinas.
The Sumerians believed EA.TA was the Father of all beings.
The Hopi believe Chakwaina is the Chief of Warriors.
The Sumerians believed TAK.AN.U was the Heavenly Destroyer.
The Hopi believe Nan-ga-Sohu is the Chasing Star Katsina.
The Sumerians believed NIN.GIR.SU to be the Master of Starships.
The Hopi believe Akush to be the Dawn Katsina.
The Sumerians believed AK.U to be Beings of light.
The Hopi believe Danik to be Guardians in the Clouds.
The Sumerians believed DAK.AN to be Sky Warriors.
The Hopi believe Sotunangu is a Sky Katsina.
The Sumerians believed TAK.AN.IKU were Sky Warriors.
The Hopi name for the Pleaides is ChooChookam.
The Sumerians believed SHU. SHU.KHEM were the supreme Stars.
The Hopi believe Tapuat is the name of Earth.
The Sumerians believed Tiamat was the name of Earth.
The Hopi call a snake Chu’a.
The Sumerians called a snake SHU.
The Hopi word for “dead” is Mokee.
The Sumerians used KI. MAH to mean “dead.”
The Hopi use Omiq to mean above, up.
The Sumerians used AM.IK to mean looking to Heaven.
The Hopi believe Tuawta is One Who Sees Magic.
The Sumerians believed TUAT.U was One from the Other World.
The Hopi believe Pahana was the Lost Brother who would one day return to assist the Hopi and humankind.
The Sumerians would recognize PA.HA.NA as an Ancestor from heaven who would return.
In the beginning there were only two: Tawa, the Sun God, and Spider Woman (Kokyanwuhti) , the Earth Goddess. All the mysteries and the powers in the Above belonged to Tawa, while Spider Woman controlled the magic of the Below.
There was neither man nor woman, bird nor beast, no living thing until these Two willed it to be.
In time they decided there should be other gods to share their labors, so Tawa divided himself and there came Muiyinwuh, God of All Life Germs and Spider Woman divided herself and there came Huzruiwuhti, Woman of the Hard Substances (turquoise, silver, coral, shell,etc.).
Huzruiwuhti became the wife of Tawa and with him produced Puukonhoya, the Youth, and Palunhoya, the Echo, and later, Hicanavaiya, Man-Eagle, Plumed Serpent and many others.
Then did Tawa and Spider Woman have the Great Thought, they would make the Earth to be between the Above and the Below. As Tawa thought the features of the Earth, Spider women formed them from clay.
Then did Tawa think of animals and beasts and plants, all the while Spider-Woman formed them from the clay. At last, they decided they had enough, then they made great magic and breathed life into their creatures. Now Tawa decided they should make creatures in their image to lord over all the rest. Spider-Woman again formed them from clay. Again the Two breathed life into their creations. Spider-Woman called all the people so created to follow where she led.
Through all the Four Great Caverns of the Underworld, she led them, until they finally came to an opening, a sipapu, which led to the earth above.
How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun
Once upon a time, when our people first came up from the villages of the underworld,
there was no sun. There was no moon. They saw only dreary darkness and felt the
coldness. They looked hard for firewood, but in the darkness they found little.
One day as they stumbled around, they saw a light in the distance. The Chief sent a
messenger to see what caused the light. As the messenger approached it, he saw a small
field containing corn, beans, squash, watermelons, and other foods. All around the field a
great fire was burning. Nearby stood a straight, handsome man wearing around his neck a
turquoise necklace of four strands. Turquoise pendants hung from his ears.
“Who are you?” the owner of the field asked the messenger.
“My people and I have come from the cave world below,” the messenger replied. “And we suffer from the lack of light and the lack of food.”
“My name is Skeleton,” said the owner of the field. He showed the stranger the terrible
mask he often wore and then gave him some food. “Now return to your people and guide
them to my field.”
When all the people had arrived, the Skeleton began to give them food from his field. They
marveled that, although the crops seemed so small, there was enough food for everyone.
He gave them ears of corn for roasting; he gave them beans, squashes, and watermelons.
The people built fires for themselves and were happy.
Later, Skeleton helped them prepare fields of their own and to make fires around them. There they planted corn and soon harvested a good crop.
“Now we should move on,” the people said. “We want to find a place where we will live always.”
Away from the fires it was still dark. The Great Chiefs, at a council with Skeleton, decided to make a moon like the one they had enjoyed in the underworld.
