In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hopi Mixed Dance Ragalia and Jewish Prayer Shawl. Shesh, How Permanent is this Stuff?

This is a Mixed Animals Dance done by the Hopi on First Mesa (Sichamovi).  I am just using this video to point out similarities between some of the Hopi dance regalia and some of those worn by Jews during their ceremonies.  In particular I would like to point out the Kachina's dancers which are dressed as deer or antelope have a white shawl hanging behind them from their waist.  These are extremely similar to ones used by Jews in their ceremonies.  With that in mind I would like to share a quick insight by Hugh Nibley in regards to some of these ceremonial harmonies. 

Nibley was quick to share these intimate experiences among the Hopi with others.   Numerous times he took friends and family to observe the Hopi.  On one occasion he shared the following:

And when I had taken professors from Israel to visit the Hopi’s they were simply bowled over.  Whats his name? Professor Shinar (Pessah Shinar Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies) who teaches Hebrew at Hebrew University at which he is Arabic at Hebrew University, paid us a visit and I took him too, with the Raphi brothers [actually the Patai brothers Raphael (was Hungarian-Jewish ethnographer, historian, orientalist and anthropologist) and Saul Patai (Organic chemist) both from Hebrew University] who are Israeli and he saw a woman who was making something and he said, “What’s that?” and I said, “well, that’s a shawl, a prayer shawl”.  He says, “Well, we have the same kind” and said, “Well, what do they call it?” I said, “a shesh” (Hebrew for white fine linen) and he nearly fainted and said, “that’s what we call it”.  And Raphi, well some little boys were beating some drums on a mound and Raphi stopped and said, “That’s a song, we used to sing that in my village”.  How permanent is this stuff? It gives you the creeps.”[1]

To sum it up in Nibley’s own words he stated, “My own connections with the Hopi…are exhilarating, puzzling, and faith-promoting.”[2]

[1](Hugh Nibley, Hugh Nibley Speaks on Temples: Temples Everywhere. Track 7 [audio cd])
[2] (Boyd J. Petersen. "The Home Dance: Hugh Nibley among the Hopi" Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31.1 (1998): 27)


  1. Thanks for this. There are so many srories and so much information we never hear of or read about, such as this.


  2. FYI, those aren't Kachina dancers. Those white shawls are called wukokwewa. If you're going to disrespect and exploit a culture, at least get your facts straight. This is not a Kachina dance, its a social dance. I know because I live there.

    1. There is no attempt to disrespect any cultures in this blog post. I've noticed if I or anyone for that matter mentions the Hopi than the Hopi are quick to be offended. Maybe you just need thicker skin. There is nothing but respect for you and your culture in this post. I am just giving a quote from Hugh Nibley.

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  4. Get your facts straight, before posting all this...I'm Hopi too, and this IS disrespect and ignorance to boot. What your doing can be characterized as "egocentric"; it's a big word, look it up if you need too. SMH - this is not your culture to discuss and compare.