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Central to Hopi religion, Kachinas are supernatural beings believed to live on the San Francisco Peaks (Nuva'tukya'ovi) near Flagstaff, Arizona. Hopi men embody the Kachina spirits during ceremonies that take place between Winter Solstice and mid-July. The Hopis believe these spirits enable them to live in harmony with nature, ensuring rain, crops, fertility, and good hunting. The Hopi men embody the spirits of these Kachinas by wearing masks and dancing in the plazas of the villages. The dolls, which are carved replicas of the dancers, are given to the children so that they may learn about their people's traditions. The art of carving Kachina dolls has evolved from the old-style blocklike figures into today's highly detailed, all-wood dolls with realistic form and action. Traditional, or Old-Style, Kachina dolls were simple carvings given to Hopi children to teach them about their culture and the Kachinas that would be visiting during the upcoming ceremony. Over time, Kachina dolls became more and more sophisticated and included bases for the dolls to stand on and showing the Kachina in “action”- such as dancing or hunting. All Kachina dolls are carved out of the root of the Cottonwood tree. The Cottonwood tree’s vigorous roots travel far and deep in search of water. There is spiritual importance in this fact, as the Hopis are dry farmers in an arid part of Arizona and the search for water is of critical importance to their culture.
Learn More: The Significance and Meaning of Kachinas The Hopi Tribe