They took a piece of well-prepared buffalo hide and cut from it a great circle. They
stretched the circle tightly over a wooden hoop and then painted it carefully with white
paint. When it was entirely dry, they mixed some black paint and painted, all around its
edge, completing the picture of the moon. When all of this was done, they attached a stick
to the disk and placed it on a large square of white cloth. Thus they made a symbol of the
Then the Great Chiefs selected one of the young men and bade him to stand on top of the
moon symbol. They took up the cloth by its corners and began to swing it back and forth,
higher and higher. As they were swinging it, they sang a magic song. Finally, with a mighty
heave, they threw the moon disk upward. It continued to fly swiftly, upward and eastward.
As the people watched, they suddenly saw light in the eastern sky. The light became brighter and brighter. Surely something was burning there, they thought. Then something bright with light rose in the east. That was the moon!
Although the moon made it possible for the people to move around with less stumbling,
its light was so dim that frequently the workers in the fields would cut up their food plants
instead of the weeds. It was so cold that fires had to be kept burning around the fields all
Again the Great Chiefs held a council with Skeleton, and again they decided that
something better must be done.
This time, instead of taking a piece of buffalo hide, they took a piece of warm cloth that
they themselves had woven while they were still in the underworld. They fashioned this as
they had fashioned the disk of buffalo hide, except that this time they painted the face of
the circle with a copper-coloured paint.
They painted eyes and a mouth on the disk and decorated the forehead with colours that
the Great Chiefs decided upon according to their desires. Around the circle, they then
wove a ring of corn husks, arranged in a zig zag design. Around the circle of corn husks,
they threaded a string of red hair from some animal. To the back of the disk, they
fastened a small ring of corn husks. Through that ring they poked a circle of eagle
To the top of each eagle feather, the old Chief tied a few little red feathers taken from the top of the head of a small bird. On the forehead of the circle, he attached an abalone shell. Then the sun disk was completed.
Again the Great Chiefs chose a young man to stand on top of the disk, which they had
placed on a large sheet. As they had done with the moon disk, they raised the cloth by
holding its corners. Then they swung the sun disk back and forth, back and forth, again
and again. With a mighty thrust, they threw the man and the disk far into the air. It
travelled fast into the eastern sky and disappeared.
All the people watched it carefully. In a short time, they saw light in the east as if a great
fire were burning. Soon the new sun rose and warmed the earth with its kindly rays.
Now with the moon to light the earth at night and the sun to light and warm it by day, all
the people decided to pick up their provisions and go on. As they started, the White
people took a trail that led them far to the south. The Hopis took one to the north, and the
Pueblos took one midway between the two. Thus they wandered on to the places where
they were to live.
The Hopis wandered a long time, building houses and planting crops until they reached the mesas where they now live. The ruins of the ancient villages are scattered to the very beginnings of the great river of the canyon–the Colorado.
How the Hopi Reached Their World
When the world was new, the ancient people and the ancient creatures did not live on the top of the earth. They lived under it. All was darkness, all was blackness, above the earth as well as below it.
There were four worlds: this one on top of the earth, and below it three cave worlds, one
below the other. None of the cave worlds was large enough for all the people and the
They increased so fast in the lowest cave world that they crowded it. They were poor and
did not know where to turn in the blackness. When they moved, they jostled one another.
The cave was filled with the filth of the people who lived in it. No one could turn to spit
without spitting on another. No one could cast slime from his nose without its falling on
someone else. The people filled the place with their complaints and with their expressions
Some people said, “It is not good for us to live in this way.”
“How can it be made better?” one man asked.
“Let it be tried and seen!” answered another.
Two Brothers, one older and one younger, spoke to the priest- chiefs of the people in the cave world, “Yes, let it be tried and seen. Then it shall be well. By our wills it shall be well.”
The Two Brothers pierced the roofs of the caves and descended to the lowest world, where
people lived. The Two Brothers sowed one plant after another, hoping that one of them
would grow up to the opening through which they themselves had descended and yet
would have the strength to bear the weight of men and creatures. These, the Two Brothers
hoped, might climb up the plant into the second cave world. One of these plants was a
At last, after many trials, the cane became so tall that it grew through the opening in the
roof, and it was so strong that men could climb to its top. It was jointed so that it was like
a ladder, easily ascended. Ever since then, the cane has grown in joints as we see it today
along the Colorado River.
Up this cane many people and beings climbed to the second cave world. When a part of
them had climbed out, they feared that that cave also would be too small. It was so dark
that they could not see how large it was. So they shook the ladder and caused those who
were coming up it to fall back. Then they pulled the ladder out. It is said that those who
were left came out of the lowest cave later. They are our brothers west of us.
