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The Kokopelli in Art and Legend

Updated on December 28, 2012

Kokopellis in Southwestern Art and Myth

Traditional art and icons of the Native American culture are quite common in the American Southwest and have influenced the unique cultural art and design of the region.The flute playing Kokopelli, figure is one such icon and dates back 3,000 years to petroglyphs and pottery found throughout the Southwestern United States.

Usually depicted as a humpbacked dancing figure playing a flute, the Kokopelli often carries a large bag on his back and has an insect-like antennae. The Kokopelli is a Kachina, or spirit, found in the mythology of the the Zuni, and Anasazi tribes and he is also known as a Hopi fertility god. He has often been called the prankster, hunter, healer, musician, dancer and the story-teller in many of their myths and legends..

The Kokopelli A Magical Symbol

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

A guide to the ancient symbols and sites of one of the American Southwest's most iconic image.


Hopi Legends of The Kokopelli

Fertility God

The word Kokopelli comes from the two Hopi words, "Koko" meaning wood and "Pilau" meaning hump. In most Hopi legend the Kokopelli represents fertility. As such he was often depicted in early pictographs as having enlarged genitals.

As a fertility god, the Kokopelli's large hump contained gifts that he used to seduce women. In other tales, he carried a baby on his back, which he left with one young woman in each village he visited. His flute was also thought to heal and women who could not bear children would ask for his assistance.

The Kokopelli was also thought to fertilize the land and carried the seeds of the world in his hump and as he traveled he scattered the seeds and warmed the land to make them grow by playing his flute.


Home Decorating with Kokopellis

Tales of The Traveling Kokopelli

Some legends suggest that Kokopelli was a real ancient Toltec trader who played the flute and traveled routes between Mexico, the west coast, and the southwest. He was seen as a symbol of happiness and joy, traveling from village to village playing his flute.

As a prankster, he appears in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples. As a fertility god he would play his flute, play pranks, and when he left town in the morning, all the women were pregnant and the crops were plentiful.

As a hunter, Kokopelli plays the flute to lure the mountain sheep he is hunting. The Zuni call him a rain priest and connect him and his music with the gift of rain.

Traveling Fluteplayer - The Kokopelli

Kokopeli of Native American folklore was a traveling fluteplayer. The artwork in this video was done by Maria Ester Rodriguez an Argentine Artist living in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. She was comissioned by Erik the flutemaker who drew the native stick figures. Every place the figures sat were pottery pieces collected in Arizona. The music in this video are on Erik's Kiowa Inspired Love flutes. Erik was joined by Musician Peter Avello on the Keyboard in "The Trail" and with flutemaker, bamboo grower and musician Chuck Therox in the song "Morning Prayer". Erik's music is available on line at and the proceeds of his music goes to support The Kids Of Cascabel.

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Had You Heard of The Kokopelli Before Reading This Lens?

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    • russiangifts profile image

      russiangifts 5 years ago from USA

      Kokopelli like you've never seen him before... on a lacquer box!

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      wayne_luvinlife 6 years ago

      Seen the art work for years on almost anything but din't know until now what it was called...great lens!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Wow! It's great to meet another fan of the wonderful Kokopelli! It's was my own fascination of this mysterious, impish Katsina that led me to develop my own modern version of Kokopelli's descendant, Radi-Koke. Thanks for keeping our beloved hero in the limelight that he so richly deserves. I'm also enjoying browsing through your other Myths and Legends lenses. Long live their magic!

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 7 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Beautiful lens. Yes, I have heard of the kokopelli. I use stamped images of kokopelli in my paper crafts.

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 8 years ago from France

      Very nice lens, welcome to the Interior Design, Soft furnishings and Decor Group

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 8 years ago

      Ah yes, the fertility god!!!! Very nice lens another 5 Stars and a Fav.

    • greenerme profile image

      greenerme 8 years ago

      They sell merchandise with kokopellis on everything in the southwest. They do have a cool look to them! Nice work.

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Awesome! 5*****

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Awesome! 5*****

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      bdkz 8 years ago


    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

      Beautiful lens; blessed by an Angel!

    • verymary profile image

      Mary 8 years ago from Chicago area

      Had not heard of this type of art but enjoyed learning!