Story page 1
contained on this page was found by searching the Internet and is presented
in no order of importance. I have listed the pages where the information
was taken and the date and time I found the information. If, in
your travels with Kokopelli, you find some interesting information about
Kokopelli that you believe should be on this page, please send me an email
with details and I will post it here.
Date/Time: 03/07/2001 18:10:55
KoKopelli is: Ancient Hopi Indian God of Powerful Communication
Who is kokopelli (or Kokopilau)? This magical character has held
our interest since the first petroglyhs were carved around 3,000 years
ago. He predates even Oraibi, the oldest continuous settlement in North
America. Hopi legend tells us that upon their entrance onto this, the
fourth world, the Hopi people were met by an Eagle who shot an arrow into
the two "mahus," insects which carried the power of heat. They
immediately began playing such uplifting melodies on their flutes that
they healed their own pierced bodies. The Hopi then began their separate
migrations and each "mahu" would scatter seeds of fruits and
vegetables onto the barren land. Over them, each played his flute to bring
warmth and make the seeds grow. His name -- KOKO for wood and Pilau for
hump (which was the bag of seeds he always carried)-- was given to him
on this long journey. It is said that he draws that heat from the center
of the Earth. He has come down to us as the loving spirit of fertility
-- of the Earth and humanity. His invisible presence is felt whenever
life come forth from seed -- plants or animals.
In ancient Indian legend, Kokopelli the flute player was the symbol
of happiness and joy. He talked to the wind and the sky. His flute could
be heard in the Spring breeze, bringing warmth after the winter cold.
Kokopelli embodies everything pure and spiritual about music. He
was also thought of as a fertility god and traveling prankster. He would
visit villages playing his flute, carrying his songs on his back. Everyone
would sing and dance the night away. In the morning, when he left, the
crops were plentiful and all the women were pregnant.
There are many stories of Kokopelli. One is that he is responsible
for the end of winter and the coming of spring. Native American legend
has it that when the Kokopelli comes playing his flute the Sun comes out,
the snow melts, the green grass grows, the birds come out and begin to
sing, and all the animals gather around to hear his songs. Kokopelli and
his flute bring the Spring out of the Winter.
Kokopelli's female counterpart is Kokopelli Mana.
Of course the ancient Greeks were not the only peoples to understand
and honor the spirit of the trickster.
In the United States all the many Native American tribes have their
own unique versions of the trickster spirit.
One of these tricksters has become quite popularized in recent
His name is Kokopelli, the hunchbacked flute player. Another of
his other nicknames is the "Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers."
The reasoning behind his nickname is not immediately recognizable
from the modern depictions of Kokopelli such as the one here....
It's felt that Kokopelli's image was "cleaned up" over
the passing of years due much in part to the influence of the many Catholic
priests who came to the American Southwest to Christianize the "heathen"
Kokopelli's hump was said to be full of seeds. These were seeds
he scattered on all his journeys, and symbolized the semen of the male
principle to be laid to rest in the earth.
Kokopelli's flute music soothed the good earth, and made it ready
to receive his seed....
And BTW -- the flute which Kokopelli played was a nose flute. (It
all sounds a bit messy to me....)
Another interesting story regarding a Native American trickster
comes from the Winnebago tribe.
In this version of the Trickster -- he apparently had a penis which
he could detach and send down river to "have his way" with the
young maidens who were innocently bathing in the stream.
Date/Time: 03/06/2001 18:54:49
ON THE TRAIL OF KOKOPELLI
Text and Photos Jay W. Sharp
The Southwest Indians’ Humpbacked Flute Player, commonly known by
the Hopi word "Kokopelli," usually appears on stone or ceramics
or plaster as part of a galaxy of ancient characters and symbols. On a
steep canyon wall above the Little Colorado river north of Springerville,
Arizona, however, a Kokopelli pecked into a basaltic boulder appears in
Against the black rock surface formed by primal forces, this strange
and lonely figure, with its apparent mal-formed back and long flute, seems
to drift through the infinite vastness of space, transcending time and
place, sending his plaintive music across the universe. There is a sense
of omnipresence, of the eternal. The early artist – probably a shaman,
or medicine man, seeking an entranceway to the spirit world – may
have understood a profound truth, and he may have intentionally used the
surface to express the universality of that truth.