After a long time the second cave became filled with men and beings, as the first had
been. Complaining and wrangling were heard as in the beginning. Again the cane was
placed under the roof vent, and once more men and beings entered the upper cave world.
Again, those who were slow to climb out were shaken back or left behind. Though larger,
the third cave was as dark as the first and second. The Two Brothers found fire. Torches
were set ablaze, and by their light men built their huts and kivas, or travelled from place
While people and the beings lived in this third cave world, times of evil came to them.
Women became so crazed that they neglected all things for the dance. They even forgot
their babies. Wives became mixed with wives, so that husbands did not know their own
from others. At that time there was no day, only night, black night. Throughout this night,
women danced in the kivas (men’s “clubhouses” ), ceasing only to sleep. So the fathers had
to be the mothers of the little ones. When these little ones cried from hunger, the fathers
carried them to the kivas, where the women were dancing. Hearing their cries, the mothers
came and nursed them, and then went back to their dancing. Again the fathers took care
of the children.
These troubles caused people to long for the light and to seek again an escape from
darkness. They climbed to the fourth world, which was this world. But it too was in
darkness, for the earth was closed in by the sky, just as the cave worlds had been closed
in by their roofs. Men went from their lodges and worked by the light of torches and fires.
They found the tracks of only one being, the single ruler of the unpeopled world, the
tracks of Corpse Demon or Death. The people tried to follow these tracks, which led
eastward. But the world was damp and dark, and people did not know what to do in the
darkness. The waters seemed to surround them, and the tracks seemed to lead out into
With the people were five beings that had come forth with them from the cave worlds:
Spider, Vulture, Swallow, Coyote, and Locust. The people and these beings consulted
together, trying to think of some way of making light. Many, many attempts were made,
but without success. Spider was asked to try first. She spun a mantle of pure white cotton.
It gave some light but not enough. Spider therefore became our grandmother.
Then the people obtained and prepared a very white deerskin that had not been pierced in
any spot. From this they made a shield case, which they painted with turquoise paint. It
shed forth such brilliant light that it lighted the whole world. It made the light from the
cotton mantle look faded. So the people sent the shield-light to the east, where it became
Down in the cave world Coyote had stolen a jar that was very heavy, so very heavy that he
grew weary of carrying it. He decided to leave it behind, but he was curious to see what it
contained. Now that light had taken the place of darkness, he opened the jar. From it
many shining fragments and sparks flew out and upward, singeing his face as they passed
him. That is why the coyote has a black face to this day. The shining fragments and sparks
flew up to the sky and became stars.
By these lights the people found that the world was indeed very small and surrounded by
waters, which made it damp. The people appealed to Vulture for help. He spread his wings
and fanned the waters, which flowed away to the east and to the west until mountains
began to appear.
Across the mountains the Two Brothers cut channels. Water rushed through the channels,
and wore their courses deeper and deeper. Thus the great canyons and valleys of the
world were formed. The waters have kept on flowing and flowing for ages. The world has
grown drier, and continues to grow drier and drier.
Now that there was light, the people easily followed the tracks of Death eastward over the
new land that was appearing. Hence Death is our greatest father and master. We followed
his tracks when we left the cave worlds, and he was the only being that awaited us on the
great world of waters where this world is now.
Although all the water had flowed away, the people found the earth soft and damp. That is
why we can see today the tracks of men and of many strange creatures between the place
toward the west and the place where we came from the cave world.
Since the days of the first people, the earth has been changed to stone, and all the tracks
have been preserved as they were when they were first made.
When people had followed in the tracks of Corpse Demon but a short distance, they
overtook him. Among them were two little girls. One was the beautiful daughter of a great
priest. The other was the child of somebody-or- other She was not beautiful, and she was
jealous of the little beauty. With the aid of Corpse Demon the jealous girl caused the death
of the other child. This was the first death.
When people saw that the girl slept and could not be awakened, that she grew cold and
that her heart had stopped beating, her father, the great priest, grew angry.
“Who has caused my daughter to die?” he cried loudly.
But the people only looked at each other.
“I will make a ball of sacred meal,” said the priest. “I will throw it into the air, and when it
falls it will strike someone on the head. The one it will strike I shall know as the one whose
magic and evil art have brought my tragedy upon me.”
