Hopi Katsinas are physical representatives of Hopi spirits. There are hundreds of these spirits. The Hopi believe they visit the Mesas between January and July to bless the people with good crops, rain, knowledge, health, and more.
When not at the villages, these spirits live in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Arizona. In the dances, men initiated into the Katsina Societies dress as the Katsinas and perform dances to bring blessings from the actual spirits. These men, in effect, loan their bodies to the spirit of the Katsina.
Only men initiated into the Katsina Societies traditionally carve dolls representing the spirits. The men who carve these figures are responsible for giving them to the young girls, nieces, and daughters to teach them the Katsina religion and Hopi belief system.
These dolls were originally simple carvings with the correct mask painted where the face of the Katsina was, and they were intended to be hung on the wall.
As interest in the carved figures grew, they developed into an art form that individuals and museums have collected worldwide. The carvings became more and more intricate.
Congress passed the Migratory Bird Protection Act in 1916 and has expanded it several times. Until the 1970s, most Hopi Katsina dolls used bird feathers. When dealers began to have their dolls confiscated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, many predicted the end of the Katsina doll as an art form.
But Hopi carvers responded and carved the feathers, making the dolls more intricate and unique. They expanded the carving to replace fabric skirts, fur, and jewelry with carved and painted representations. The Katsina Dolls sold as art pieces became intricate sculptures crafted from dried Cottonwood roots.
This carving, by Ronald Honyouti, represents Soyoko Mana, a female Ogre. She is different from other female Ogres as she has a butterfly whorl hairstyle, indicating she is unmarried. Her role is to frighten young children, teaching them good behavior. She carries a basket on her back, and the children are supposed to give her food, or she will eat them. She has a knife and a long crook to catch those who don’t.
I have always considered the Hopi Ogre the opposite of Santa Claus. Instead of bribing children into good behavior, she terrifies them, probably with the same temporary result!
This is a beautiful Katsina doll.