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Most of the figures and designs that are known today as Kokopelli are really contemporary artworks. The Southwestern motifs found in jewelry stores, displays, and T-shirts are only a small reflection of what Kokopelli really looks like in his many ancestral forms. Although a few of the representations of Kokopelli in the mass media do have a close resemblance to one or two forms found in traditional representations of Kokopelli, most ancient forms would hardly be recognized as Kokopelli by most people. Desert Little Bear incorporates both traditional and contemporary forms of Kokopelli in his artwork. Two examples are shown below: The artwork on the left is called The Evolution of Kokopelli and it represents several different ancestral designs (from left to right - Archaic, Anasazi, Hohokam) and a contemporary design (Kokopelli never played a horn). Fore! on the right is obviously a contemporary design that's just for fun.

The Evolution of Kokopelli Fore!
Rock 69 Rock 93

There is much misunderstanding and confusion about Kokopelli. Understandings of Kokopelli can vary from tribe to tribe and can even from generation to generation within the same tribe. The explanations for Kokopelli can only be truly understood based on each individual tribe in relation to their mythologies and sacred beliefs. This said, generally speaking, Kokopelli can be a fertility figure, an insect, trickster, trader, or rain-maker.

One key point in understanding Kokopelli is to realize the diversity involved with Southwestern Native Americans. For example, in the state of Arizona there are 21 Indian tribes. Each tribe is unique. Therefore, it is possible to have 21 different interpretations of Kokopelli. This is further complicated by the nature of the oral storytelling traditions that have been in place for centuries that over time change the interpretations within each tribe.

Ancestral Kokopelli images in the Southwest can be found in the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah (the four corners states) in rock art, pottery motifs, and woven items. Academia has assumed that most of the petroglyphs relating to Kokopelli were made by the ancient tribes of the Anasazi, Mogollon, Sinagua, and Hohokam who lived and traveled in these regions. Currently, Kokopelli is still incorporated into the dances and rituals of the Zuni and Hopi tribes who are descendants of the ancient Anasazi.

For Further Research

Check out these books. The first is a lighthearted general information book, the second is academic.

Cuckoo For Kokopelli Kokopelli: Fluteplayer
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