The priest made a ball of sacred flour and pollen and threw it into the air. When it fell, it
struck the head of the jealous little girl, the daughter of somebody-or- other. Then the
priest exclaimed, “So you have caused this thing! You have caused the death of my
He called a council of the people, and they tried the girl. They would have killed her if she
had not cried for mercy and a little time. Then she begged the priest and his people to
return to the hole they had all come out of and look down it.
“If you still wish to destroy me, after you have looked into the hole,” she said, “I will die
So the people were persuaded to return to the hole leading from the cave world. When
they looked down, they saw plains of beautiful flowers in a land of everlasting summer and
fruitfulness. And they saw the beautiful little girl, the priest’s daughter, wandering among
the flowers. She was so happy that she paid no attention to the people. She seemed to
have no desire to return to this world.
“Look!” said the girl who had caused her death. “Thus it shall be with all the children of
“When we die,” the people said to each other, “we will return to the world we have come
from. There we shall be happy. Why should we fear to die? Why should we resent death?”
So they did not kill the little girl. Her children became the powerful wizards and witches of
the world, who increased in numbers as people increased. Her children still live and still
have wonderful and dreadful powers.
Then the people journeyed still farther eastward. As they went, they discovered Locust in
“Where did you come from?” they asked.
“I came out with you and the other beings,” he replied.
“Why did you come with us on our journey?” they asked.
“So that I might be useful,” replied Locust.
But the people, thinking that he could not be useful, said to him, “You must return to the
place you came from.”
But Locust would not obey them. Then the people became so angry at him that they ran
arrows through him, even through his heart. All the blood oozed out of his body and he
died. After a long time he came to life again and ran about, looking as he had looked
before, except that he was black.
The people said to one another, “Locust lives again, although we have pierced him through
and through. Now he shall indeed be useful and shall journey with us. Who besides Locust
has this wonderful power of renewing his life? He must possess the medicine for the
renewal of the lives of others. He shall become the medicine of mortal wounds and of
So today the locust is at first white, as was the first locust that came forth with the
ancients. Like him, the locust dies, and after he has been dead a long time, he comes to
life again– black. He is our father, too. Having his medicine, we are the greatest of men.
The locust medicine still heals mortal wounds.
After the ancient people had journeyed a long distance, they became very hungry. In their
hurry to get away from the lower cave world, they had forgotten to bring seed. After they
had done much lamenting, the Spirit of Dew sent the Swallow back to bring the seed of
corn and of other foods. When Swallow returned, the Spirit of Dew planted the seed in the
ground and chanted prayers to it. Through the power of these prayers, the corn grew and
ripened in a single day.
So for a long time, as the people continued their journey, they carried only enough seed
for a day’s planting. They depended upon the Spirit of Dew to raise for them in a single
day an abundance of corn and other foods. To the Corn Clan, he gave this seed, and for a
long time they were able to raise enough corn for their needs in a very short time.
But the powers of the witches and wizards made the time for raising foods grow longer
and longer. Now, sometimes, our corn does not have time to grow old and ripen in the
ear, and our other foods do not ripen. If it had not been for the children of the little girl
whom the ancient people let live, even now we would not need to watch our cornfields
whole summers through, and we would not have to carry heavy packs of food on our
As the ancient people travelled on, the children of the little girl tried their powers and
caused other troubles. These mischief-makers stirred up people who had come out of the
cave worlds before our ancients had come. They made war upon our ancients. The wars
made it necessary for the people to build houses whenever they stopped travelling. They
built their houses on high mountains reached by only one trail, or in caves with but one
path leading to them, or in the sides of deep canyons. Only in such places could they sleep
Only a small number of people were able to climb up from their secret hiding places and
emerge into the Fourth World. Legends reveal the Grand Canyon is where these people
emerged. From there they began their search for the homes the Two Brothers intended for
These few were the Hopi Indians that now live on the Three Mesas of northeastern
Soyal and Setting the Mood
Soyal is a 16 day ceremonial period, practiced by the Hopi for generations, that is
supposed to establish the mood for the coming year. All major Hopi ceremonies last 16
days. Other ceremonies may last 9 days. Like other ceremonies, Soyal begins with an
_expression of assurance that the ceremony will accomplish its purpose, and end with a
feast of celebration and a public Kachina dance. The dance acknowledges the success of
the ritual and shares its blessings with the other members of the village.
As we follow what the Traditionalists have done for all of their years, we come immediately
to attitudes and feelings. “Soyal time,” the Elders say, “is a good time to teach children to
respect others, so they will continue to practice it throughout their lives.”
