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Journey To The Hopi

Welcome aboard our latest Journey To... a distant culture in Earth's past to examine how we might incorporate that culture into a broader gaming experience. Today we journey to the Hopi, a sovereign nation in the southwest United States. Today, the Hopi live on the Hopi Reservation lands in northern Arizona, though once, their lands stretched throughout the area known today as the Four Corners. Let's discover more about the Hopi.

Who Are The Hopi?
Hopi culture stretches back thousands of years and is one of the oldest living cultures known to exist. The Hopi are descended from Ancient Pueblo culture, whom the Hopi call the Hisatsinom, but are also known by the Navajo name Anasazi. It is believed the Hopi migrated north from Mexico around 500 B.C.E. and changed from hunter-gatherers into an agrarian people in the following centuries. The primary resource was corn, though they grew other crops as well. It was not until the Spanish arrived and began contact with the Hopi that they acquired sheep and horses and began to herd animals in addition to growing crops. The Europeans also brought small pox, which reduced the population among the Hopi. Despite this, the Hopi did achieve a level of cultural sophistication that carries through until today. This includes rituals, ceremonies, the continuation of their religious beliefs, and the continued existence of their language. The Hopi have traditionally been a matrilineal culture, with married men joining the households of their mothers-in-law.

Peaceful Ones, Katsinam, and Prophecy
Known as the 'Peaceful Ones', the Hopi strive to maintain their covenant with the caretaker Maasaw and live as humble farmers, respecting the land and the many resources that it provides. In addition to the covenant with Maasaw, they Hopi strive to be generous in their lives and place great emphasis on the act of giving. Hopi religion is very complex, involving spirits as well as ancestors and has some aspect of what we might consider Animism. One of the most visible artifacts of Hopi belief are the Katsinam (pl) or Katsina (English - Kachinas), which refers to the many spirits of Hopi beliefs as well as the dolls that are a physical manifestation of these spirits. Also known as tituu or katsintithu, the dolls represent spirits that act as messengers between the mortal (our) world and the underworld.

A much talked about ritual of the Hopi is the Snake Dance. Performed in August near the end of summer, the ritual takes place on the last day of a longer ceremony. Two sets of participants (priests) from the Antelope and Snake clans perform the ritual, which is very elaborate and involves large and poisonous serpents. It is said that only part of the ceremony has been seen by outsiders and that the entire ritual is even more elaborate.

In addition to the katsinam and the Snake Dance, many people may have heard of the Hopi prophecies. As is normal with any prophecy, the specifics of what it might say is difficult to pin down, especially with language and cultural differences. Of particular note is the idea that we are nearing the end of the Fourth World and will soon enter the Fifth World. More than a few modern scholars and prognosticators have interpreted this, but the most common interpretation is that when the Blue Star Katsina becomes visible, the Hopi ceremonies will end and that will usher in the Fifth Age. Many see this as an apocalypse that will end the world as we know it.

Themes for a Hopi-Centric Campaign
I always enjoy the potential science fiction aspects of cultures when including them in game. I think the Hopi would make a fantastic alien culture, but also could be the driving force in a space opera. A cultural revival that becomes the driving force in human evolution might be a fantastic counterpoint to the typical technological and transhuman themes. The Narn from Babylon 5 may have very well been much like the Hopi before the arrival of the Centauri and a universe where the peaceful people are forced to become violent would be an interesting story to explore.

Obviously, a historical campaign would be interesting as well and the Hopi as a peaceful yet influential culture in a fantasy world offer a great deal of fertile ground to grow ideas in. A Hopi inspired culture might fit well into a world like Glorantha or a similar mythological world of your creation.

contributed by Sean Hillman
Sean Hillman



P.S. The Pueblo cultures (of which the Hopi are one of several nationalities) have appeared in the D&D Multiverse three times that I know of:

1) The Children of the Bear, of the Atruaghin Clans, in the D&D Known World of Mystara. Featured in the Atruaghin Gazetteer. There's even a special "Pueblo city" hex glyph. http://mystara.thorfmaps.com/atruaghin-8/

2) The Azuposi of Michaca, the City of Gold, on the continent of Anchorome, in the D&D World of Toril. Featured in the City of Gold sourcebook You can see the Pueblo city on the map of Maztica here:

3) The "Southwestern Desert Cultures" of the "Lands of the People" setting from DRAGON magazine #205. There's a map here: https://sites.google.com/site/dndphilmont/lands-of-the-people

Any others?

