When it comes to beautifully crafted Native American art, Kachina dolls are a fascinating and historically symbolic type of piece to have. From original and vintage pieces to modern-day creations, each Kachina doll tells a unique story about its origins and the spirit it represents.
Find out more about the history of Kachina dolls and why they are such a fascinating part of Native American art history.
- Meaning of Kachina Dolls
In the Southwestern United States, the term ‘kachina’ for the Pueblo People referred to a spirit that helps influence everyday life- whether through luck or influencing the weather or other blessings such as prosperity. The story of these spirits is depicted in the form of Kachina dolls, which were used as learning tools for Indigenous children to gain knowledge about the myths and characteristics of the different Kachinas which are part of the tribe’s history and spiritual practices.
The spirits themselves are depicted as neither good nor bad, but just invisible parts of regular life which are visually represented through the brightly painted and masked kachina doll forms.
- Kachina Doll Materials and Construction
Historically, Kachina dolls were made out of natural materials from the Southwestern United States region, including and most often, cottonwood root, which can be commonly found in the desert climate. While the figures are carved from wood, the features of the doll such as an intricate mask or facial designs are either carved from the wood or painted on using naturally occurring pigments. Given that the dolls are visual representations of spirits, they often include features that stray from regular facial characteristics such as snouts for noses or beaks instead of mouths. This also adds to the whimsical feel of the dolls and is just a further way for individuals to show off their artistry with the creation of the doll.
- Symbolism in Kachina Dolls
There are hundreds of different types of Kachinas, and each one symbolizes the history and characteristics of different spirits. For example, you might have a Kachina which incorporates elements of an eagle, symbolic of strength and power, the messenger of the heavens. Or you might have a Kachina which is a reference to the Old Man who is a grandfather Kachina and sings songs for successful growing seasons.
Kachinas are also rich in symbolism with the colors that are used and the patterns that are drawn on. For example, vertical lines under a doll’s eyes could indicate a warrior’s markings, or a rainbow of colors might be to symbolize heaven. Regardless of what your doll looks like, one of the most exciting parts about Kachina dolls is researching the rich symbolism and finding the hidden meanings of what that doll represents.
When looking for a Kachina doll to eitherstart or add to your collection, make sure you’re buying from a reputable vendor who can assure you of your Kachina doll’s providence and authenticity. At Palms Trading Company, we carry authentic Kachina dolls created by local artisans that showcase the unique history and craftsmanship of the Kachina doll tradition.
If you’re unsure of what exactly you’re looking for, our personal shoppers would be more than happy to help you find the perfect Kachina doll. Get in touch today and let us help you find the perfect Kachina Doll to add to your collection!