Published on May 13, 2012 by Amy
There are four generally accepted forms of the kachina doll; each form is meant to represent a different stage of postnatal development.
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1) Putsqatihu – these dolls are made specifically for infants; these are simply flat figures that contain enough characteristics of the kachina so it is identifiable.
2) Putstihu taywa’yla – these dolls have flat bodies and three dimensional faces that are generally meant for toddlers.
3) Muringputihu – these dolls have cylindrical bodies, fully carved heads, and are meant specifically for infant girls.
4) Tithu – the traditional, full bodied kachina doll that is given to Hopi girls aged two and up at Hopi ceremonies. These dolls represent the final stage of postnatal development.
In addition to these traditional forms, a modern variation is now being created: the miniature kachina doll. These are mostly created by Hopi women, are only produced for trade, and are not considered kachina dolls in the true sense.
There are two types of kachina doll eyes: painted eyes, which can be round, rectangular, pot-hooks, or half-moons, and pop eyes, which are carved of wood and then attached to the doll.
Additionally, there are two types of doll mouths. The first is the painted mouth, which can be either rectangular, triangular, or crescent shaped. The other is the carved mouth, of which there is either a horizontal mouth with a wide or narrow beard, a beak that is turned up or down, a tube or a short snout.
On the doll’s head one will find either bird wings, ears (which are typically large and red), corn-husk flowers, hair, feathers, or horns. The horns can either be pseudo horns or real animal horns.
The noses are rarely realistic-looking, except when they are carved into the wood. Some kachinas also have beards of feathers or red-dyed horse hair.
There are several common costumes on kachina dolls. Typical male costumes include:
1) A white kilt, brocaded sash, belt, fox skin, and no shirt
2) White shirt and kilt
3) Kilt and ceremonial robe
4) A “white man’s” suit
5) Velvet shirt, white trousers, red leggings
6) Fox skin hanging from belt
Common female costumes include:
1) A ceremonial robe worn as a dress and a shawl
2) A Navajo dress
3) Eagle feather skirt
4) Black woolen dress, red belt, and a white shawl with red and blue bands
Kachina dolls can also carry accessories that are associated with what their respective Kachinam will carry during the ceremonial dances. Dolls are portrayed with accessories including hand rattles made from gourds, bows and arrows, branches of Douglas fir, staffs, scissors, crooks with children, and colored corn. Sometimes, to hide the space between the body and the mask, ruffs made of fox skin, juniper branches, Douglas fir, or cloth will we worn. In addition, headdresses are sometimes worn on the heads of the dolls. Common doll headdresses include maiden-whorls on the sides of the head, an eagle feather on the mask, or a tripod of sticks worn on top of the head.
Every symbol, color, and design on a Hopi kachina doll has definite meaning in connection with Hopi religion, custom, history, and way of life. Animal tracks, bird tracks, celestial symbols, and vegetable symbols represent those particular spirits. Other symbols and their meanings are as follows:
• A pair of vertical lines under the eyes symbolizes a warrior’s footprints.
• An inverted “V” signifies certain kachina officials.
• Phallic symbols represent fertility.
Certain colors on the kachina dolls also have significant directional meanings:
• Yellow = north or northwest
• Blue-green = west or southwest
• Red = south or southeast
• White = east or northeast
• All the colors together = Zenith (heaven) and above
• Black = Nadir (the underworld) or down
This first sign of a fake kachina doll is if it is “garish or crudely made.” An authentic kachina doll will have proper proportioning of the body and excessive detail. Hands must have separated fingers rather than tightly closed fists. Details in hair and accessories should be meticulously fashioned. The most valuable dolls are made from only one piece of wood; signs of glue on the figure indicate a poorly made doll. The price will usually reflect the quality, so if a doll seems significantly inexpensive, there is a good possibility it is not a true Hopi kachina doll.
There are well over 200 kachina dolls; however, almost no one can identify every single one, as each carver has a different idea as to the appearance and function of each Kachina. There are several popular ones with tourists and Hopi, however. Some of the more popular dolls are the Tasapkachina (Navajo Kachina), Angakchina (Long hair), Hote, and animal dolls such as Bear, Bird, and Mouse.