Before leaving for Santa Fe I wrote a weblog item entitled "Kokopelli and Green Chili," two themes that were shorthand for New Mexico in my blogger brain. Since then, I have realized that both of those themes are worth writing about all by themselves.
In the composite photo shown above, a recent example of three-dimensional art is in the middle. This is actually from a shop window in my California home town, not from New Mexico, for the appeal of Kokopelli extends far beyond the Rio Grande Valley. Originally carved into rocks by prehistoric Native Americans, Kokopelli is part of the pantheon of the Hopis in Arizona and many other groups descended from the ancient Anasazi. He may have originated in Mexico. His iconoography includes a flute-like instrument, presumably musical, and a multi-lobed headdress, which is not characteristic of Pueblo Indians. On the rock carvings (petroglyphs) he often has a humped back in the mode of Quasimodo. It used to be considered lucky to touch a hunchback's hump. Hmmmm.....
Why do I say Hmmmm? Well, on petroglyphs Kokopelli often appears with another appendage which is definitely not a flute (above photo, left inset). In Greek iconography, this brings to mind the ithyphallic herm (above photo, right inset). The ancient herms were said to be everywhere, especially crossroads and on the routes of travelers. As I understand it, ithy means "straight," and if you are unclear on the concept of phallic (phallos, phallus), your local professor of Women's Studies would you be happy to enlighten you about phallocracy and phallocentrism. In any event, if there is any dicking around to be done, look to Kokopelli and his equivalent in many cultures around the world, including the Greek Hermes, and his Roman counterpart Mercurius. (Hey, they even named a car after him.) Kokopelli, Hermes, and their ilk were all Tricksters, who are characterized by glib speech, traveling a lot, and beguiling behavior.
Now not all tricksters are dicksters, and phalluses are considered to be fertility symbols, not trickster icons. Nonetheless, many ithyphallic gentlemen have been known to exploit their Trickster social skills if they have any. Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst and synchronicity guru, wrote a book about the Trickster archetype, in collaboration with Paul Radin, a Jewish anthropologist who became closely acquainted with many Native American cultures. Indian Trickster deities include Coyote and Raven as well as Kokopelli. The Norse god Loki is another notorious Trickster. It seems that we all feel a mixture of awe, admiration, fear and loathing for the Trickster types who live among us, and of course, there is at least a little Trickster in each of us.
And so you see, long before Richard Milhous was a gleam in Mrs. Nixon's eye, Tricky Dicks have always been part of humanity. If you don't know why, ask an evolutionary biologist. Or, like the pagan Greeks, drape a wreath on your neighborhood ithyphallic herm, assuming you can find some place to hang it.| Technorati tags: Hermes Kokopelli Mercury Trickster Jung
Copyright ©2004-2005 Jonathan David Leavitt