Old Father Storyteller by Pablita Velarde (Santa Clara Pueblo Tewa)
"The Emergence to the future Fifth World has begun. It is being made by the humble people of little nations, tribes, and racial minorities. You can read this in the earth itself. Plant forms from previous worlds are beginning to spring up as seeds. This could start a new study of botany if people were wise enough to read them. The same kinds of seeds are being planted in the sky as stars. The same kinds of seeds are being planted in our hearts. All these are the same, depending how you look at them."
from The Book of the Hopi, by Frank Waters (1963)As we approach both a time of Thanksgiving, and then the Winter Solstice, I felt like re-visiting an article I posted at the advent of 2012 about Hopi prophecy, which seems to me more relevant than ever. They believe the "4th World" is ending, and the 5th World is now beginning. In Hopi cosmology, there were four previous Worlds, all of which were destroyed as each New Age began. We are entering the Fifth Age. As we evolve into a global society, with a profound global crisis, as a neo-Pagan practitioner I find it interesting that the Fifth Element, or the Fifth Direction is Center, represented by white, the essence of all the other elements.
Hopi cosmology, as are all Pueblo cosmologies, is complex, varies from Pueblo to Pueblo, and has many variations. There is no doubt that there was trade and exchange between the Pueblo peoples and the Maya, and indeed Hopi language shares commonalities with the Aztec language. So it is not surprising that the Hopi and Mayan calendars coincide in some ways, and also that certain mythological figures are shared in common. But I am far from an expert, and I can only speak of what I know in the most general sense.
|Hopi "Prophecy rock"|
My particular fascination with the Pueblo "previous worlds" stories has to do with Spider Woman (called Tse Che Nako, the "Thought Woman" as well). As an artist, I feel Grandmother Spider Woman, the unifying Creatrix figure at the Center of the great Web of life, who teaches us to weave the worlds, as She does, with the stories we imagine and tell............is an especially important myth for our time. What stories are we telling about the World?
is, in Pueblo stories, the one who leads the "new people" into the next Age, in most stories (although not all) through the Sipapu, or entrance hole into the Kiva, which can be seen as a symbolic womb and emergence from the birth canal into the new World.
The Hopi have been an oral culture, which means that the prophecies, myths, and ceremonies have been passed on from generation to generation, changing and being influenced by external events. It's also important, in reading the many popular accounts of the Hopi prophecies on the Web, to realize that:
1) The Hopi are traditionally very secretive about their sacred traditions and do not readily share them with outsiders - conversely, they may intentionally mislead informants, as a means of protecting their traditional wisdom from exploitation.
2) None of the Prophecies that have been circulating, including the well known work of Frank Waters who wrote "The Book of the Hopi" in the 1950's (as far as I can determine) were written by Hopi people.
3) There is much hype, co-option, disrespect, and fantasizing of the Hopi prophesies, and Native Americans in general on the part of popular culture, that it's hard to wade through and find what the truth is.
The "Nine Signs" of the Hopi, written by Frank Waters in his The Book of the Hopi, is very famous and continues to circulate widely. The book, however, is controversial, and rejected by many Hopi traditionalists. Waters reportedly interviewed over 30 Hopi elders, who chose to share their cosmology and philosophy with the writer. The "Nine Signs", he wrote, were given to a white minister, who happened to give a ride to a Hopi elder. The Minister conveniently died in the 70's, and the Elder, who told him his name was "White Feather of the Bear Clan", has never been traced. As many have pointed out, the Hopi usually have an Anglo first name, and then their last name is in their own native language. It may also be pointed out that everything in the "prophecies" could have been observed in the 50's, from the widespread terror of nuclear war to "the sea turning black and living things dying" (oil spills). The West has had, under Christianity, a very long fascination with the Apocalypse, and many groups for a thousand years have awaited the "Rapture", when "Christ would return and the sinful world would be destroyed." While it is certainly true that the Hopi have prophecies that concern their Five Worlds cosmology, the "prophecies" supposedly given by a mysterious dying "White Feather" are generally regarded as fictional.
One of the most interesting aspects of Hopi prophecy Waters wrote about is that of the "Blue Star Katchina", in which a spirit appearing as a blue star would signify the beginning of the destruction of the old world. While this story has never been substantiated, still, it is a meaningful metaphor for our time, by a well respected writer.