Of course, he may have simply used the boulder’s surface as a convenient
place to peck a Kokopelli figure.
There is no way to know with certainty what the artist had in mind,
but his work can set your imagination churning.
Kokopelli has stirred imaginations for a long time. Of the lexicon of
characters featured in the age-old religions, rituals, folk tales, ceramics,
rock art and murals of Southwestern Indians, there are few more enduring
than Kokopelli. He is so irresistibly charismatic that he had been reinvented
time and again for well over 1000 years by southwestern artists, craftsmen
and storytellers. The process continues to this day.
In the modern genre, he usually wears a kilt and sash and a feathered
headdress. Back arced forward like a rainbow, he plays his ancient instrument.
He dances solemnly. He graces paintings, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry,
textiles and books in galleries and festivals in New Mexico, Arizona,
Utah, Colorado and western Texas. He is an icon of the region.
In earlier times, Kokopelli was far more than an icon. There is, in fact,
considerable evidence that he was an important deity to Southwestern Indians.
His images are among the most widely distributed of any in the prehistoric
and historic Indian sites of the Southwest. Kokopelli may have been as
important to the Southwestern Indians as Abraham is to Jews or Paul, to
Ubiquitous as the figure is, the origins of Kokopelli as a deity and the
evolution of his role in Southwestern Indian life are difficult if not
impossible to reconstruct. It is like trying to assemble an immense and
mysterious jigsaw puzzle made up of a jumble of a few distinguishable
pieces, many indistinguishable pieces, innumerable missing pieces, and
numerous possibly unrelated pieces.
In classic form, a silhouetted and sometimes phallic Kokopelli appears
to either suffer a humped back or to carry a bulging pack. He plays his
flute like a New Orleans jazz musician plays a clarinet. He may be depicted
as walking to some now unknown destination, lying on his back, sitting
with crossed legs, dancing to a prehistoric beat, making love to a woman,
even perching on the head of another figure
He appears in many forms. In Galisteo Basin rock art in New Mexico, for
instance, he takes on the guise of a humpbacked rabbit. At Sand Island,
Utah, he appears as a flute-playing mountain sheep. In rock art on West
Mesa, near Albuquerque, Kokopelli wears a headdress, necklaces and a kilt.
On rock art south of Holbrook, Arizona, he wears a kilt and sash. On a
prehistoric bowl from the Zuni reservation, he appears as an insect, possibly
the locust which led the Pueblo people’s mythological emergence
from the underworld onto the surface of the earth. On rock art in the
Arizona’s Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly and near Moab, Utah,
Kokopelli turns up with a bird for a head.
He is also represented in many styles. Unmistakable Kokopelli images in
rock art, for example, range from stick figures in Chaco Canyon to spare,
abstract stylizations in Colorado’s San Canyon to simple outlines
near Arizona’s Hardscrabble Wash to solid figures near Velarde,
New Mexico. Elegant Kokopelli images painted on ceramics ten centuries
ago by the Hohokam, a southern Arizona Pueblo culture, have become the
prototype for modern portrayals.
As indicated by his images, Kokopelli seems to have played a featured
role in numerous defining moments of Southwestern Native American life.
He leads processions of people, perhaps on migrations. He participates
with costumed shaman figures in tribal rituals. He plays his flute for
dances in tribal ceremonies. He joins with other figures to illustrate
tribal myths. In hunting-magic scenes, he seeks to ensure success for
men carrying bows and, sometimes, lances. He impregnates women. He participates
in birthing scenes. Among ancient rain and water symbols, he plays his
flute to plead for moisture sufficient for his tribe’s corn, beans
and squash to grow.
On occasions, multiple Humpbacked Flute Players appear in a single scene,
perhaps seeking to redouble chances for fertility and prosperity.
Kokopelli’s guises, styles and roles have mystified scholars for
decades. They have prompted divergent lines of research, given rise to
diverse theories, and led to some downright silly speculation. Yet another
layer of mystery about Kokopelli’s origin and evolution lies in
possible forerunners and derivatives.
