Katsinam are benevolent spirits who live among the Hopi for approximately six months of the calendar year. Arriving first during the December Soyal
ceremony, they appear in greater numbers during the February Powamuya season. At that time, the katsina spirits are called upon to invoke
substantial growth and maturity in humankind. Their interrelationship with Hopi society is rich and complex. Here, a Bear clan elder tells a story about
the origins of the katsinam.

"Katsinam came from the east, but that's something more difficult to explain. There was one settlement, Kawestima, which is northeast of here and is
now called the Navajo National Monument. There's a place called Paviovi, a village settlement, where people lived. The Hopi people in Songoopavi
(Shongopavi), the first Hopi village founded by the Bear Clan, couldn't raise any crops. There was no rain, no snow or moisture. People started to
lose faith in their own ways of praying.

"The chief of the village heard about the people who were living at Paviovi and eating fresh produce, like melon, peaches, and corn, in the middle of
winter. 'How did they do that?' he wondered. 'They must know something we don't know,' he said. Hopis were living in a corrupt world, for they
disrespected each other, including the elders and the women, and their environment. They were starving because they couldn't raise food. The chief
wanted the people from Paviovi to come and show them how to raise crops. The chief from Songoopavi went to their village to ask them if they could
come. He had a difficult time convincing them, because they didn't trust Hopis. They already knew about the Hopis, the corruption they were bringing
to themselves. They knew what kind of destiny the Hopi were going to face while they were here in the Fourth World. But the chief of the katsinam
agreed to come, hoping that there was room for the Hopi to learn. He said, 'I don't trust your people, so I will send my advisors.' Instead of him
coming, he sent the katsina spirits of Parrot, Tobacco, Crow and Butterfly to see if the Hopis were sincere about learning from them.

"When the visitors from Paviovi came, they were not mortal people but rather were spiritual beings, katsinam. They came to Songoopavi to purify and
teach the Hopi what they needed to know in order to revive the good things of life. The month of year they came is called Powamuya, purifying moon.
It was winter time (February) when they came and purified everybody and everything in the village, including the environment. Today the Hopi people
still practice Powamuya when the katsinam come to purify people and their place (powatota).

"After the purification, the katsinam went away. They went back to their home in Kawestima, to a special place called Kisiyva. It is an artisian spring.
They disappeared but the Hopi could tell they were there because of the clouds that would form over the mesa where the spring is located. Another
sacred place is San Francisco Peaks, which is the spiritual home of the katsinam. Clouds form there as well, so the Hopi people know that the
katsinam are always there." The katsinam are the clouds.

Today all Hopi children are initiated into the katsina culture, through an intense and strict initiation. It teaches children to be solemn, how to pray and
have a good heart. Katsinam are special spirit beings when they come during Powamuya. Hopis believe in katsinam healing the sick by their touch.
They also help raise crops by singing special rain songs.

When the katsinam came here, they divided the calendar year equally between mortal ways of prayers and their own. Half of the calendar year,
beginning with December, the katsinam take the lead. Colorful dances begin. You see brighter colors to dispel evil, encourage good health and
happiness, and bring rain for crops. The katsinam are at Hopi helping with these prayers until the "going home" ceremony in July, today referred to
as the "home dance." The home dance is significant because afterwards the katsinam go back to their spiritual homes at Navatukwiovi—the San
Francisco Peaks—and Kisiyva. After the katsinam leave, village leadership returns to the kikmonqwi, the village chief. The clan religions are now in
place to conduct ceremonies of the mortals: the Snake, the Flute, the Mamrolawt, the Lalakont, and Wuwutsimu. Then finally the cycle is completed
in December, when the katsinam return.

This cycle is a forever reminder that you're not here alone. You're here for a purpose, and cannot achieve that purpose with negative intentions.
You must have a good heart and have positive initiatives. It is the men's responsibility to have clear minds and be physically fit because all the
prayers and ceremony are done outside, in the middle of cold winter, and during the night. Ceremony teaches humbleness.


There are four Hopi religious societies. After the migration, we came to Hopi to live with the supreme power we call Maasawu. He gave us four
doctrines to live by to protect this earth. These doctrines are the symbols of the four societies. They are called Kwanitaka, (One Horn), Aalay'taka
(Two Horn), Wuwutsimu (Ancient Ritual Knowledge) and Taatawkwa (Singers). The One Horn Society people are underworld figures. Their role is to
guide spirits of the dead to the spirit underworld. The One Horn represents Maasawu, the owner of this land. The Two Horn Society represents the
extra-terrestrials, keepers of the balance of the stars, sun, sky, and moon, and protectors and guardians of human life and everything on earth.
They are intermediaries between the living and the dead. The third society, the Singers, are the Bear Clan and they take care of life on earth. The
Fourth World Doctrine, the ancient life of the Fourth World, is represented by corn and an eternal life.

No Hopi knows everything, due to the complexities of ritual knowledge. Hopis only know their specific clan or society rituals. It's the same with the
religious societies: only the high priest has the capability to understand almost the whole ritual. Only when all the priests do the ceremony together,
does Hopi life become whole. Hopi society is connected through these concepts of rituals, ceremonies, cultural ways, and language...(cont)

Ferrell Secakuku
March 2005
Smithsonian Institute Online