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Throughout the Southwest, a figure known as Kokopelli appeared on rock art: pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (carved). Later, the Kokopelli figure was incorporated into pottery and other art forms. Kokopelli today is often seen as one of the symbols of Southwestern ancestors.

Kokopelli 1

Kokopelli 2

Kokopelli is usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player. According to some traditions, his fluteplaying chases away the Winter and brings about the spring.

Kokopelli 3

In the hump of his back he carried the seeds of plants and flowers. In some traditions, such as those of the Hopi, Kokopelli carries unborn children in his backpack and distributes them to women. For this reason unmarried young girls are often afraid of him. Kokopelli is often associated with marriage rituals.

Kokopelli 4

Kokopelli is often depicted with a long penis. He is  sometimes accompanied by Kokopelli Mana, his female companion.

Kokopelli 5

In some traditions, Kokopelli is associated with the reproduction of game animals. He is often depicted with animal companions such as the deer and the ram. He is sometimes associated with snakes, lizards, and insects.

Some scholars feel that Kokopelli’s flute is actually the depiction of a blowgun, while others feel it is a pipe for smoking tobacco.

There are some who feel that Kokopelli was actually a trader from northern Mesoamerica. He carried trade goods on his back and would announce his arrival to trade by playing the flute.

The Southwestern oral traditions, particularly those of the Hopi, talk about the exploits of Kokopelli. In Hopi ceremonials he takes on a ribald role of a comic seducer of girls and a bringer of babies. In his many guises, Kokopelli can be seen as a Southwestern manifestation of the American Indian trickster.

Sexuality was important to the Native people of the Southwest: it was not something hidden. In addition, sexuality was incorporated into the spiritual in stories, in art, and in ceremonies. The Europeans and Americans were, and sometimes still are, offended by the graphic depictions of Kokopelli’s sexuality. Often, these people defaced the ancient rock art to obscure the offending penis. As a result of pressure from the contemporary American society, many of the modern images of Kokopelli have been sanitized and desexualized.

Kokopelli 6

1 Comment

  1. the Native American flute, well have worked at accomplishing a decent playing level for many years now. I’ve heard various tales of Kokopelli.
    Too bad real history is sanitized.

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