Hopi Tales of Destruction

Hopi Tales of Destruction

Hopi Tales of Destruction

Hopi Tales of Destruction

Synopsis

Hopi Tales of Destructionpreserves seven powerful tales about ancient Hopi villages that now lie in ruins. These narratives shed considerable light on the Hopis' past, giving insight into cultural values and social motivations beyond the ability of archaeology. The tales concern such villages as Sikyatki, Hisatsongoopavi, and Awat'ovi, which were destroyed by war, fire, earthquake, or internal strife. Though abandoned for centuries, they live in memory, reminders of ancient tragedies and enmities that changed the Hopis forever. Related by storytellers from Second and Third Mesa, these tales vividly describe village destruction and show how much human evils such as witchcraft, hubris, corruption, and betrayal of fundamental values can precipitate social disintegration and chaos. Ekkehart Malotki, who collected the original tales in the Hopi vernacular, has carefully edited and translated the tales in this special English-language edition. His introduction, notes, and a glossary reveal what historical and archaeological research has pieced together about the villages and correlates the stories with other legends.

Excerpt

The ruin of Qa'ötaqtipu is said to lie somewhere northeast of the Third Mesa village of Bacavi. None of the Hopis I consulted were able to pinpoint its location more accurately since they personally had never visited the site. One clue that seems to lend credence to its geographic placement in the vicinity of Bacavi is the fact that Matsonpi, about a mile northwest of Bacavi, is portrayed in the story as a neighboring settlement of Qa'ötaqtipu. Matsonpi's location, a little mound badly ravaged by pothunters, approximately three-quarters of a mile north of the center of Hotevilla, just below the mesa spur on which Hotevilla is situated, is well known. Its name is humorously interpreted as “Hand-kissing Place.” This interpretation, based on the elements ma (hand) and tsoonanta (to kiss), is linguistically not tenable, however. Nor is a more serious attempt to inject meaning into the place-name. By relating ma (hand) to maqtö (paw) and tson to tsoona (to suck), the place-name is said to recall the ancient Hopi custom of dipping a rabbit's foot into salt water and sucking on it during a meal.

Evidently, Qa'ötaqtipu, which translates as “Burnt Corn, ” could not have been the name originally assigned to the village by its founders. It probably came about when, at a later time, Hopis discovered some charred corncobs there. This discovery may also have led to the assumption that the village was destroyed by fire and inspired the present mytho-historic account.

To my knowledge, neither Qa'ötaqtipu nor Matsonpi has ever been investigated archaeologically, or if they have, the results have not been published. From a cursory sampling of the ceramics scattered around the site, however, there can be no doubt that the village was abandoned long before the coming of the Spaniards in the 16th century. Since Matsonpi . . .

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