“There must be no disturbing loud behavior or running during Soyal.” Why not? Because
loud behavior is self-centered. It interrupts others, and it disturbs the deities who are
involved in the cycle as well.
Below are some ideas about creating your own Soyal and how to benefit from these
Make it a sixteen day period in January during which you will do the following things.
While you are doing them, concentrate on attitudes and feelings that will bring you closer
to loved ones and to the rest of the world. Remember that as you carry out these actions
you will achieve a magnificent sense of inner peace.
As you work, your problems will either go away on their own, or solutions to them will
come to you. You will fret less since everything is being taken care of. Beyond this, you will
be building an inner strength that will shield you when future prophecies are fulfilled.
Following the instructions will accomplish your survival in every way.
- Use wholesome words when you talk to or describe people. Uplift, and do not hurt others.
- Ask the Spirits to listen to you and to bring the rain of loving care down upon the whole world.
- Guard against disturbing or loud behavior.
- Teach children to respect others, and tell them why they should do this.
- Think of the earth as Mother Earth or Earth Mother, a Spirit person who is a living organism who feels and responds.
- During these sixteen days, do not dig in the earth, since Mother Earth is joining you in this Soyal period of peace and preparation.
- Talk with those who are close to you of the past, the present, and the future. Discuss what is going on in the world, and try to determine where it is heading. Do not postpone the strengthening of your bonds with family members. As Maasaw knew it would, this has become a neglected area in our way of life here in the United States, and it is something we need to correct.
- Review with yourself and these same close ones the Divine laws. These laws will vary
with different cultures and religions. But we all know, or at one time did know, our own,
and we know the Hopi laws now. Talking about them will refresh our minds about what we were taught to do, and will expose how far we have strayed from these mandates. If we do not do well at this discussion, we will know that we need to return to our Sources so that we can do better next year.
- Review your own conduct during the past year, and the conduct and attitudes of people as a whole.
- Make an honest self-examination, and see where you can make improvements. This is a touchy topic, and one that can easily be ignored. If we hope to do better than we have, we must take a good look at ourselves and be honest about what we find.
- Make plans for the forthcoming year. Prepare in advance the known and the unknown. This will include a review of the prophecies. Keep an eye on what is happening at Hotevilla, as well as around the world. What do YOU need to do to get ready for the Great Purification? It is wise to think this over.
- Remember that the Creator, Earth Mother, Father Sun, and the other Helper Spirits, the
controllers of movement here and in the universe, are making their own plans, based upon
the course the Great Play is following. Try to determine what this course might be, and
The February ceremony is Pa-Mu-Ya, a purification ceremony.
How the Hopi Were Named
This is a very long story, so here are the basics.
When the Hopi were first created they had no name. They were created with everlasting life
and placed upon the earth to live as one, spiritually.
All was provided for them; they did not work for their food, there was no illness, and they
were to live forever.
They were given laws to live by, but they broke them. For this disobedience they were
changed into body and soul, sickness came into their bodies, and they became mortal.
Some wanted to live simply, but others used cleverness to make things that were not good
for them. Those who wanted only peace emerged into a new world. In this new, beautiful
world the Great Spirit, Maasau’u, came to visit them and to test their wisdom.
The people were divided into groups, each with their own leaders that they had chosen.
Then Maasau’u placed ears of corn of different lengths in front of each leader.
As each leader pushed forward to grab the biggest ear of corn the Great Spirit gave that
group a name and a language.
The humblest leader picked the shortest ear of corn, and the name “Hopi” was given to
those people: the little ones.
Hopi means to be humble and peaceful, but if the people do not live the Hopi way the
name will be taken from them.
The Hopi base their existence on faith only, and their story is a fascinating tale of that
faith sustaining them: “White men come, white men go, but we shall always be here.”
According to Hopi beliefs, this is the fourth creation of life; the three preceeding ending in
destruction. Each time conflict, which is not a part of The Hopi Way, came about as men
forgot or denied the plan of the Creator. The faithful were protected underground with the
Ant People, and the kivas of today are representations of those anthills.
The Hopi creation story is about a succession through underworlds and each of these is
associated with a specific direction, color, mineral, plant, and bird.
- The First World: “Endless Space” contained the First People and was a pure and happy
universe. It was destroyed by fire.
- The Second World: “Dark Midnight” was destroyed by cold and ice. The Chosen People
survived in an anthill and then climbed up a ladder into the third world.
- The Third World was destroyed by floods. Spider Woman saved these ancestors by
hiding them in reeds and floating them to dry land into the Fourth World.
