Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who Was Kokopelli?

The Legend of Kokopelli

Kokopelli, the Indian flute player and god of fertility, can be seen today on towels, mugs, shirts, bedding, and even tattoos, but his popularity is certainly nothing new. The humpbacked flute player is one of the most common images found in petroglyphs and pictographs of the Americas. His image can be found in ancient rock carvings and paintings dating as far back as 3000 years and he is featured prominently in Hopi and Zuni legends.

No one is really sure whether Kokopelli was a real person. Some theories suggest that he was a trader who used to travel through villages with a bag of seed on his back and announce his arrival by playing a flute. Another theory suggests that Kokopelli was a person at all, as the very earliest images of him were very insect-like in appearnce. The name "Kokopelli" may be a combination of "Koko", the Zuni name for ancestral spirits, and "pelli", the Hopi and Zuni word for the desert robber fly, an insect with a prominent nose and a rounded back.

But whatever his origins, Kokopelli is known in Native American legends as a whimsical, music-playing god of fertility. It is said that he would come to villages at night with his sack of corn, and in the morning when he left, the crops would be abundant and many of the young women of the village would be pregnant. His flute playing was thought to chase away the winter and bring about spring. Other tribes also associate Kokopelli with rain. According to Navajo legend, Kokopelli was the god of harvest and plenty, who could bring rain and food to the people.

Because he was a god of fertility, early images of Kokopelli often depicted him with large genitalia, but it is thought that Spanish missionaries encouraged Hopi craftsmen to leave this characteristic off their Kokopelli kachinas, and today's modern version of the flute playing fertility god is G-rated. His figure can be found on virtually any type of product and he has found favor with consumers who find his whimsical, flute-playing figure to represent fun and frolic.

Other names for Kokopelli (from Wikipedia):

  • Kokopele
  • Kokopelli-mana or Kokopelmana (actually, Kokopelli's wife) (Hohokam)
  • Kokopeltiyo
  • Kokopilau
  • Neopkwai'i (Pueblo)
  • Ololowishkya (Zuni)
  • Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers
  • Water Sprinkler
  • Humpbacked Flute Player
  • Hunchbacked Flute Player

    The Anasazi & Kokopelli

    Anasazi, which means 'ancient stranger' or 'ancient enemy' in the Navajo language, is the name most commonly applied to the early pueblo dwellers who once lived in the Colorado Plateau or Four Corners Area.

    The Hopi who are the likely descendents of the Anasazi called these predecessors the "Hisatsinom" for "The Ones Who Came Before."

    Links are difficult to maintain. If you are interested in current web sites on the Anasazi, I suggest that you go to Google and try "Anasazi" as a search term.

     Art History Webpage 
     Photos of Anasazi Structures 
     Settlement Chronology 
     The Disappearance of the Anasazi 
     DesertUSA - Anasazi 
     DesertUSA - Prehistoric Desert Peoples 
     John Kantner's Cyber Presentations on the Anasazi 
     Mining Company - Anasazi Pre-History 
     Anasazi Archaeology 
     Integrative Study of Native Culture 
     Navajo Nation - Anasazi Ruins 
     Anasazi - The Ancient People 
     Indian Ruins of the Southwest 
     William Calvin: How the Shaman Stole the Moon

    Kokopelli (or Kokopilau): The Flute Player

    Kokopelli is a figure commonly found in petroglyphs and pottery throughout the southwest. Since the first petroglyhs were carved around 3,000 years ago, he predates even Oraibi, the oldest continuous settlement in North America. 

    He Is regarded as the universal symbol of fertility for all life, be it crops, hopes, dreams, or love. 

    Some legends suggest that Kokopelli was an ancient toltec trader who traveled routes between Mexico, the west coast, the southwest, and possibly even as far as the eastern areas of the U.S. Documented finds lend truth to these legends as dentalium shells, which are only found in certain coastal areas, and macaw feathers from Mexico have been unearthed here in northern new mexico and arizona. Kokopelli was said to play a flute as he traveled to pronounce his arrival to the villagers and it was considered the greatest of honors to be the women he chose to be his "dreamtime companion" for his duration of time in the village as many of these women apparently bore children from these unions.

     About Kokopelli 

    Hopi legend tells us that upon their entrance onto this, the fourth world, the Hopi people were met by an Eagle who shot an arrow into the two "mahus," insects which carried the power of heat. They immediately began playing such uplifting melodies on their flutes that they healed their own pierced bodies. The Hopi then began their separate migrations and each "mahu" would scatter seeds of fruits and vegetables onto the barren land. Over them, each played his flute to bring warmth and make the seeds grow. His name -- KOKO for wood and Pilau for hump (which was the bag of seeds he always carried)-- was given to him on this long journey. It is said that he draws that heat from the center of the Earth. He has come down to us as the loving spirit of fertility -- of the Earth and humanity. His invisible presence is felt whenever life come forth from seed -- plants or animals. 

    A search of the web reveals the extent of the commercialization of the Kokopelli image -- you name it ... jewellry, sculpture, t-shirts, artwork ... and you'll find him . Thus, I suppose he qualifies as one of the universal symbols that Carl Jung talked about.

    Sand Island Petroglyphs

    Sand Island

    Cedar Mesa

              For a thousand years before the white man came, Indians of the southwest camped on the riverside flat. While here they carved drawings in the rock cliff. This primitive bulletin board contains the dreams, ambitions and fears of people who had no written language. Please protect these drawings so others may see and study them.

    General Information:         

    The Sand Island Petroglyph Panel is a roadside stop. The panel contains several hundred figures. The styles range from Archaic to fairly recent Native American and cowboy inscriptions. The panel can be viewed from your vehicle, but if you truly want to see the detailed figures you need to spend a couple of minutes and walk over to the cliff. The rock art is accessible year in all weather conditions. Please take only pictures and leave only footprints.

              A GPS is a complete waste of time but I'll give you the waypoints because I know how much some of you like to push buttons. The USGS 7.5' Map titled "Bluff" shows the area described. Navigation for this route is non-existent. All waypoints and maps use the WGS84 datum.

    Sand Island Petroglyphs

    Trailhead Information:

              From Bluff, Utah drive west on Highway 191 a little over 3 miles to mile marker 22 and the signed Sand Island State Park turn off. Turn south into Sand Island State Park and drive 0.3 miles down the road to the signed junction. Turn west (right) and follow the road an additional 0.3 miles to the signed and fenced Sand Island Petroglyphs (N37° 15' 42", W109° 37' 07") located on the north side of the road.

              Any vehicle can access the petroglyph panel. Camping and picnic sites are available at the State Park for a fee. Sand Island is mainly used for the boat ramp that allows river rafters to access the San Juan River.

    Sand Island Petroglyphs

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