August is the month of Tala’paamuya, marking the start of the summer social dances for the Hopi; the Snake Dance being one of them. This particular dance is a part of the Snake-Antelope Ceremony to celebrate the beautiful summer season and crop growth!
The Snake and Antelope societies join for a total of 16 days during the lunar month of Big Feast Moon in August.
There are several activities and preparations to accomplish during this ceremony in order to properly pray to the gods for rain so that the crops reach maturity. Alters are built, prayer sticks are crafted, and a race is run to represent the gods bringing rain to the villages.
The Snake society takes four days to gather snakes from the four directions in a very particular order: northwest, southwest, southeast, and northeast.
Each snake is then baptized so it can accurately locate the spirits when returned to the desert. A shallow pit with a wooden board over top, or a kisi, is constructed to act as a gateway to the underworld and keep the snakes entrapped during the ceremony. As the Snake and Antelope performers dance around this centerpiece, they stomp on the board and shake rattles to mimic the sounds of a storm.
The Snake dance lives up to its title; performers dance in a grand finale with live snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, in their mouths in the hopes of imparting prayers for rain to the serpents. The snakes will then act as messengers, delivering their prayers to the Rainmakers, or spirits of their ancestors, and gods that they believe dwell in the underworld.
This sacred ceremony alternates every other year with the Flute Ceremony.
Both ceremonies are meant to extend the summer rains and ensure adequate watering for their crops. The flute ceremony, however, focuses more on bringing the rain clouds toward their villages.
Learn more about the rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations of the Hopi that occur throughout the year at our Hopi ceremonial calendar, with a new cycle starting every November! Find out what every month holds for the Hopi and then browse through our wide variety of Hopi-made crafts and collectibles only available through Kachina House. Give us a call at 800-304-3290 or visit us at our showroom in Sedona!