Three thousand years ago on a rock panel in the American Southwest, the figure of a flute player with either a humped back or a bag on his back, was carved for the first time in a remote canyon. Over the years, the figure has shown up over a wide area of the Southwest in many different canyons, on the walls of caves and cliff dwellings.

Who was this mysterious figure? How did he show up everywhere? Why did people feel the need to carve that likeness on Canyon Walls.The truth is that no one knows! 


Some say he is a Fertility God, presiding over crops and childbirth. For the people of San Ildefonso Pueblo, he is a wandering minstrel with a bag of songs on his back that he trades for new songs as he travels from village to village. I have heard that some Navajo people believe he is a God of harvest and plenty and his sack was made of clouds full of seeds and rainbows.

The Navajo didn’t show up in the area until after 1000 A.D. (That’s what anthropologist say, the Navajo disagree), but it was not unlike them to adopt some Pueblo beliefs into their religion.

One fun book I have read about Kokopelli was She Who Remembers by Linda Lay Shular. The book was based on a belief that probably has something to it. The idea is that Kokopelli was an ancient day trader from the Aztec culture. He traveled, bartering and trading (which would explain why the Anasazi had Macaw feathers!) and taking advantage of maidens. A fun read if you like that sort of novel wrapped in historical myth.


Certainly, there were traders who traveled from present day Mexico, or even South America and a bag on their backs was the only way they could have carried trade items as there were no horses, wagons of roads! It’s probable that the symbol was not a depiction of just one person, but multiple traders. If you think about it, someone who brought unique trade items to the Pueblos would have been an honored guest. And he was probably assured of safe travel as people would want him to return.


Then, when the Spanish invaded South America and Mexico, the itinerant traveler probably disappeared from the scene. That was in 1519. So over the last five hundred years, whatever or whoever Kokopelli was probably disappeared from memory.  Really, nobody knows!About 30 years ago, maybe a little more, non-Natives discovered Kokopelli and his image showed up on wine glasses, furniture, candle holders and or course, jewelry!

Kokopelli Kachina, by artist A. Kewanwytswa,

Weavers began putting the images in their rugs and potters included them in their work. Kokopelli was truly demonstrating fertility by showing up everywhere. He was multiplying!Today, he isn’t everywhere, but he still lives in the canyons and in the art of the Native people.

We were talking about Kokopelli the other day and started looking around the gallery to see how many examples we could find of this mysterious fellow. We found a lot and wanted to share the collection with you!

See all Kokopelli Art in the Gallery

So, Take the Kokopelli tour and I bet one of two of them might want to go home with you!