Halloween has its roots in Celtic culture, where November 1 marked the New Year. On the day before the New Year, October 31, ancient Celts believed that portals opened enabling the dead to take humans to the spirit world. Over time, Romans and Christians influenced the holiday and masks were worn as a protection—a way to disguise a person so they wouldn’t be taken to the spirit world—effectively blurring the line between humans and spirits.
Native Americans have their own tradition of blurring the line between humans and spirits. Although Native American cultures are not tied to the Halloween tradition, most Pueblo cultures wear masks to signify the embodiment of a spirit called a kachina.
Native American Kachinas
Emerging from the Hopi Pueblo, kachinas were supernatural spirits who lived among the Pueblo Indians. The kachinas would instill lessons of peace, harmony and well-being between the tribe and nature.
The kachinas taught those of the tribe how to hunt, cultivate food, heal others and bring rain to the land. Although the kachinas did not stay with the pueblo, a certain few people were bestowed with the responsibility to educate others among the tribe. These people would wear masks and costumes to serve as living symbols of the kachinas during ceremonies and dances. As people would gather, those dressed as the kachina spirit would dance, sing and tell of the stories from their ancestral beginnings.
Preserving Lessons and Stories
As time passed, kachinas were represented in carved, wooden dolls along with the masks and dress used to symbolize them.
Created from the root of a cottonwood tree, the Hopi Indians gifted a kachina doll to the children of their tribe. These were given in order to protect a story or teach a lesson noteworthy to the pueblo.
At Palms Trading Company, we have a variety of kachina dolls that come from New Mexico pueblos and symbolize the stories of ancient kachinas. Purchased directly from the artists, our kachina dolls are authentic and come with the lesson they were meant to tell.