Hopi group disputes popular perception of the Flute Player

Salt Lake Tribune – Utah
Hopi group disputes popular perception of the Flute Player, By Lisa Church, Special to The Tribune

In Hopi teachings, Kokopelli – a corruption of the Hopi word “Kookopoli” – is a troublemaker, a lecherous and promiscuous figure who traveled from village to village as a trader, carrying his merchandise in a sack on his back.

Legend holds that as the villagers gathered to see his goods, Kookopoli would entrance them with flute music, then perform lewd acts upon some of the village women.

The exhibit, developed with the help of Hopi Flute Clan members, uses a variety of rock-art images and text based on the teachings of the Hopi to explain the importance of the Hopi Flute Player, and to detail the distinction between the flute player and Kokopelli.

Today, the Hopi sometimes depict Kookopoli in the form of a Katsina – a carved sculpture – called Kokopelli.

The characters of Kookopoli and the female version, Kokopolmana, often are seen during Hopi spring and summer dances meandering through the village feigning lewd acts, usually in the company of a clown figure who taunts Kokopolmana, while resisting her advances.

“They’re used to teach the people about the dangers of promiscuity,” said Leroy Lewis, a member of the Flute Clan who served as a consultant for the exhibit.