"The end of all Hopi ceremonialism will come when the Blue Star Kachina removes his mask during a dance in the plaza before uninitiated children [ which has been interpreted to mean the naive or general public]. For a while there will be no more ceremonies, no more faith. Then Oraibi will be rejuvenated with its faith and ceremonies, marking the start of a new cycle of Hopi life................You will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star."
This has been interpreted (in the 80's and 90's) to mean the comet Hale Bopp, the destruction of the space station Challenger, even UFOs. I have to note that there were manned satellites in the late '50's that could have influenced this.
Perhaps the closest to truth is reading Dan Evehema, a Hopi traditional leader (he died in 1999) , who was one of four Hopis (including Thomas Banyacya, David Monongye, and Dan Katchongva) who decided or were appointed to reveal Hopi traditional wisdom and teachings, including the Hopi prophecies for the future, to the general public in 1946, after the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. Evehema was co-author, with Thomas Mails, of "The Hopi Survival Kit". The "Hopi Survival Kit" includes a signed affidavit from Dan Evehema approving the book, and is the only written account of the complete Hopi prophecies. Evehema was a member of the Greasewood/Roadrunner Clan.
Hopi legend also apparently has reference to "the return of Pahena, the white brother". The legend of Pahana may be related to the ancient Aztec story of Quetzalcoatl. In the early 16th century the Aztecs believed that the coming of the Spanish conquistadors was the return of this mythical lost white prophet. Daniel Pinchbeck has written in “The Fifth World and the Hopi Apocalypse” (which I have taken the liberty of excerpting from below) that
“The Hopi prophecies also tell of the return of Pahana, the elder white brother, in a real exchange of knowledge and a true communion, as the Fourth World comes to an end.”
Which is hopeful.............
Having said all that, I'd like to share a 2005 article by Daniel Pinchbeck which I shared back in 2012 as well. In a later related discussion, in his 2017 book How Soon Is Now? Pinchbeck explores his idea that the ecological crisis is a rite of passage or initiation for humanity collectively, forcing us to reach the next level of our consciousness as a species. The book outlines the changes to our technical infrastructure - agriculture, energy, industry - and our social, political, and economic system that Pinchbeck believes necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming and species extinction.
by Daniel Pinchbeck
Originally published in Arthur No. 14 (Jan. 2005)
Last summer, I visited the Hopi on their tribal lands in Arizona. The Hopi are thought to be the original inhabitants of the North American continent–this is what their own legends tell us, and archaeologists agree. My initial interest in the Hopi came from reading about their oral prophecies and their “Emergence Myth.” According to the Hopi, we are currently living in the Fourth World, on the verge of transitioning, or emerging, into the Fifth World. In each of the three previous worlds, humanity eventually went berserk, tearing apart the fabric of the world through destructive practices, wars, and ruinous technologies. As the end of one world approaches a small tunnel or inter-dimensional passage —the sipapu—appears, leading the Hopi and other decent people into the next phase, or incarnation, of the Earth.
Of course, most modern people would consider this story to be an interesting folktale or fantasy with no particular relevance to our current lives. Even five years ago, I probably would have agreed with them. However, my personal experiences with indigenous cultures and shamanism convinced me, in the interim, that there is more to traditional wisdom than our modern mindset can easily accept. The Hopi themselves say that almost all of the signs have been fulfilled that precede our transition to the Fifth World. These include a “gourd of ashes falling from the sky,” destroying a city, enacted in the atomic blasts obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a spider web across the Earth, which they associate with our power grid and telephone lines. According to Frank Waters, who compiled accounts from 30 Hopi elders in his Book of the Hopi (1963), the current Fourth World will end in a war that will be “a spiritual conflict” fought with material means, leading to the destruction of the United States through radiation. Those who survive this conflict will institute a new united world without racial or ideological divisions “under one power, that of the Creator.”
The 12,000 Hopi live in a dry and dramatic landscape strewn with enormous boulders, resembling the surface of an alien planet. Their towns are clustered on three mesas—high, flat cliffs overlooking vast swathes of desert. Traditionally, the Hopi are subsistence farmers; they work with ancient strains of corn and beans that are, almost miraculously, able to grow in that arid environment. For obvious reasons, water is sacred to their culture—many of their rituals are aimed at bringing rain. Each spring, each well, is precious to the Hopi. While I was visiting Hopi land I attended a rain dance in the town of Walpi, on First Mesa. Perhaps 50 men of the town—wearing masks and costumes and feathered headdresses —participated in the dance, which was held in the town’s center. The dancers are dressed as katsinas, the spiritual beings that are thought to control elemental forces. The ceremony is a form of possession trance—the goal is to summon the katsinas to temporarily inhabit the bodies of the dancers. The Hopi believe that their culture can only prosper if they maintain direct contact with the supernatural powers that manifest directly through the natural world.
