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Base Camp

The Hopi

Ceremonies and Dances

The ceremonies and dances that bond the Hopi as a culture have been taking place in the depths of their kivas, and emerging onto the open plazas of their pueblos for hundreds of years. Lines of dancers with elaborate headdresses, men and women, wearing specific styles of clothing and decoration, dance in patterns together across the plaza, reweaving the values of the community through their music and dance. There are Kachina Dances and social dances - Kachina Dances being representations of mythological events, and social dances being annual gatherings. Viewers line the roof tops, crowd onto rocks and walls.

Some of these events are open to the public, others are private. Each year more youth are initiated into the ways of their ancestors .

Taught by the elders of the tribe (some of whom are known to have lived over 128 years as this late 1800s stereoview photograph shows)

the young boys stay deep in the darkness of the kivas, learning the ways of the men of the tribe including frightful encounters with terrifying ogres, or caring for the snakes that are important participants in the ceremonies

and then emerge as initiated men ready to participate in the ceremonial dances.

The Hopi also hold mountains and canyons across the Southwest landscape as sacred to their people .. journeying there on pilgrimages every few years, or sometimes, once in a life time.

Hespereus - Sacred Mountian to the Hopi

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 (symbolic place of emergence where Hopi entered this world) 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 meat.

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 tha main kachina in the Niman dance.

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 also curative.

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.