Kivas of the Hopi

In the Kivas of Mesa Verde

ed: i would love for retreating caves to be as ubiquitous as in some indigenous cultures. i wonder if the Hopi used the kivas for darkness retreating, as do the Kogi of Colombia?  below is an extract. for the full and original post, go here.

kiva bob sessions

At Mesa Verde National Park, a ceremonial kiva has been reconstructed at Spruce Tree House. photo by Bob Sessions

Kivas (the word comes from the Hopi language) are found in or near virtually every living area at Mesa Verde as well as in other sites of the Ancient Puebloans. Archeologists say that each extended family likely had their own kiva, which were excavated out of either sandstone or soil with considerable effort. Because space was so precious in the cliff dwellings, these subterranean rooms likely served a mixture of social, storage and—most importantly—religious purposes. They would have provided a cool shelter from the relentless sun of summer and a warm sanctuary from winter’s cold. They were entered through a hole in their roofs, which were sturdy enough to be used as living space on top. At Mesa Verde kivas are typically round in shape, with a central fire pit and a ventilator shaft that allowed fresh air to flow through. An air deflector stood in front of the fire to keep the flames from being blown out by the fresh air. The kiva’s sides contained a banquette (similar to a bench) around its perimeter and usually had six pilasters, or pillars.

What would it have been like to live above one of these kivas? To know that underneath your living space was the entry into a place of mystery and wonder? There are so many possible symbolic meanings of a kiva that one hardly knows where to begin. They recall the darkness of the womb and the safety of the cave. They were betwixt-and-between places, pregnant with possibility. In emerging from them, perhaps the people felt they were reborn anew, following in the footsteps of their ancestors.