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Envision a Kiva Ceremony

It is possible to imagine a gathering of the Anasazi filling this magnificent kiva. They would have traveled from dozens of villages, on foot, for days, to attend this special event. They may have carried with them their own sacred relics in carefully wrapped bundles, and then placed these items in the niches lining the kiva walls. Perhaps visiting village leaders who carried the bundles took those seats beneath their appointed niche.

Beautiful picture of Kiva nd clouds

On the packed earth floor, hundreds of other village representatives sat cross-legged awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. Some sat on the edge of circular pits, surrounding musical instruments. The drumming begins in the fire lit room. Sacred woods and plants are burnt to fill the room with a specific fragrance as an incense. Flutes were played, people closed their eyes, and were transported as a storyteller began to weave a tale of their ancestors.


Suddenly, ceremonial figures dressed in cotton cloth, decorated with features, wearing masks and body paint, would emerge from the underground passageway and enter the main round room as if arriving from a world beneath this world. The story being told is of the Emergence – of their ancestors arriving from the world below this world, an being lead by Holy People who teach them how to survive in this new world. Voices begin chanting the story, and through the smoke of the fires and incense, the Holy People dance and make music with copper bells, drums or flutes.



Their place of Emergence, called the Sipapu, is the symbolic gateway between worlds. Every person in the kiva, on the floor on the surrounding bench, would re-experience this emergence each time they attended this ceremony – reliving their own person birth and entry into this world, and reliving their shared memory of their People’s first entry into this world.

Even today, standing in the round, roofless kiva, once can almost hear the drums, smell the firewood and incense, and feel the pounding of the dancing feet. You can imagine the excitement and anticipation of waiting for the Holy People to Emerge, bringing health, wellness, knowledge, safety, prosperity and renewed hope to all who may have witnessed such a powerful religious ceremony.

Toady, non-Native peoples can only imagine what took place in those kivas, and we can learn from the ceremonies and mythologies still carried forwards by today’s native peoples. As we seek to understand the ways of Anasazi life, imagination is an important tool in considering what their life would have been like.