- The Fourth World: “The World Complete.” The caretaker of this world is Masau’u, The Fire God. This world is unlike the previous three, which have been blocked by waters and ice. In the past worlds they had been well-provided for, but the fourth world has proven to be harsh, with deserts, marshes, mountains, and violent weather. The Hopi say this world is now ending and the Fifth World has begun.
For a source of research, a book entitled The Truth has some unususal ideas. There are
other articles connected to this link, and a story of a trip down the Colorado River 90 years
ago which led to the discovery of the Hopi connection with Egypt and Tibet.
The story of the Hopi journeys shows knowledge that is a study in itself. They speak of
struggling through jungles, of building cities and leaving ruins behind. We continue to
trace these connections.
The Hopi say that their ancestors migrated from many places and settled near the Grand
Canyon. Their story is an interesting one that is also partly covered in the Chaco Canyon
The cliff paintings at Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde are guides for Hopi clansmen to
follow, and they claim to have built the snake-shaped mounds in the eastern United
A common thread weaves its way across this continent to lend substance to this amazing
story: The “putting on of the horns,” which is the phrase used by the Iroquois to denote
attaining chief status, is also of the Hopi, and many other tribes.
An interesting note to all these connections: Tibet is exactly on the opposite side of the
planet from the Hopi Reservation. The Tibetan word for “sun” is the Hopi word for “moon.”
The Hopi word for “sun” is the Tibetan word for “moon.”
There are many relationships with other peoples, both in the area, and afar, that can be
traced by the language. The Hopi language is of the Uto-Aztecan family, which is closely
related to the Northern Paiute and the Aztecs of Mexico, and the Hopi dialect is Shoshone.
Many Pueblo people along the Rio Grande speak the Tanoan languages, which are of the
second branch of the Azteco-Tanoan group. This is also the language of the Kiowa. Others
in the same area speak Keresan languages, which belong to the Hokan-Siouan group. The
Hopi recognize a distant relationship with all the peoples along the Rio Grande as well as
with the Pima and Papago. The Kiowa-Apache share a language group with the Hopi,
which leads full circle to the Navajo. An article connecting all these peoples by language is
forth-coming, and far-reaching research has led to Ireland. There will be many family
A continuing mystery of the area are the Zuni, whose way of life is very like the Hopi, but
who speak a language unlike any other Native American Indian peoples. Strangely enough,
research of the Zuni has led to a Libyan connection. More to follow.
The Hopi Way
The Hopi Way is one of peace and is holistic; their name Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, can be
interpreted as “The Peaceful Little People.” All of daily life is part of their religion, and their
belief is to help others improve their life.
Twelve clan groups, called phratries, have many clans within them, each with its own
ceremonies and sacred fetishes. Though men are the religious leaders, the children inherit
the clan of their mother.
Though the men own the livestock and the fruit trees, the women own all the land, even
that under the fruit trees. As many as 24 varieties of corn are grown and due to arid
conditions the roots may grow 20 feet down. Each plant has many ears of corn. To
supplement the staple of corn the Hopi gather more than 100 wild plants.
Kivas are the center of religious life and are mostly used by the men. Stone walls line the
underground chambers and a hole sipapu in the floor of the kiva symbolizes the exit from
the Ant People‘s domain.
Religion is life for the Hopi and binds the village into a solid community. Most ceremonies
relate to rain. Katsinas or kachinas, of which there are about 350, are the guarding spirits
that come down from their world at winter solstice, remaining in the people until summer
Instruction in the Hopi religion begins at an early age for the children. Dolls called tithu
are given them to represent the katsinum. These are not toys, but reminders. First of these
given to the child represents Hahai’i wuhti, the mother of the katsinum.
Through childhood obedience is instilled by rewards and punishments, which includes
whippings administered by men in katsina masks. To the children these are the true
katsinas. Somewhere between the ages of 8 to 13 the men behind the masks reveal
themselves to the child and so begins their initiation into the adult world; they will become
the men behind the masks.
The religious dances also feature men wearing masks to portray these katsinas, with the
snake dance as the final ceremony. There is a prophecy tied to the katsina dancers: When
the Saquasohuh (Blue Star) katsina removes his mask in front of the uninitiated all Hopi
ceremonies will end and faith will end also. A renewing will take place in Oraibi, beginning
a new cycle of Hopi life.