For other D&D cultural correlations see my "D&D Culture Books" site: https://sites.google.com/site/dndphilmont/culture-books

Stacie GmrGrl

One thing I really like about the Hopi beliefs is how they see Time and Space. They don't see time as a past, present, and future. They don't have a word (I believe) for the present or now.

Instead everything is either "has manifested" or "is manifesting, or not yet manifested." The link below goes into a lot more detail.


I find it makes more sense and is a more complete way of seeing the world than how we often think of past, present and future.


Just to be clear, Anazasi is a Navajo word and it means "Ancient Enemies". The Anasazi pueblo Indians are much older than "Modern" pueblo Indians.
"Many contemporary Pueblo peoples object to the use of the term Anasazi; controversy exists among them on a native alternative. Some modern descendants of this culture often choose to use the term "Ancestral Pueblo" peoples. Contemporary Hopi use the word Hisatsinom in preference to Anasazi"
Not to derail the Hopi subject, but the Anasazi were amazing builders. I have been to Chaco at least 12 times growing up in the area, and have hiked several of the ancient roads. The aligned their building structures at Chaco not only to the sun, but also the Moon. One of the earliest peoples to do this, as the moon's movement is erratic.

The Hopi Language is a descendant of the Aztec language. Hopis believe that the world was created by Taiowa (the sun-father) and Sotuknang, his nephew. The first creature was Kokyangwuti, spider woman, who created humanity. As humanity multiplied it forgot Taiowa and became corrupt, forcing Sotuknang to destroy the surface of the world. A small faithful minority were preserved through taking shelter in the world, only emerging when the upper world had been restored. This scenario was repeated twice prior to the creation of the present (fourth) world. After the creation of the fourth world people wandered over the earth until they reached the Black Mesa of the Colorado Plateau.

Old Oraibi (Hopi Pueblo) states that it the oldest continued settlement in North America, it is also known that Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico is closely tied of, and may even have been founded earlier than Oraibi.

a Hopi Legend:

Son of Light Fights Man-Eagle - Hopi

Man-Eagle is a huge monster who lays the land to waste and ravishes all the women. When he steals the wife of Son of Light, the hero goes in pursuit, and meets the Pinon Maidens, Spider Woman and Mole, who all volunteer to help him. Spider Woman tells the Pinon Maidens to make a copy of Man-Eagle's impenetrable flint-arrowhead shirt. She sprinkles sacred corn pollen on it, then turns herself into a tiny spider and crawls up on Son of Light's right ear. Then Mole burrows a tunnel up through the mountain on which Man-Eagle lives, so that Son of Light can reach him without being seen. However, they emerge way below Man-Eagle's home, so they call on a spotted eagle, then a hawk, then a grey hawk, and finally a red hawk, to take them there.
Using a special paste to blunt the razor-sharp rungs of the ladder leading up to Man-Eagle's house, Son of Light gains access and swaps shirts with the sleepting Man-Eagle, and finds his wife. Man-Eagle awakes and challenges the hero to a smoking contest, but Son of Light wins with Mole's help. After several other contests, including an eating contest, Son of Light reduces Man-Eagle to ashes.

Strangely the story ends with Spider Woman getting Son of Light to resurrect Man-Eagle, who promises to be good.

In this tale the forces of light overcome the forces of destruction - and transform them. The hero defeats the monster-man only with help from the animal and spirit world, which tells us that we need to be in harmony with these sides of our nature. It also involves trickery - human ingenuity. The ascent carried by successive birds signifies the stages of initiation.

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