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Kokopelli is an ancient enigma.

Updated on July 2, 2016
Kokopelli in Canyonlands National Park
Kokopelli in Canyonlands National Park

Kokopelli has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the US Southwest. He appears on everything from cups to caps, from T-shirts to tiles, from pottery to placemats. His modern incarnation is usually a curved stick figure playing a flute. To the ancient ones who scratched his image in petroglyphs he was many things. To some he was a symbol of abundance and fertility. To some he was a roving minstrel, to others a magician. He might have been a shaman or a seducer. He might have been a trader or a trickster. It's likely that he held several character traits at the same time. In any case, his image became the most recognizable of the rock-art figures, and an icon of the Southwestern United States.

Kokopelli petroglyphs

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Kokopelli in Southern UtahKokopelli in Paint Rock TexasKokopelli in Canyonlands National ParkKokopelli in Dinosaur National Monument
Kokopelli in Southern Utah
Kokopelli in Southern Utah
Kokopelli in Paint Rock Texas
Kokopelli in Paint Rock Texas
Kokopelli in Canyonlands National Park
Kokopelli in Canyonlands National Park
Kokopelli in Dinosaur National Monument
Kokopelli in Dinosaur National Monument


Ancient American's left us many artifacts and many mysteries. We speculate on their cultures and their daily life by inspecting ruins of their homes, scratching through trash pits, and analyzing their artwork. They left us many examples of rock-art, generally in two forms. Pictographs are drawn or painted on rock surfaces, and are less common. Petroglyphs are images pecked into the rock surface. In Arizona, the Hohokam and other people scraped their designs through a dark varnish of iron oxide and magnesium oxide that formed on rock surfaces.

Kokopelli: The Magic, Mirth and Mischief of an Ancient Symbol by Dennis Slifer

Slifer is a research associate at the New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. His engaging book explores one of the most enigmatic symbols of the Southwest. He looks at the flute player in four ways: a fascinating historical overview, a look at rock art in general, a look at the multiple faces and personalities of Kokopelli and a guide to rock-art sites. This is a great place to get closer to Kokopelli.

Kokopelli's libido (from Wikipedia)

"Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by many Native American cultures ... Kokopelli is often depicted with an inhumanly large phallus. Among the Ho-Chunk, this penis is detachable, and he sometimes leaves it in a river ..." Wkipedia on Kokopelli

Kokopelli in art

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Acoma Pueblo Kachina Pottery by Mike and Robin Romero  Mosaic by Brett CampbellLaguna Kokopelli Katsina by Daniel DenetWatercolor art print by Beth McClureStained glass from Patrizia
Acoma Pueblo Kachina Pottery by Mike and Robin Romero
Acoma Pueblo Kachina Pottery by Mike and Robin Romero
Mosaic by Brett Campbell
Mosaic by Brett Campbell
Laguna Kokopelli Katsina by Daniel Denet
Laguna Kokopelli Katsina by Daniel Denet
Watercolor art print by Beth McClure
Watercolor art print by Beth McClure
Stained glass from Patrizia
Stained glass from Patrizia

On The Trail Of Kokopelli

"The Southwest Indians' Humpbacked Flute Player, commonly known by the Hopi word "Kokopelli," usually appears on stone or ceramics or plaster as part of a galaxy of ancient characters and symbols. On a steep canyon wall above the Little Colorado river north of Springerville, Arizona, however, a Kokopelli pecked into a basaltic boulder appears in absolute isolation." from DesertUSA by Jay W. Sharp... Full article


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    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      This is fascinating. The Kokopelli in art is stunning. i wonder why this deity was revered by various Native American cultures?

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      I love Kokopelli.

      I think he was a flautist that led women out of the village much like the pied piper but I could be wrong.

    • jstankevicz profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Cave Creek

      Kokopelli is everywhere. Just look for him out of the corner of your eye ...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The movie "Milagro Bean Field War" opens with an, "Angel" in the form of Kokopelli, wandering the Desert night playing his flute. An excellent movie about Real Estate Developers pushing out native indigineous people by purchasing water rights, and high cost of living. A funny and interesting movie. Very Scenic.

    • GNelson profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      I saw a kid with a tatto of a kokopelli on a scateboard. He was surprised that my wife and I knew it was a kokopelli. we didn't know kokopellis could scateboard. We didn't tell the kid that.

    • jstankevicz profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Cave Creek

      Hi Nell, thanks for dropping in all the way from Buckinghamshire! Kokopelli is one of the most recognizable symbols here in the US Southwest. The artists have adopted him, probably because it's an easy figure to generalize and represent.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, i had never heard of this before. very interesting. I love anything like this as I love archaeology, and wall art. thanks for the info. cheers nell

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've lived here in AZ for 12 years and have always wondered what the Kokopelli was all about-- now I know. Excellent hub-great pictures too-thanks!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Yeah, thanks.It really helped with my Speech project.

    • CasaDeMataOrtiz profile image


      10 years ago from Fruitland, Idaho

      Great info on the kokopelli. Nice hub. Thanks. Bill

    • jstankevicz profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Cave Creek

      a little earlier than the 1960s, say a thousand years or so! Kokopelli is linked with the Anasazi from the Four Corners region...

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      My parents used to live in Tucson and I used to see Kokopelli everywhere. Thank you for the history - I thought it was a figure from the 1960s or something!


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