Saquasohuh is believed by some to represent the Hale-Bopp comet. The Wuwuchim
ceremony includes a song that tells of this, and this song was sang in 1914, preceeding
WWI, in 1940, pre WWII, and again in 1961. The Hopi say that the emergence into the Fifth
World of the future has begun.
There are nine prophecies connected with the nine worlds. Four have been fulfilled by the previous three worlds and the present world; the Fifth is being fulfilled. The future prophecies are of the worlds to come, and the world of the Creator, Taiowa, and Sotuknang, the Creator’s nephew.
The Hopi wear their hair in bangs as a window to recognize the True White Brother, and
also as a sign for him to recognize them.
Editor’s note: I have a viewpoint on this and express it in the Clamor Seven: The True White Brother
The Ceremonial Calendar
Preparation for the ceremonies begins in the kivas, some of which are rectangular, with
the eastern pueblos kivas being round or oval. Prayer is offered before the altar, and
sacred cornmeal, tobacco, and feathered prayer-sticks are used in this offering. Tobacco
smoke is rain clouds.
The ceremonial dancers send a prayer to the spirits below by stamping on a cottonwood
covering of the sipapu before coming out to dance.
The Crier Chief comes forth to announce all ceremonies. Kachina dances begin with the
dance leader following “grandfather” into the plaza. Drummers join in and all move in a
counter-clockwise direction, with the dance leader in the center. In the social dances the
singers and drummers remain apart.
- NOVEMBER: Wuwuchim is a 16 day ceremony which is the first of a three-part
celebration of the creation of the universe. The religious societies perform the New Fire
ceremony in their respective kivas, and the young men are initiated into the tribe.
- DECEMBER: Soyal is the appearance of the first kachina at Winter Solstice. He wears a
turquoise helmet and walks like a toddler, representing the rebirth of new life.
- FEBRUARY: Powamu, which means “purification” , includes the bean dance and the
initiation of the small children into the tribal societies. Monsters enter the village and go
to each house, threatening to eat children who have misbehaved, and demanding fresh
(It is my opinion that these monsters represent hunger and the lesson of preparing for
winter is well-taught. )
In photos, I have seen these men are fully dressed in leggings, footwear, and robes.
They are wearing masks with long beaks and many teeth, and headdresses of feathers.
Each was carrying a bow. In the kivas, beans are sprouted and this is the proof of life in the
middle of winter.
(Another opinion: Perhaps these beans are sprouted by holding them under the
armpits. Sprouting seeds doubles their nutrition and this is a clever way to survive without
- MARCH through JUNE: Plaza dances.
- JULY: Niman, is the Home Dance, another 16-day ceremony. These are the last dances
of the kachinas before they return to their spirit home. Hemis is the main kachina in the
- AUGUST: In alternate years either the Snake Dance or the Flute Dance is performed.
- SEPTEMBER: Lakon, a basket dance, and Marawu.These are the first of the women’s
societies dances. These celebrate the completion and the harvesting of the crops and are
- OCTOBER: Owaqlt, a basket dance by the women’s societies. This is the close of the
yearly cycle and again in November the creation dances begin.
Hopi Snake Dance
The Snake Dance requires two weeks of ritual preparation, and the snakes are gathered.
They are kept watch over by children until time for the dance. By percentage of the local
snake population most are rattlesnakes, but all are handled freely.
The dancers then take an emetic and dance with the snakes in their mouths, with an
Antelope Priest in attendance. He strokes the snakes with a feather and sometimes helps
support the weight of the larger snakes. After the dance, the snakes are released to carry
prayers. According to people who have investigated, the emetics are not an anti-venom.
Hopi Flute Dance
The Flute Dance is a nine-day ceremony that begins at the main village spring, with the
Flute Boy and the Flute Maidens followed by the Flute Priests. Then the Flute Society enters
the plaza walking over sacred cornmeal, which represents rain clouds. This group is led by
the Kaletaka, the warrior.
The sacred clowns of the Hopi have a unique function in their society and the religious
right to enact by negative example of what should not be done. Humiliation and ridicule are
their methods, and no one is immune to their rudeness. Stripping another naked is not
going too far. Misbehavior of people in the community is dramatized, and the culprit takes
The clowns are the ultimate tradition keepers. If work needs to be done the clowns recruit
the workers. They cannot be denied.
White ways, such as money, missionaries, and teachers sent to the Hopi have been the
subject of the clowns’ derision.
