Kachinas (recently the spelling 'Katsinas' has become more common) are a class of supernatural beings who represent the forces of nature (including all aspects of human, animal and plant nature), and who act as intermediaries between the world of humans and that of the gods. They appear at the Pueblos of Hopi (in Arizona) and Zuni (in New Mexico). The Hopi believe their Kachinas live on the San Francisco Peaks; the Zuni believe their Kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead. Kachinas vary widely in terms of their abilities and benevolence toward humans.
Male members of the Pueblos dress in costume to represent both male and female Kachinas in ceremonial and social dances. These dancers serve a great variety of practical purposes in terms of teaching appropriate behavior to the onlookers, and it is customarily believed at the Pueblos that the costumed dancers become transformed into the Kachinas whose spirits they summon.
Certain Kachinas may only be represented by members of specific clans, kivas, or religious societies, and while the elements and colors of the costumes and the shapes and features of the masks of each Kachina are prescribed in minute detail, these details can vary from village to village. Kachinas also have distinctive characters, behaviors and gestures. Several hundred Kachinas are known. Some are seen every year, some do not appear for generations at a time, some become forgotten, and new ones occasionally appear.
Figures or dolls (called 'katsin tihu' by the Hopi) carved of cottonwood root (or pine in the case of most Zuni Kachinas) are sometimes used to represent the Kachinas. At Hopi these are given to girl children and are meant to be a method of teaching the child what the Kachina should look like.
Kachinas figures are also carved for sale to collectors by a number of very talented artists at both Pueblos. Each Kachina figure we offer is authentically hand-carved by an individual member of the Hopi or Zuni Pueblo.