September 2007 Artifact of the Month

Artifact: Tableta (Southwest, Hopi)

Materials: wood, paint, feathers, leather





This flat upright plaque of wood is a ceremonial dance headdress and is called a tablet or tableta. This wooden headpiece is the type worn by young unmarried women in the colorful social dances of late summer. The Hopi ceremonial calendar is divided in half with one half of the year devoted to Katsina dances and the other half devoted to nonKachina dances. The social dances, which are part of the nonKatsina season, while being great fun, are also religious in that the participants and observers are offering prayers of thanksgiving for a good supply of food and the blessing of life.

Each Pueblo determines its own calendar of ceremonies, which closely follow the seasons and the sun. The spring ceremonies have to do with planting, germination and growth. The summer rituals focus on crop protection including supplication for rain. Autumn dances are about thanksgiving. Winter focuses on prayers for protection from the elements and appeals to animals to allow themselves to be killed.

There are several symbols on this tableta. The stair step motif represents clouds. Colors usually represent directions and relate to places of sunrise and sunset at the Summer and Winter Solstices. For this reason there is no North or South, just Above and Below. The color blue represents the Southwest; yellow, the Northwest; white, the Northeast; and black, Above. The rainbow is represented on this tableta by the white dotted lines between the red and yellow stripes. The circle on the top central portion of the tableta is probably a blossom. The feather, both actual and painted, is a messenger which carries prayers and also represents the personality of the bird such as swiftness, bravery, and keen sight.

To learn more about Kachinas, visit our Kachina exhibit case in the Main Gallery of the Schingoethe Center.