In the Southwestern United States, perched high above Northern Arizona are three isolated mesas. Appropriately named First, Second and Third Mesa, this stark but beautiful land is home to the Hopi Indians. The name Hopi comes from hopitu meaning "the peaceful ones".
The Hopi reservation is a remote area, comprising 650,000 acres surrounded on all sides by the Navajo reservation. The Hopis have lived in this area for over a thousand years with Old Oraibi having the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited village in the United States.
In order for the Hopi to survive in the harsh landscape, they have evolved a complex belief system which assisted their way of life. The focus of their religion involves Kachinas, which represent everything in nature. There is no precise definition for a Kachina, for a Hopi, their significance ranges from the spirits of ancestors, deities of the natural world, or go betweens between man and the gods. The Kachinas may bring rain, punish transgressions or cure disease.
For six months of each year (August through January) it is believe the Kachinas live in their own land within the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. When the winter solstice begins, Kachinas leave their homes and become one with the Hopi remaining there until the end of July.
During the season of Kachina dance ceremonies, the Hopi men dress in colorful masks and impersonate these spirits. Hopi men become the Kachinas with the power and spirit of the Kachinas instilled in these masks. Considered sacred, these masks must be kept out of sign when not in use. Kachinas play a paramount role in the Hopi way of life.
When the world was new, the ancient people and the ancient creatures did not live on the top of the earth. They lived under it. All was darkness; all was blackness, above the earth as well as below it. There were four worlds: this one on top of the earth, and below it three cave worlds, one below the other. None of the cave worlds was large enough for all the people and the creatures.
The first cave world was so dirty and congested nobody could live in it. After some Hopi emerged into the second cave world, they feared it too would be too small so they shook the ladder others were climbing on and knocked them off.
After awhile the second cave became congested and once more men and beings entered the upper cave world. When the people and being lived in the third cave world, times of evil came to them. There was no day only night, black night. The people longed for the light and so they climbed to the fourth world which was this world. But it too was in darkness for the earth was closed in by the sky.
With the people were five beings that had come forth with them from the cave worlds: Spider, Vulture, Swallow, Coyote and Locust. The people and these beings consulted together trying to think of ways of making. They succeeded in making light and since the days of the first people, the earth has been changed to stone. Legends reveal the Grand Canyon is where the ancient people emerged. These ancient people were the Hopi Indians that now live on the three mesas of Northeastern Arizona.
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