In his book Rethinking Hopi Anthropology, the Cambridge anthropologist Peter Whitely recalls, with an almost embarrassed reluctance, that during his time with the Hopi in the 1980s, he witnessed repeated demonstrations of their precognitive abilities and their ability to influence natural forces through ritual.*** He was transfixed by his first visit to a Snake Dance in 1980:
“This was no commodified spectacle of the exotic … its profound religiosity was tangible, sensible. Within half an hour of the dance (which lasts about 45 minutes), a soft rain began to fall from a sky that had been burningly cloudless throughout the day.” When he went to see one of his informants, Harry Kewanimptewa, a septuagenarian member of the Spider clan, he would often find that the elder would answer the questions he had intended to ask before he could vocalize them: “I have no desire to fetishize or exoticize here, but this was something about him and some other, particularly older, Hopis that I have experienced repeatedly and am unable to explain rationally.”
I can sympathize with Whiteley’s plight. Since I started exploring shamanism almost a decade ago, I have found myself living in two worlds simultaneously—the world of Western rationalist discourse with its empirical and materialist emphasis, and the shamanic realm of magical correspondences, supernatural forces, dream messages, and synchronicities. The shamanic realm is one in which human consciousness is not an epiphenomenon or dualistic byproduct of a purely physical evolution, but an inseparable aspect of the world, intertwined with reality at every level. It seems that quantum physics has attained a perspective that is similar to the shamanic view, acknowledging a direct relation between the observer and observed.
I went to the Hopi as part of my research for the book I am writing on prophecies, studying the Mayan and Toltec obsession with the year 2012, the Apocalypse described in the Biblical Book of Revelation, the Hopi foretellings, and various modern Western philosophers and visionaries whose ideas offer a context or system for understanding these predictions. Before I visited the Hopi or even read much about them, I had a few powerful dream experiences that seemed to indicate, to me, the importance of my imminent encounter with this ancient tribe. After seeing the film Naqoyqatsi (“Life as War”)—the last in the trilogy of films beginning with Koyaanisqatsi (“Life out of Balance”), by Godfrey Reggio (appropriating Hopi concepts with no input from the tribe) — I had a dream of fiery demons at computer workstations, and awoke with the sense of a visceral supernatural presence flying through my house. The night before I left for the Southwest, I had an even more specific and frightening nightmare. In this dream, I was killed and dismembered by a disgusting-looking demon—who was simultaneously, in typical dream dislogic, the famous conceptual artist Bruce Naumann. In the dream, I returned to Naumann’s studio or the demon’s home and said, “Great—now that you have killed me, I control you.” I went to a bookcase and picked up a huge leather-bound volume titled “Grimoire” (a Medieval catalogue of imaginary beasts and supernatural creatures) and melted it down over a fire. As I did this, I heard incredibly loud Native American chanting and maniacal laughter. I awoke, once again, with the sense of a powerful presence, a kind of unhinged or wild diabolical force, looming overhead and then soaring away.
While traveling to Hopiland I scanned several books of Hopi anthropology and folktales and found that the being who had haunted my dreams closely matched descriptions of Maasaw, the complex creator-deity of the Hopi. According to Hopi legend, when the Hopi first emerged from the Third World to the Fourth, they met Maasaw, who gave them the rules of conduct for life on this new land and introduced them to the rudiments of their agricultural system. Maasaw brought the sun into the Fourth World; but once he had accomplished this, he left the daylight world forever to haunt the realm of night and darkness. The name Maasaw literally means “corpse demon” or “death spirit” in the Hopi language, and he is considered to be the ruler of the land of the dead. Maasaw resembles the ambiguous deities found in Hinduism and Tibetan Tantra, who have wrathful and benevolent manifestations. Since his disappearance from the earth, Maasaw often appears to the Hopi in dreams as a terrifying presence, wearing a ghoulish mask. According to some accounts, Maasaw’s deviation began long ago in the Third World, where he became arrogant and defiant. His assignment to rule over the underworld was a kind of demotion. I wondered why—as seemed to be the case—this spirit had introduced himself to me, in my dreams, even before I arrived in Hopiland.
