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A kachina (//; also katchina, katcina, or katsina; Hopi: katsina /kətˈsiːnə/, plural katsinim /kətˈsiːnɨm/) is a spirit being in western Pueblo cosmology and religious practices. The western Pueblo, Native American cultures located in the southwestern United States, include Hopi, Zuni, Tewa Village (on the Hopi Reservation), Acoma Pueblo, and Laguna Pueblo. The kachina religion has spread to more eastern Pueblos, e.g., from Laguna to Isleta. The term also refers to the kachina dancers, masked members of the tribe who dress up as kachinas for religious ceremonies, and kachina dolls, wooden figures representing kachinas which are given as gifts to children.
Kachinas are spirits or personifications of things in the real world. A kachina can represent anything in the natural world or cosmos, from a revered ancestor to an element, a location, a quality, a natural phenomenon, or a concept. There are more than 400 different kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture. The local pantheon of kachinas varies in each pueblo community; there may be kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having humanlike relationships; they may have uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, and may marry and have children. Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use his particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. One observer has written:
"The central theme of the kachina [religion] is the presence of life in all objects that fill the universe. Everything has an essence or a life force, and humans must interact with these or fail to survive."
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Kachina was the most widespread and practiced religion by the Pueblo two hundred years or so before the Spaniards came to the West.
The Zuni believe that the kachinas live in the Lake of the Dead, a mythical lake which is reached through Listening Spring Lake. This is located at the junction of the Zuni River and the Little Colorado River.
Among the Hopi, kachina dolls are traditionally carved by the uncles and given to uninitiated girls at the Bean Dance (Spring Bean Planting Ceremony) and Home Dance Ceremony in the summer. The function of the dolls is to acquaint children with some of the many kachinas.
In Hopi the word is often used to represent the spiritual beings themselves (said to be connected with the Fifth World, Taalawsohu), the dolls, or the people who dress as kachinas for ceremonial dances, which are understood to all embody aspects of the same belief system. Among other uses, the kachinas represent historical events and things in nature, and are used to educate children in the ways of life.
The most important of the kachinas are known as wuya. These are some of the wuyas:
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