Hopi Kachina History
To understand Hopi Kachina dolls, one must understand something of their purpose. The Kachina doll of the Hopi, which so many of us admire and collect, is the representation of a Hopi spirit or deity. Kachina dolls originally were, and still are, made to be given away as gifts to Hopi children so that they may learn the different Kachinas and the stories and religious significance attached to them. Kachinas are holy spirits that live upon the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona and other sacred mountains in the Southwest.
During the period beginning with the Winter Solstice and extending to about mid-July, masked dancers initiated into the various clans of the Hopi Pueblos impersonate these spirits. Men portray both the male and female spirits and when an initiate wears the mask of his Kachina, he becomes that spirit personified. During the open dances, the Kachinas dance in the plaza or from kiva to kiva distributing the Kachina dolls, toy bows, rattles, fruit and sweets to the children between dances. Kachinas can be spirits of deities, animals, and even deceased members of the Pueblo known for special kindness or prowess.