|Hopi Indian Beliefs and Legends
According to legend, the Hopi agreed to act as caretakers
of this Fourth World in exchange for permission to live here.
Over centuries of a stable existence based on farming, they
evolved an extremely rich ceremonial life.
The Hopi Way, whose purpose is to maintain a balance between nature and people in every
aspect of life, is ensured by the celebration of their ceremonies.
The Hopi recognize two major ceremonial cycles, masked (January or February until July) and
unmasked, which are determined by the position of the sun and the lunar calendar. The
purpose of most ceremonies is to bring rain. As the symbol of life and well-being, corn, a
staple crop, is the focus of many ceremonies.
All great ceremonies last nine days, including a preliminary day. Each ceremony is controlled
by a clan or several clans. Central to Hopi ceremonialism is the kiva, or underground chamber,
which is seen as a doorway to the cave world from whence their ancestors originally came.
Katsinas are guardian spirits, or intermediaries between the creator and the people. They
are said to dwell at the San Francisco peaks and at other holy places. Every year at the
winter solstice, they travel to inhabit people’s bodies and remain until after the summer
Re-created in dolls and masks, they deliver the blessings of life and teach people the proper
way to live. Katsina societies are associated with clan ancestors and with rain gods. All Hopis
are initiated into katsina societies, although only men play an active part in them.
The Soyal, or winter solstice is the most important ceremony of the year for the Hopi Indian.
It celebrates the Hopi worldview and recounts their legends. Another important ceremony is
Niman, the harvest festival. The August Snake Dance has become a wellknown Hopi ceremony.
Like other Pueblo peoples, the Hopi recognize a dual division of time and space between the
lower world of the dead and upper world of the living. Prayer may be seen as a mediation
between the upper and lower, or human and supernatural, worlds. These worlds coexist at
the same time and may be seen in oppositions such as summer and winter, day and night, life
In all aspects of Hopi ritual, ideas of space, time, color, and number are all interrelated in
such a way as to provide order to the Hopi world.