The Butterfly Dance, a traditional social dance of the Hopi, is held in August or September after the gathering of the harvest and presentation of the Snake Dance. It is a thanksgiving ceremony for the harvest, chiefly for the corn crop. Like most Hopi ceremonies, the Butterfly Dance is a petition for rain, good health and long life for all living things. The dance also recognizes the butterfly for its beauty and its contribution in pollinating plant life.
Hopi Butterfly Dance, September 6, 2009, Kykotsmovi, Arizona
Kopatsoki: a Hopi
Butterfly Dance headdress
from the Paths of Life exhibition
Maidens wear an elaborately painted headdress made for them by their dance partners. This headdress or “kopatsoki” as it is called in Hopi becomes a keepsake for the Hopi maiden once the dance has concluded. Their black mantas are adorned with turquoise beads and pins and hand woven sashes.
From the Journal of American Folklore (1901): Butterfly figure prominently in prehistoric Hopi pottery and are frequently mentioned in mythological tales. There are important modern survivals of the butterfly cult in a nine day ceremony called Owakulti, occurring biennially at Oraibi and occasionally performed at Sichomovi. In the making of Owakulti medicine, butterflies symbolize summer and whistling occurs as a means of bringing summer birds. The public dance in connection with the ceremony is performed by many women bearing basket trays in their hands.
Annemieke Mein’s Textile Sculptures: Case Moth Cocoons, Cultural Entomology Digest 4 – Butterflies personified in spirit as Hopi kachina figures.
The spirit of the butterfly is also personified in Hopi kachina figures. Kachinas are the spirit essence of everything in the real world. They represent game, plants, food, birds, insects, and even death itself is given a kachina form. During sacred dances, men who impersonate kachinas present carved replicas of their kachina appearence to women and children. These figures are commonly called “kachina dolls”. Among the various insect kachinas are three of butterfly origin. These are Poli Sio Hemis Kachina (Zuni Hemis Butterfly Kachina), Poli Taka (Butterfly Man), and Poli Mana (Butterfly Girl).
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