A Hopi Anointing

Crow Mother - 12 inch tall kachina by Kevin Pochoema <http://www.ancientnations.com>In connection with yesterday’s post about early Christian purification ordinances, isn’t it interesting that we find very similar practices in the new world, among those whose culture, beliefs, traditions, history, and religion seem so different to a superficial eye? The Hopi Native Americans have a vast array of rituals, ceremonies, customs, dances, rites, and sacred dresses, which are very interesting for us to study.

In Boyd Petersen’s excellent biography Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life we read about Dr. Nibley’s travels and studies of the Hopi people. He had a fascination with the Hopi, particularly because many of their beliefs and practices mirror our own, and also those of many ancient civilizations. These have been passed down for centuries and are still practiced by the Hopi today.

Br. Petersen had the opportunity to accompany his father-in law, Dr. Nibley, and others to Hotevilla in July 1996. It proved to be a singular experience:

Of course, what amazed us were the parallels between Mormon rituals and those of the Hopi. In addition to those Hugh showed us were others called to our attention by Robert C. Bennion, an emeritus BYU professor of psychology, who accompanied us. Bob had served his mission among the Hopi and Navajo, and is a long-time friend of the Nibley family. He told us about witnessing the initiation ritual of a young woman in which the Hopi priest touched each of her sense organs with a feather dipped in corn meal, blessing them that they would function properly. Parallels appear between the language of the Mormon temple ceremony and the Hopi myth of origin in Frank Water’s Book of the Hopi. Responding to someone who asked about similarities between the Mormon temple endowment and the Masonic ceremony, Nibley wrote that the parallels between the Mormon endowment and the rites of the Hopi “come closest of all as far as I have been able to discover – and where did they get theirs?”1

I did some additional searching on the internet, and found this passing remark about an 8-foot tall “crow mother” kachina in the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Arizona:

Take a moment to enjoy the artistry of John Fredericks of Hopi, who created this 8-foot, carved Kachina for The Westin Kierland. The Kachina is a crow mother, one of the main Kachina mothers who appear each winter during the bean dance ceremony. This Kachina holds cornmeal, a sacred Hopi symbol of the staple of life used to anoint young men and women in the initiation ceremony.2

Indian Dressed Flute Ceremony - by Mahonri YoungThe Angwusnasomtaka, or Crow Mother, (also called Angwushahai’i, or Crow Bride) has been called the mother of all kachinas, and one of the three most important of all kachinas. Her dress is also described as being “all white,” and having “a white wedding belt, black dress and a Bride’s blanket with rain symbols embroidered along the borders. As Crow bride she is dressed in white and has different markings3.

Another account I was able to find was of John, a runner in the Walpi Flute Society, whose duty is to carry offerings to the shrines in the Hopi pueblo:

It is not small task to include all the fields in the blessings asked by the Flute priests, since the circuit must exceed twenty miles. Each day Sikyabotoma [John], wearing an embroidered kilt around his loins, his long, glossy hair hanging free, stands before the Flute priests, a brave sight to behold. They fasten a small pouch of sacred meal at his side and anoint him with honey on the tip of the tongue, the forehead, breast, arms, and legs, perhaps to make him swift as the bee. Then he receives the prayer-sticks, and away he goes down the mesa as though he had leaped down the five hundred feet, his long, black hair streaming.4

  1. Boyd Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, 282 []
  2. http://www.kierlandresort.com/minicms/uploads/200510191057010.walkingTour.pdf []
  3. http://www.indianartofamerica.com/1041.htm []
  4. Walter Hough, The Hopi Indians, 111. []


  1. Reed Russell
    Posted April 25, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Nibley also found similar parallels within the Egyptian “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony wherein the mouth was officially opened by an instrument usually called an adze, and various parts of the body were anointed with oil. One was anointed on the mouth, eyes, ears and different parts of the reconstituted body thus making it so “the mouth, eyes, and ears can breathe, eat, see, and hear, and the arms can act and the legs can walk.”

  2. Posted April 26, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    A good book on this topic is:

    T. Mails and D. Evehema, Hotevilla: Hopi Shrine of the Covenant : Microcosm of the World (Treasure Chest, 1996) ISBN 1569248109

  3. Posted April 28, 2008 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the reference. I’ll have to pick it up.

  4. Posted May 3, 2008 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy your daily commetary on current and former Temples. Your indepth effort to seek
    other LDS writings makes it more interesting each week.