One possible forerunner could have been simply flute players, lacking
hump or phallus, such as those which appear in Canyon de Chelly rock art
dating approximately 600 AD.
Another possible related figures includes a humpbacked, phallic figure
which is shown carrying a staff rather than playing a flute. One such
example was painted on a bowl fashioned by the Mimbres Indians of Southwestern
New Mexico some 900 to 1000 years ago.
Yet another possible forerunner includes humpbacked, phallic figures which
carry bows rather than play flutes. Such figures are painted on the wall
of Fire Temple in Mesa Verde National Park in Southwestern Colorado.
One of the more elaborate figures which could be a Kokopelli-type derivative
was pecked by an 18th century Navajo shaman into a canyon wall at a sacred
site in Northwestern New Mexico’s Largo drainage system. Surrounded
by other symbols chiseled into the rock, this regal figure stands on muscled
legs, wears a headdress and decorated kilt, and is depicted holding a
staff rather than playing a flute. He bears, not a hump, but rather a
rainbow-outlined pack adorned with feathers and filled with seeds.
This site, like other rock art sites in the Largo Canyon complex, is still
revered by traditional Navajos. Vandals have defaced it in some areas,
an act akin to desecrating a church, a synagogue or a mosque.
The relationships, if any, between Kokopelli and those figures which feature
only a hump or just a flute is not clear and may never be clear.
The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which are available to us have produced
endless and sometimes emotional conjecture about Kokopelli’s origin
One possibility is that Kokopelli could have been an actual misshapen
person who was widely venerated for his power and wisdom. He could have
been a young man, burdened with a pack, traveling among pueblos, seeking
a wife; he played his flute to announce his mission. He could be a great
leader, like Moses, who guided his people in a migration to a new homeland.
He could have been a pochteca, a early bearer of gifts from central Mexico.
One of the more exotic theories was mentioned by southwestern Colorado
authority Michael Claypool during a discussion several years ago at Fort
Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He thinks that origins of the figure
could eventually be traced all the way to Peru, where native traders carrying
packs have long used flutes to announce their arrival at native villages.
An archaeologist friend who has worked in Latin America tells me that
Kokopelli-like figures are common icons in prehistoric sites of Southern
Mexico and Central America.
While we may never know the origin or the full meaning of Kokopelli, it
is clear that he held high importance as a deity in the arid American
Southwest. His roles in scenes representing human reproduction, crop growth
and water suggest that the Southwestern Indians associated him universally
with fertility and prosperity. His roles in hunting scenes, processions,
rituals and ceremonies suggest that the Indians connected him universally
to their physical and spiritual well being.
It is clear, too that the magic of Kokopelli is enduring. A few summers
ago, my wife and I came upon a dancing Kokopelli figure pecked high on
the sandstone canyon wall above the Chaco Canyon ruin known as Kin Kletso.
A thunderstorm rumbled threateningly overhead. You could almost hear a
plaintive and simple melody in the wind as Kokopelli played his flute
resolutely to plead for rain from the sky above and to encourage the growth
of crops of a long-vanished people in the canyon bottom below.
There are many places to see Kokopelli
figures in rock art. Examples include West Mesa, across the Rio Grande
from Albuquerque; Canyon del Chelly, in northeastern Arizona; Chaco Canyon,
in northwestern New Mexico; and above the Little Colorado River, near
the Raven Site Ruin north of Springerville, Arizona. Kokopelli figures
appear occasionally on Indian pottery in Southwestern Indian museums.
Dennis Slifer and James Duffield present the best overview of the Humpbacked
Flute Player and locations in their book Kokopelli. Polly Schaafsma provides
a good review of Southwestern rock art, with various reference to Kokopelli,
in her book Indian Rock Art of the Southwest. Stephen W. Hill, author,
and Robert B. Montoya, illustrator, give a brief overview combined with
excellent Kokopelli-inspired illustrations in the book Kokopelli Ceremonies.
More about the author Jay
1 2 3
4 5 6