Hopi Cycle of the Year and Visitor Etiquette

Hopi, Native American

Hopi cycle of the year gives an overview of the year.

It  is presented for your interest and education on the Crossing Worlds Hopi Projects non-profit website.

Corn Maidens by Gerald Dawavendewa, with symbolic Butterfly swirl hair supporting positive growth

 “The complex cycle of interrelated responsibilities and concepts that is the Hopi religious system is all the more complicated because each of the twelve Hopi villages possesses the autonomy to carry out Hopi religious practices independently. The timing of ceremonies, the underlying concepts may vary among the Hopi villages. Nevertheless, throughout the land of the Hopi, the religious mission is the same: to promote and achieve a “unity” of everything in the universe.

(Alph H. Secakuku, Following the Sun and Moon, The Hopi Kachina Tradition)

Respect for Hopi cultural privacy and rules is key for visitors.

My life has been so enriched by involvement with Hopi friends over the years. I have been blessed to see many of the ceremonials of the year that are open to non-Hopis.   The cycles of the year are amplified by these reverent and moving ceremonies. I respect the Hopi right to cultural privacy and understand that many parts of their religious life are only shared with Hopi people and are not open to non-Hopis.

These ways have evolved over thousands of years of natured-based living in community here in the Americas. I am very grateful the Hopi people have so faithfully kept them alive and that they are carrying on these ways for all peoples.If you go up on your own, please check with village offices, the Hopi Tribe or even individual Hopi people who may have shops open, what the rules are for access to the villages. Each village has their own rules about visitors to their villages. Please respect their privacy and rules. The activities, dances, and ceremonies are part of a real and living culture and religion and many are not open to non-Hopi people.

No photography or sketching in the villages is allowed at any time.

It is a great privilege that Hopis allow visitors to come to their lands. Please read the advice offered about the Hopi cycle of the year to the public by the Hopi Cultural Preservation office below.

Sandra Cosentino

Eagle Kachina painting by Lewis Kagenveama

“We Hopi are a deeply religious people. We follow divine instructions and prophecies received from the caretaker of this world, Maasaw. Our religion teaches us a lifeway of humility, cooperation, respect and earth stewardship. We practice our religion with different ceremonies throughout the year which are timed according to phases of the moon and solstices of the sun.

Many of our ceremonies seek to maintain and improve our harmony with nature, enhance our prospects for good health and a long, happy life, and are supplications for rain. Through our dances we celebrate the renewal of our life pattern, ancient migrations, and a spiritual connection with our ancestral sites. This, together with our farming tradition, ties us both physically and ceremonially to our ancestral land, the sun and the cycle of the seasons.

Ceremonies are held throughout the year, with the location and date determined according to custom and tradition. Our ceremonial calendar consists of katsina dances from February to July and social or other non-katsina ceremonies for the rest of the year.” (From the official Hopi Tribal website)

Kachina Ceremonials and Visitor Etiquette

Visitor Etiquette from the official Office of Cultural Preservation, Hopi Tribe website

“Katsinam are Hopi spirit messengers who send prayers for rain, bountiful harvests and a prosperous, healthy life for humankind. They are our friends and visitors who bring gifts and food, as well as messages to teach appropriate behavior and the consequences of unacceptable behavior. Katsinam, of which there are over two hundred and fifty different types, represent various beings, from animals to clouds.

During their stay at Hopi, the katsinam appear among Hopi people in physical form, singing and dancing in ceremonies. On Third Mesa the katsinam arrive in December while at the First and Second Mesa they arrive in February at the Bean Dance Ceremony. Night dances are held until the end of March, followed by day dances from May to July. Virtually no weekend goes by during this period without a katsina dance in at least one Hopi village. Most dances start shortly after sunrise (mostly on Saturday and/or Sundays) and continue intermittently throughout the day, with breaks for lunch and rest periods. The ceremonies usually end at dusk. Several of the villages often hold dances on the same day, giving visitors the opportunity to witness parts of several dances by spending a few hours in different villages.

Niman (Home Dance), which takes place in July, is the last katsina dance of the cycle. At the end of this day-long ceremony the katsinam return to their spiritual home at the San Francisco Peaks, Kisiau and Waynemai.

The Katsinam who carry out the religious dances are sacred to us and require specific codes of conduct in their presence. Misinformation about these customs and lack of knowledge about the physical conditions of Hopi plazas were the core of conflicts in the past. While we believe that the Katsinam perform public ceremonies for all people, plants, animals and spirit life, modern conditions make it next to impossible to accommodate all outside visitors. First, there is limited space in the plazas and our rooftops were not constructed to support the weight of hundreds of spectators. Second, sanitation facilities, food, water and emergency services are not designed to serve large crowds. Finally, spectators were originally Hopi villagers and invited guests who were fully aware of the purpose of the ceremonies and how to behave appropriately while attending.

In view of the communities’ difficulties in resolving the issue of restricting attendance at public ceremonies, visitors are asked to be respectful and help monitor the activities of other guests. Through this we can reach mutual respect and understanding. Your participation in establishing harmony will be consistent with the primary purpose of the dances and will be most appreciated by your hosts.”