What was the Kachinvaki and When do Hopi children participate in the Kachinvaki ceremony?

The Kachinvaki was the first ceremony attended by a Hopi child. Its purpose was to initiate girls and boys into Hopi society and tell them what would be expected of them as adults.

Children were deemed ready for the Kachinvaki usually sometime between the ages of six and nine. Each was assigned a sponsor, a man or a woman who prepared the child for the ceremony by telling him or her about the kachinas and their power.

On the day of the Kachinvaki, the children were taken into a kiva, where they were met by dancers wearing kachina masks. One dancer held a whip made of yucca branches. Told to put their hands above their heads, the children were whipped lightly by the dancer, often with the encouragement of their parents, who told the kachinas about the naughty things their children had done.

The kachina dancers later visited the children at their home and brought them presents. The children were then taken to an all-night dance, where one by one the dancers removed their masks to reveal that they were in fact men.

The boys and girls were told not to tell their secret to younger children before they learned the dancers’ true identity at their own Kachinvaki ceremony.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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