Traditionally, Katsina dolls were used as teaching tools. They are carved representations of the Spirit messengers of the universe. The Katsinas come to the Hopi and Pueblo peoples in the form of clouds which bring life –giving rain to the people and their crops. They appear in the villages around the winter solstice and stay until the monsoon season begins in July.
Katsinas represent different aspects of life. The dolls are given to young girls to help them learn about their future responsibilities as women…They are carved by initiated men out of cottonwood roots.
Currently my favorite Katsina is the Jemez or Ripened Corn Katsina.
In the little book A Guide to Hopi Katsina Carvings that my companion Bruce sent to me as a gift Hemis is a Katsina inspired by the Jemez people who live in Northern New Mexico. Hemis brings in the first harvest of whole ripe corn plants at the Feast of Niman. This Katsina carries gifts tied to cornstalks.
The Katsinas enter the plaza at sunrise forming double lines and wearing imaginative and most creative tablitas as part of their masks they dance with the corn maidens in a beautiful and complex manner.
Niman lasts sixteen days, with all of the ceremonies taking place in the kivas except for the final day. Then the Katchinas appear in public for the last time before returning to their mountain abodes. The People ask the Katsinas not to forget them, and to continue to appear as more rain.
At this Turning of the Wheel celebrated by all Indigenous peoples, I give thanks to the Katsinas for bringing the much needed rain to Abiquiu, New Mexico – a place that holds me close to Her Heart.
The photograph of the Ripened Corn Katsina is taken from the little book I have. The artist is Leo Lacapa.