The exact origin of Kachinas are not well known, but there are a few different stories about these great deities. For over 2,000 years, the Hopi tribe has prayed to these spirits to bless their world with good weather, abundant game, and a bountiful harvest. Depending on the culture, Kachinas are either the spirits of Hopi ancestors, come back to aid the people of the village, or spirits of nature itself, having power over the elements.
The Hopi believe that at some point in their history, the Kachinas were killed by enemies and their souls were sent to the underworld. Since that time, they are honored by ceremony and carving dolls in their likeness, the Kachina dolls. During these dancing ceremonies, highly respected tribesmen wear their masks and costumes, in hopes of bringing a good harvest and even rain.
The Culture of Kachina Dolls
In addition to serving as ceremonial pieces, these dolls also teach Native children about Kachinas and their history with the tribe. These pieces are traditionally carved from a single piece of cottonwood root. The idea to make it from one piece is symbolic of the unity of the tribe. In this way, the whole tribe experiences a connection to each other and the spirits of nature around them.
The earliest photographs of Kachina dolls being made by tribesman go back to the 1800s, naturally predating the invention of the camera. During this time, it was known that Kachina dolls were not used as toys, but were displayed on walls or shelves for religious purposes. Some families even passed their dolls from one generation to the next, stretching back hundreds of years.
It wasn’t until fairly recently that Native Americans started to sell and trade their Kachina dolls, sometime around the early 1900s, when Natives started to integrate with American culture. Usually, the dolls that were made to be sold were made with that intent. The tribesman didn’t sell dolls that were once made to teach children or ones that were used for ceremonial purposes.
Today, the legend of these powerful beings continues to amaze American audiences, as artists create new and extravagant pieces to celebrate their proud heritage. While some artists make dolls that go for thousands, some ancient Kachina dolls have sold for as much as $250,000.
Many believe that having one of these figures in your home will grant you good fortune and protection from evil spirits. Keep these in mind as you browse our selection of these mystifying figures.