August 22 – Hopi Snake Dance

Posted on August 22, 2013

The Hopi do not worship snakes. However, at this time of the year, they dance with them.

The Snake Dance is not some silly ritual that the Hopi love to do in front of tourists with their cameras. It is an important, solemn ritual.

The ceremony takes place over 16 days in August and September. The first four days, runners travel the four cardinal directions and collect snakes (both the nonpoisonous kinds and also the poisonous kinds!). Later, people enjoy footraces. On the last day of the ceremony, men dance the Snake Dance.

The dancers are paired off. In each pair, one dancer holds a snake in its mouth (umm...non-poisonous for me, pretty please!), and the other dancer distracts his partner's snake with an Eagle feather ( snake needs more distraction, please!). At the end of the dance, all the snakes are rushed back down the mesa to their desert homes. The snakes are said to be carrying the Hopi prayers for rain to the spirits of the underworld.

I read that most Hopi villages will not allow non-Hopi visitors to come and watch their Snake Dance. This is because, in the past, some visitors acted badly. That's a shame. I can imagine that you need people to be quiet and respectful when you're holding a poisonous snake in your mouth!

Learn more about the Hopi:
  • Here is Mr. Donn's page.

  • This website has tons of info but could use a picture or two or ten!

  • I want to explore the Hopi Arts Trail...but it's in Arizona, and I'm in California, so for now I will just explore its website. 

By the way...

I was looking for a video of the Hopi Snake Dance. There doesn't seem to be a good video to watch, which is not all that surprising. (If the Hopi generally don't allow non-Hopi to watch the dance, they're probably even less likely to let people film the dance!) But I ran into an old movie depicting a variety of Native American people and practices—with a little bit in the middle depicting the Hopi Snake Dance.  

The thing about this 9-minute movie is that the narration / soundtrack is simply horrible! The racism and sexism and all-around bigotry! The horrible, smug condescension! Well—it's hard to describe just how bad it is! If you have the stomach for it, watch and learn about an attitude that is thankfully very much out-of-date.

Also on this date:

Russian Flag Day

Plan ahead:

Here are my Pinterest pages on August holidayshistorical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.

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