Hopi Snake Priest

Hopi Snake Priest
by Ken West



The Hopi or "Hopituh Shi-nu-mu" meaning "The Peaceful People" or the "Peaceful Little Ones" are a well know Indian Nation in Northern Arizona, especially known for their "Kachina Dolls".  The Navajo name for the Hopi is Anazazi which means "ancient enemies".  The Hopi's are a very peaceful tribe whose reservation lies somewhat in the center of the Navajo Nation and although the co-exist because of their geography their relationship is somewhat strained because of their tribal histories.

The cliff painting of the Mesa Verde and other areas are said to be "guides" for their warriors and they claim that the "snake-shaped" mounds in the eastern United States were built by their ancestors.

The "Snake Dance" is performed even today although the picture is of a Snake Priest Circa 1890.  The dance takes about two weeks to prepare and the snakes are gathered and watched over by the children. The snakes are usually rattle snakes and are dangerous but no harm seems to befall the children.  Before the dance begins the dancers take an emetic (probably a sedative herb or hallucinogenic) and then dance with the snakes in their mouths.  There is usually an Antelope Priest in attendance who helps with the dance, sometimes stroking the snakes with a feather or supporting their weight.  After the dance the snakes are released to carry the prayers of the dancers.

The original of this piece is available. This is a very large graphite painting and is absolutely beautiful.

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