Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and antenna-like protrusions on his head), who is worshipped by many Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture. He is also a trickster god.
Because of his influence over human sexuality, Kokopelli is often depicted with an inhumanly large phallus. Among the Ho-Chunk, this penis is detachable, and he sometimes leaves it in a river in order to have sex with girls who bathe there. Among the Hopi, Kokopelli carries unborn children on his back and distributes them to women (for this reason, young girls are often deathly afraid of him). He often takes part in rituals relating to marriage, and Kokopelli himself is sometimes depicted with a consort, a woman called Kokopelli-mana by the Hohokam and Hopi.
Kokopelli also presides over the reproduction of game animals, and for this reason, he is often depicted with animal companions such as rams and deer. Other common creatures associated with him include sun-bathing animals such as snakes, or water-loving animals like lizards and insects. Because of this, some scholars believe that Kokopelli's flute is actually a blowgun (or started out as one), but this is a minority opinion.
In his domain over agriculture, Kokopelli's fluteplaying chases away the Winter and brings about Spring. Many tribes, such as the Zuni, also associate Kokopelli with the rains. He frequently appears with Paiyatamu, another flautist, in depictions of maize-grinding ceremonies. Some tribes say he carries seeds and babies on his back.
Kokopelli has been worshipped since at least the time of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The first known images of him appear on Hohokam pottery dated to sometime between AD 750 and AD 850.
Kokopelli may have originally been a representation of ancient Aztec traders, known as pochtechas, who traveled to this region from northern Mesoamerica. These traders brought their goods in sacks slung across their backs, and this sack may have evolved into Kokopelli's familiar hump (in fact, many tribes make Kokopelli a trader in this way). These men also used flutes to announce themselves as friendly as they approached a settlement. This origin is still in doubt, however, since the first known images of Kokopelli predate the major era of Aztec-Anasazi trade by several hundred years.
Another theory is that Kokopelli is actually an anthropomorphic insect. Many of the earliest depictions of Kokopelli make him very insect-like in appearance. The name "Kokopelli" may be a combination of "Koko", another Hopi and Zuni deity, and "pelli", the Hopi and Zuni word for the desert robber fly, an insect with a prominent proboscis and a rounded back, which is also noted for its zealous sexual proclivities. A more recent etymology is that Kokopelli means literally "kachina hump". Because the Hopi were the tribe from whom the Spanish explorers first learned of the god, their name is the one most commonly used.
Kokopelli is one of the most easily recognized figures found in the petroglyphs and pictographs of the Southwest. The earliest known petroglyph of the figure dates to about A.D. 1000. Kokopelli was one of several kachina dolls sold to tourists. The Spanish missionaries in the area convinced the Hopi craftsmen to omit the phallus from their representations of the figure. As with most kachina dolls, the Hopi Kokopelli was often represented by a human dancer. These dancers apparently had great fun with missionaries and tourists by making obscene and sexual gestures that the foreigners did not understand.
In recent years, the emasculated version of Kokopelli has been adopted as a broader symbol of the Southwestern United States as a whole. His image adorns countless tourist items such as T-shirts, ball caps, and keychains. A bicycle trail between Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab, Utah, is now known as the Kokopelli Trail.
A similar humpbacked figure is found in artifacts of the Mississippian culture of the U.S. southeast. Between approximately 1200 to 1400 AD, water vessels were crafted in the shape of a humpbacked woman. These forms may represent a cultural heroine or founding ancestor, and may also reflect concepts related to the life-giving blessings of water and fertility.
Kokopelli bears a passing resemblance to Bradshaw Paintings of North-West Australia (examples), which could be mere coincidence or sign of a common origin; some have suggested that ancient astronaut theories in the model of Erich von Däniken have attributed both to a common celestial source.
Kokopelli-mana or Kokopelmana (actually, Kokopelli's wife) (Hohokam)
FROM: Wikipedia "Kokopelli"
Kokopelli, distinguished by his hunch-back, dancing pose, and flute, is the only anthropomorphic petroglyph to have a name, an identity, and an established gender. His name may have been derived from the Zuni name for god ("Koko") and the Indian name for the Dessert Robber Fly ("pelli"). His association with the Desert Robber Fly may stem from the fact that this insect too, has a hump on his back and a prominent proboscis. But, Kokopelli is known by other names, as well. To the Hopi, he is known as "Kokopilau" - meaning "wood hump". To others, he is known as Kokopele, Kokopetiyot, and Olowlowishkya. He also bears a nickname - "Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers", a tribute to his image and legend. Kokopelli’s lesser known female counterpart is known as "Kokopelli Mana".
Kokopelli’s image varies as much as the legends about him, but he is generally depicted as a hunch-back flute player in a dancing pose with a festive crest on his head, and sometimes exhibiting male genitalia of exaggerated size. Images painted on ceramics ten centuries ago by the Hohokam (Arizona Pueblo) have become the prototype for modern representations.
Kokopelli’s hump is sometimes represented as an arc which covers his entire back. Other times, it covers only the lower half of his back. His arms are usually represented as a "V" shape with his elbows pointing down toward the Earth. His forward leg is usually represented as a continuation of the curved line which outlines his hump. Likewise, his rear leg is usually represented as a continuation of the front line of his body. The flute, which is actually a nose flute, is usually represented as a straight line, or pair of straight lines. Sometimes, however, it is curved. Often, it has a bulbous end - like the end of a clarinet. An even number of crest elements are usually found on Kokopelli’s head. In Pueblo culture, the festive crest represents the paired antennae of the katydid (grasshopper), with which he is sometimes associated. When being represented in the "Spirit World", he appears with feathers on his head. In other depictions, the crest on his head represents rays of light.
