Origin: Native American (South Western)

    Katsinas are guardian spirits, or intermediaries between the divine and the people, in traditional religions of the Pueblo Indians of North America. In these cultures, there is a division between time and space in the upper world of the living and the lower world of the dead, and Katsinas may be seen as intermediaries or translators between these planes. Each Pueblo culture has distinct forms and variations of Katsinas.

    Katsinas are believed to reside with the tribe for half of each year. They will allow themselves to be seen by a community if its men properly perform a traditional ritual while wearing kachina masks and other regalia. The spirit-being depicted on the mask is thought to be actually present with or within the performer, temporarily transforming him.

    Kachinas are also depicted in small, heavily ornamented carved-wood dolls, which are traditionally made by the men of a tribe and presented to girls. These wooden dolls are used to teach the identities of the kachinas and the symbolism of their regalia. The identity of the spirit is depicted not by the form of the doll’s body, which is usually simple and flat, but primarily by the applied colour and elaborate feather, leather, and, occasionally, fabric ornamentation of its mask.