The Kachina cult adheres to Max Muller’s theory of the “disease of language”. Whether oral or written, language is a power in humans which provides the means to interpret the world around us. Religious beliefs spawn from these interpretations and are formed into traditional stories, also know as myths. Through ritual, myths are passed on from generation to generation. From this process myths can gain certain literal traits and lose the poetry initially intended. It is from the study of myths that Max Muller developed his theory of the origin of religion.
Approaching the study of religion as a scientist may have led Muller to analyze in a more objective, logical manner. By analyzing the ancient Sanskrit blockedures called the Vedas, Muller hypothesized that all religion began as nature worship. He realized that the beautiful blockedure of the Vedas could quite easily be seen as poetic expression of a tribes appreciation for natural phenomena, but through time this poetry could be misunderstood and taken literally.
Muller described this scenario as “disease of language”; not to be taken as a negative concept but simply a poetic verse which is interpreted to have different meanings, some literal. The history of the Kachinas has been passed down orally. The stories are told through dance and through the design of Kachina dolls, made to personify the many different Kachina Gods. During the ceremonies prayer-sticks, designed with feathers of a certain bird or other artistic attributes, are used invoke the spirit of a specific deity. These gods are honored by many different Indian tribes but primarily by the Hopi and Zuni Indians located in New Mexico and Arizona.
It is believed that the Kachinas left because they felt as if they were not being respected fully, but before they did a small number of humans were delegated the secret methods of their rituals. The Indian tribes, which possessed the knowledge of the Kachinas, believed that each Kachina represented a certain spirit of natural phenomena. In the Kachina Tales there are many myths which indicate the tribes appreciation for water, corn, animals and many other qualities of nature. Many of which hold fast to the characteristics of Max Muller’s beliefs of the origin of religion. When studying the story of ├втВм┼УTihkuyi Creates The Game Animals├втВм┬Э we learn of Nuva (Snow) Kachina and Tihkuyi.
The tribe will call to Nuva to bring snow to the mountains which during winter aides hunters in tracking their prey through the snow and also feeds the springs with fresh water. Tihkuyi, the creator of game animals, is honored with gifts in hopes that she will bless the hunting party with an increase in game. From this Muller could have conceived that based on the high value of fresh water in the springs and the necessity of large amounts of game it shows how precious nature would be to this society. The awesome power of a snowflake and how it can impact the drinking water of an entire village could be an awe inspiring idea for the Indians.
In turn, over time this could have brought about the worship of deities who possess the power of snow or could bring about game animals. In “The Return Of The Corn Maids” we discover a tale of The Corn Maids and of Pautiwa Kachina. The Corn Maids had run away from their tribe because they had felt they were being neglected by their people. They were protected by the Kachina called Pautiwa, who is believed to be the chief of the masked gods. Pautiwa hid The Corn Maids so that the people would learn to appreciate the importance of the corn.
When the tribe finally discovered where The Corn Maids had gone they promised to never mistreat them again and Pautiwa returned the maids and offered water to the tribe so that they may always have rain when the corn is planted. In Max Muller├втВмтДвs mind there could be the possibility that corn was unavailable for a time due to bad conditions or farming which led the Indians to believe that it was sacred and should be treated as a delicacy. Corn is now considered to be a sacred meal to the Indians of the Kachina Cult.
It is not only used as food but also as an offering to the gods. In the intriguing tale of “How The Twin War Gods Stole The Thunder-Stone And The Lightning-Shaft” we follow the Twin War Gods in their journey of mischievous deeds. After convincing their grandfather, the Centipede, to help them steal the Thunder-Stone and Lightening-Shaft from the Rain Gods they came home to play and ended up drowning their grandmother with their harmful games. After the guilt of murdering their grandmother the Twin War Gods buried her in front of their house, shortly after a chili pepper plant grew in the place of her grave. This story interprets many truths of nature.
The story of the centipede explains why the worm is now so small . Also, it explains the appearance of the chili pepper into the Indian culture. The most important aspect of the story, though, is how important rain can be for tribes who live off the land. When explained through Max Muller’s theory we could see that this raw power of the rain can only be entrusted to a certain deity because it is so important to their lifestyle. They believe that the control of rain is in the hands of Gods and if controlled by anyone else it can be abused.
Yet, at the end of the tale it is appreciated that the young War Gods learned a great lesson and were rewarded with the chili pepper. This describes the origin of a very important spice to Southwestern cultures. The Kachina Cult personified nature which is the basis of Max Muller’s theory of the origin of religion. By applying his beliefs in the “disease of language” to the Kachinas we can see how the background of this religious thought is deeply grounded in the worship of natural phenomena. Through their storytelling and colorful ritual, the Indians of the Zuni and Hopi tribes developed their religious ideas into deblockedive myths of why the world is as it is.