kachina (kəchēˈnə) [key], spirit of the invisible life forces of the Pueblo of North America. The kachinas, or kachinam, are impersonated by elaborately costumed masked male members of the tribes who visit Pueblo villages the first half of the year. In a variety of ceremonies, they dance, sing, bring gifts to the children, and sometimes administer public scoldings. Although not worshiped, kachinas are greatly revered, and one of their main purposes is to bring rain for the spring crops. The term kachina also applies to cottonwood dolls made by the Hopi and Zuni that are exquisitely carved and dressed like the dancers. Originally intended to instruct the children about the hundreds of kachina spirits, the finer carvings have become collector's items. The name is also spelled katchina.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.