    Thanks for your efforts

    Brother Losse

  5. Posted June 9, 2008 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Interesting post. I operate the online gallery, Ancient Nations and happened upon your blog. I also served an LDS mission among the Hopi people and was amazed by the parallels and correlations between their traditions and the restored gospel (especially origin stories, and temple rituals). I’ve read some of Nibley’s writing, and I’m fascinated. There’s another book out there called “Visual Testament: And the Israelite Indian ” comparing Hopis and Hebrews by Tom Cryer. It’s not very professional, but it’s loaded with information. You kind of have to sort through it yourself. If anyone has any questions or wants to contact me, feel free. (Nice image of the Crow Mother, by the way – thanks for the credit).

  6. Pahana
    Posted January 24, 2009 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately this story is a third person account of viewing a puberty ceremony that all Native American tribes practice in different fashions. Religious parallels can be drawn from every religion. It’s only a perspective that one wishes to see. What I was hoping to see was some commentary from the actual Hopi people in this article that help supports the claim. Unfortunately, there was none. I will be paying a visit to the Hopi land and will be asking their traditionalist for their viewpoint of the Mormon and Hopi connection. I’ll be going directly to the source.

  7. Gregory Matthew
    Posted September 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    It is true that one often sees what he is looking for, regardless of reality. It is also true that what one wants to see may be the reality. If you found reality to be exactly what you were looking for, and they were actually the same, how else could you report it? This story is great. It is not proof, nor presented as such, but is evidence as stated. It makes me want to get a first hand experience myself. But as most of the world is not able to go to Hopi land, this reporting is important. This story is not comprehensive, and of course further investigation is necessary for anyone wishing to know all the facts of the matter.

  8. Jody Livingston
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I find this very interesting, I am actually doing a comparison between the Hopi and the Anti Nephi Lehites in regards to the theory purposed by Dr. Jerry Ainsworth. I am reading the book that Bill Hamblin suggested on this topic. I was listening to a talk by Hugh Nibley on temples and he suggested the same book and told of a few of his experiences among the Hopi that were quite interesting including the reaction of some of his friends from Hebrew Univ in Isreal when he took them to Hotevilla and they saw a woman making a prayer schall and she called it a sheesh the same thing the did in Israel and some other people he brought hearing the children singing the same chants he grew up singing in Israel. Its extremely fascinating. I know that Hugh Nibley did rebuke either the church or BYU or both for their involvment in the Peabody Coal minning issue. I just can’t get enough of Hughes insites into the Hopi…..what a brilliant man.

  9. Posted February 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Do you remember which Nibley talk you were listening to where he talked about the children singing the same chants they grew up singing in Israel?

  10. Jody Livingston
    Posted February 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, its Hugh Nibley “Temples Everywhere”. I don’t know what year it was given though, but I’ll try to find out.

  11. Jody Livingston
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I recently finished reading the book that Brandon Bosworth noted above “Visual Testament” by Tom Cryers and yes it is filled with a lot of information. I would recommend it to anyone who is putting serious time and consideration into the comparisons between the Jews and the Hopi. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Hopi and see some ceremonial dances and know a man who is currently an “adopted” Hopi who has been in their Kiva numerous times. He also recommended the same book. Without name dropping I will tell you that he is a very active LDS member as well. My Uncle William Bush served his mission with the Hopi and was able to go into a kiva in Hotevilla or possibly Oraibi ( I’m experiencing a brain fart sorry), anyway without going into detail due to the promises he made as a missionary when he was invited with his companion into the Kiva he basically summed it up as having many similarities to the LDS temple ceremony. Anyways this has become somewhat of a passion for me recently over the past year or two so….just go and get the book an stop reading my post!!!

  12. JRSG
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    It is interesting when a critic of the LDS religion show parallels of the Book of Mormon and other secular books of Joseph Smith’s time, it is accepted as a smoking gun and fact that Joseph Smith himself wrote the BofM by copying other Authors. Yet, when LDS people show parallels between LDS rituals, teachings, and what have you, the critics and general populace dismiss it as pure wishful thinkful thinking on the part of the LDS people and scholars. What a double standard and hypocrisy.

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