I thought that I needed to learn more about the Hopi prophecies—and indeed, I did manage to visit an elder in that extraordinary desert landscape. Martin Gasheseoma took time off from working on his field of corn and beans, to tell me that the “purification,” as foretold, would soon come to pass, that there was no way to prevent it. “It goes like a movie now,” he said. However, even before I had found my way to this meeting, my perspective had shifted. I had realized that the essence of the prophecy—the solution to the riddle—was not in some transcendent or otherworldly event, but in the very immanent and real world around us.
The Hopi way of life is threatened with imminent extinction. In the 1960s, the Peabody Coal Company was given a concession to mine coal on their land. They were also awarded the right to use water from the aquifer under Black Mesa to slurry the coal down a pipeline, built by the Enron Corporation. This operation wastes 1.3 billion gallons of pure drinking water annually. Of course, there are other ways to transport coal, but this is the cheapest for Peabody, and the company has continually fought against and effectively delayed all efforts to change their destructive practices.
In the 1980s, it was discovered that the lawyer who negotiated the original deal for the Hopi was, at the same time, on the payroll of the Peabody Corporation—and the Hopi have received a tiny fraction of the revenue they deserve, while forfeiting control of their own destiny. According to US Government Geological Surveys, by the year 2011, the aquifer will be finished—already the Hopi are finding that the local springs on which they rely are drying up.
In the middle-class New Age culture and “New Edge” festivals such as Burning Man, much lip service is paid to Native American traditions. Perhaps millions of white people hang dream catchers over their beds and put kachina dolls on their shelves. Despite this sentimental interest in indigenous culture and spirituality, precious little, or nothing, is done by us—those of us with the leisure for yoga and raw food and sweat lodges, who often sanctimoniously consider ourselves to be especially “conscious” or “spiritual” beings—to help the Native Americans on this continent. The indigenous people are resettled next to toxic waste dumps, abandoned to the least arable lands, ignored when the fish in their rivers are poisoned, when their resources are robbed from them. In every way, they continue to be treated with condescension and contempt.
This is also what I intuited from Maasaw’s mocking laughter and deviant presence in my dreams: Some deep schism of the soul remains to be recognized; the wound can only be healed if we work to forge a real relationship with the indigenous world, to expiate our dominator culture’s guilt and denial through pragmatic action in this reality, as it is now. If this is the case, then the Hopi situation represents the perfect place to begin the reversal: They are probably the oldest and perhaps most well-known indigenous group in the US, zealously studied by ethnographers for over a century, while repeatedly and blatantly betrayed by the US government and private corporations.
As climate change accelerates along with the global depletion of resources, we are being forced to recognize that our current system is unsustainable, even in the short term. The Hopi situation provides a microcosm of the global crisis—a cruelly ironic situation considering the essential meaning of their culture. As Whiteley notes, “The phrase ‘Hopi environmentalism’ is practically a redundancy. So much of Hopi culture and thought, both religious and secular, revolves around an attention to balance and harmony in the forces of nature that environmental ethics are in many ways critical to the very meaning of the word ‘Hopi.’” Visiting the Hopi, it occurred to me that indigenous prophecy, in itself, arises out of a deep level of attunement to the natural world, rather than anything “spiritual” or immaterial.
According to Vernon Masayesva, of the Black Mesa Trust (www.blackmesatrust.org): “It is our water ethic that has allowed us to survive and thrive in one of the most arid areas on planet Earth. It is the knowledge and teachings of our elders that have sustained us. This water ethic that has been handed down to us by our ancestors we are eager to share with everyone who will be facing water shortages—and according to some studies, water wars—in the next few decades. When the water is gone from Black Mesa, so will be the traditional cultures that could have taught the world so much about living successfully with less.” The Hopi prophecies also tell of the return of Pahana, the elder white brother, in a real exchange of knowledge and a true communion, as the Fourth World comes to an end.
Like so many manifestations of our neurotic and alienated culture, the Koyaanasqatsi films create a mood of inescapable doom and approaching cataclysm. Personally, I reject this attitude. We still have time to save the Hopi and other indigenous groups — perhaps, by extension, ourselves—if we are willing to learn from them and fight for them, rather then appropriating their spirituality while ignoring the destruction we keep inflicting upon their world.