In the 1960’s an unusual drama was inspired. An eerie sound was made by twirling a piece
of hose, and two aluminum pie tins were thrown over the houses. The clowns came down
from the clouds (over the rooftops) dressed in shiny silver and painted green, demanding
to be taken to the leaders. All this was done to make fun of a leader at a nearby village
who was making a public uproar about UFO’s.
Many Hopi ceremonies were photographed in 1904 – 1906, but beginning in 1911 all
cameras were forbidden. This now includes recording and sketching of Hopi villages and
ceremonies. At last report 10 of the villages no longer allow visitors for religious
ceremonies. Some are closed entirely.
- The Hopi Stone-Eater Kachina: Owanja-Zrozro (The Mad One) is their deity to the
reality of psychiatric disorder.
- The Hopi place of emergence “Sipayu” is now almost closed because man has departed
from true ways.
- The Hale-Bopp comet is considered to be an end-time sign.
- To the Hopi the present world is the fourth; to the Navajo the present world is the
- The Hopi must escape to above worlds because of flood – or contamination.
The Hopi and Navajo have these beliefs in common:
- Sandpainting for sale always contains errors so as not to offend the higher powers.
- The PLEIADES Constellation is painted on Black God’s cheek. He arranged these “star
rocks” in the night sky.
- Origin myths are not to be recorded, only told to the initiated. This has changed, and peoples from all around the planet are coming forth with ancient teachings.
- Bad behavior explained: “He doesn’t know any better, he had no grandfather to give
him the stories.”
The Hopi Today
In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur “settled” the land dispute with the Navajo/Hopi
Partition and the Hopi reservation was established along the southern end of Black Mesa,
where families had lived at least 650 years ago (circa 1340). Now they are completely
surrounded by the Navajo Reservation.
What the map does not show is there is a small Navajo Reservation inside the Hopi
Because land is part of each tribe’s religion complications arose concerning the use of land
by people living on land that is considered to be holy. And so came about The Bennett
Freeze. Nobody is happy.
All tribes have factions. There has always been the concept of “friendly” as opposed to
“hostile.” Here are generalized definitions of those:
- The “friendlies” are the people who used to hang around the trading posts and forts,
and who are today the tribal leaders who argue semantics and deal with the U.S
government. Many of the traditionalist people, the “hostiles,” do not consider these
leaders as representatives.
- The “hostiles” are the traditionalists who own a digging stick and live on faith and 5 to
10 inches of rain a year. They do not want their land mined by anyone, they do not want
electrical lines strung, as these are the “cobwebs” in their prophecies, and they are not
interested in “outside” help, or outside opinions.
With that in mind, you will understand these figures better: The Hopi annual budget is
about $28 million, with one-half of that coming from the U.S. Federal Budget, and the
other main revenue is from the Peabody Coal Company.
This is on-going research and far from complete:
There are eleven Hopi villages in NE Arizona on Black Mesa, a rock land table, and the
major ones are on three high mesas. The current Hopi population is between 10,000 and
12,000, and some information says that there are 12 villages. We will have further
information on the origin and development of these villages.
Each Hopi village is independent, with its own style of government. Style of crafts vary by
village, but Kachina dolls (tithu) are made by all. Any dolls that are sold always have errors
in them, as the true tithu are not for sale.
First and Third Mesa are separated by 15 miles, with a total land area of about 500 square
miles. The names in parentheses are the commonly used Anglo spelling according to
First Mesa: Their craft specialty is polychrome pottery.
- Hanoki: (Hano or Tewa) This village was founded by refugees after the 1680 Pueblo
- Sitsomovi (Sichomovi)
Second Mesa: Craft specialty is silver overlay jewelry and coiled basketry.
- Songoopavi (Shongopavi)
- Musungnuvi (Mishongnovi)
- Supawlavi (Shipaulovi)
Third Mesa: Craft specialty is wicker and twill basketry.
- Hoatvela (Hotevilla): This is a newer community A division of the Hopi, first of three
prophesied, took place in 1906 when Chief You-kew-ma and his followers were forced out of Oraibi by a pushing contest and began the new community of Hotevilla.
- Paaqavi (Bacavi)
- Munqapi (Moencopi)(Moenkopi ) This is an outlying village.
- Kiqotsmovi (Kykotsmovi)
- Orayvi (Oraibi)
Many of the villages are now closed to visitors for the religious ceremonies and it is best to
inquire first. Photos, sketching, and video and sound recording are prohibited, and
questions are disrespectful. The Hopi share some religious beliefs with other tribes, but
there is no world like the Hopi and it must be seen first-hand. Anthropologists agree that
the Hopi are “the real thing.”