When present, Kokopelli’s phallus is unusually long and erect, symbolizing the fertile seeds of human reproduction. It usually projects upward from the lower body and is sometimes only represented as a single line or arrow. His phallus is clearly depicted in a thousand year old bowl displayed at Mesa Verde National Park. It is thought that Kokopelli’s image was "cleaned up" over the years (his phallus depicted less often) due, in part, to the influence of Catholic priests who worked hard to Christianize the natives of the American Southwest. In the modern genre, Kokopelli often wears a kilt and a sash.
Contemporary artists who have playfully portrayed Kokopelli as a skier, scuba diver, golfer, and rock star can be found, for sure. But there is no documentation to support the historical accuracy of any of these representations, except perhaps, his portrayal as a rock star. He certainly appears on many rocks in the Southwest!
The legend of Kokopelli is wonderfully rich and entertaining. Though, his origin as a deity and the evolution of his role in Southwestern Indian culture is difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct. Evidenced by a huge number of ancient artifacts, it is clear that Kokopelli was important to many Native American tribes. He is especially prominent in the ancient Anasazi culture of the "Four Corners" area (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah). Some have compared his importance to the Southwestern Indians to that of Abraham to the Jews and that of Paul to the Christians.
Still revered by current descendants of Native Americans , he is truly one of the most intriguing and widespread images to have survived from ancient Indian mythology. His whimsical nature, charitable deeds, and vital spirit are the primary reasons why he achieved such a prominent position in Native American mysticism. He possessed a playful, carefree nature that seemed to bring out the "good" in everyone. Kokopelli is so irresistibly charismatic that he has been reinvented time and time again for thousands of years by storytellers, artists, and craftsmen.
Known to some as a magician, to others he was a storyteller, teacher, healer, trickster, trader, or god of the harvest. Some even credit Kokopelli with being the "original" journalist. Almost universally however, he was regarded as a harbinger of fertility, assuring success in hunting, growing crops, and human conception. The Anasazi, who were first to claim Kokopelli, were primarily farmers who grew corn, beans, and squash on the Colorado Plateau. They regarded Kokopelli as a fertility symbol and he was always welcomed during corn planting season. A visit from Kokopelli insured that a good harvest was in store. According to Navajo legend, Kokopelli was the God of Harvest and Plenty - a benign minor god who brought abundant rain and food to people. The Zuni also regarded him as a Rain Priest, able to make it rain at will.
Others regarded him as a Spiritual Priest with actual healing powers. When Hopi women could not bear children, they would seek him out because he was able to restore their childbearing powers. According to Hopi legend, Kokopelli spent most of his time sewing seed and seducing the daughters of the village while his wife, Kokopelli Mana, ran after the men!
The lore of southern Utah paints Kokopelli as a little man who used to travel throughout the villages carrying a bag of corn seed on his back, teaching the people how to plant as he traveled. He was also said to have traded beads and shells for pieces of turquoise. Some speculate that this image of Kokopelli may have been derived from traveling traders of the time who announced their arrival by playing a flute as they approached - a tradition that is still practiced in Central America.
Many different legends exist about what Kokopelli actually carried in his sack. In Pueblo myths, he carried seeds, babies, and blankets to offer the maidens he seduced. According to the Navajo, his hump was made of clouds filled with seeds and rainbows. In the Hopi village of Oraibi, they believe he carried deer skin shirts and moccasins which he used to barter for brides or babies which he left with the young women. Others believe that Kokopelli’s sack contained the seeds of all the plants and flowers of the world, which he scattered every Spring.
According to San Ildefonso legend, Kokopelli was a wandering minstrel who carried songs on his back, trading new songs for old ones. According to this legend, Kokopelli brought good luck and prosperity to anyone who listened to his songs. Kokopelli embodied everything pure and spiritual about music. He and his magical flute traveled from village to village bestowing gifts and spreading cheer to all whom he visited. His flute was said to symbolize happiness and joy. When he played his flute, the sun came out, the snow melted, grass began to grow, birds began to sing, and all the animals gathered around to hear his songs. His flute music soothed the Earth and made it ready to receive his seed. The magic of his flute was also thought to stimulate creativity and help good dreams come true.
FROM: The Legends of Kokopelli (Southwestern United States and Mexico)
The Ballad of Kokopelli
A strange lonely figure stares out of the past
where engraved by an artist in stone
Held firm by the sand in which he is cast,
these last thousand years quite alone.
Could he be listening, trying to hear
moccasins scuffing the butte?
Bringing the people once again near
to hear Kokopelli's sweet flute?
His image inscribed on a thousand rock faces
from east to the great western sea;
From Sonora's hot sun to the north glaciers bases,
proclaiming this loved tutelary.
Though powers possessed and methods employed
are often in open dispute;
One thing is agreed, the people did love
to hear Kokopelli's sweet flute. This stick figure man, with a hump on his back
seemed always to cast a good feeling;
His magic perhaps, taken out of his pack
would comfort the sick and do healing.
Whatever his talents, they surely were grand,
a fact no one cares to refute,
As people would come from afar in the land,
to hear Kokopelli's sweet flute.
Draw Your Own Kokopelli
Kokopelli Kave: Who is he? --8 pages of various articles