His origin and age is unclear. Some believe he was a peripatetic figure who wandered from village to village with a bag of goods to trade, playing his flute, and telling stories. The idea of Kokopelli may have come from the Toltecs, a people who moved into the Valley of Mexico in the 7th century AD, and who became the dominant power in Central Mexico from the 10th to 12th centuries AD, establishing trade-routes into the American Southwest. This is backed up by the fact that Petroglpyhs (a design carved or chipped into a rock surface) and Pictographs (paintings on rock), are found along these trade routes right up to southern Colorado. It has been suggested that the Kokopelli is a trading logo, but I don't believe that would adequately explain the phallic nature (although some believe that phalluses merely denote gender).
Some believe that we have mixed up Kokopelli the fertility katchina with the flute- playing symbol of the Hopi Flute Tribe, discussed on the next page….
His name is believed to come from the words "Koko", meaning wood and "Pilau" meaning hump, and he is sometimes known as Kokopilau. Others believe that his name may be of combined Zuni and Hopi origin, and translated literally as "kachina hump." Even this is open to dispute.
Legend has it that he could detach his penis from his body, and send it down river to ravish young ladies.
To the Hopi tribes he was a fertility god, who had the power to change the seasons from Winter to Spring. Many of the petroglpyhs and pictographs show him with a erect phallus (Children ask your parents about this). He who would arrive in the pueblos carrying a bag of seeds on his back, which he would sow, and the playing of his flute helped the seeds to grow. He would leave the next morning, leaving behind many mysteriously pregnant women. As a powerful sex-symbol, he was much in demand by those who could not conceive. Some believe the bag contained skins, blankets or babies.
To the Zuni, he was also known as the "Water Sprinkler", and an important rain-god.
To the Winnebago tribe he also had a reputation as a mischievous trickster.
In Navaho religion, coming much later to the region, Kokopelli is often linked with fertility, the hump being made of clouds that contain the seeds of all vegetation. He is also associated with the god of moisture and mist, with the hump symbolizing a rainbow.
So how do we make sense of this ? Kokopelli has some different and confusing roles. At the simplest level, he was a trader, going from village to village playing his flute to announce his arrival - many 10th century trader's would have done the same. The hump is a bag of goods, the flute may have announced his arrival.
Yet, he has considerable religious significance, and one feels that Kokopelli has to be something more than a trading logo. I do not believe that the sheer numbers or Kokopelli and the number with phalluses support the trading logo theory sufficiently.
The symbolism of a fertility symbol is strong. Flute-playing is frequently associated with courtship, even in Europe (c.f Euripides Bacchae).
Some Indians, including some Hopi, claim that Kokopelli never has a flute, but that the flute and phallus have some religious significance which they are reluctant to disclose. It is hard to believe that the flute and phallus have a significance which is not concerned with fertility. Secondly, the types of "not Kokopellis" seems to be so diverse that one speculates whether it is a simple clan symbol, or a Hopi minor deity with a role similar to that of Kokopelli.
The answer probably lies in migration patterns. One could speculate that the Toltec traders brought with them stories and legends, which became merged with local ones. It is not uncommon for a foreign religious deity to become merged with the local equivalent. It is the intention of this site to ultimately prove this theory. Until I reach this goal, I hope there is enough here to at least provide you with some fun, if not detailed knowledge.
Who was Kokopelli ?
Flute player ?