The traditional Hopi world, as reflected in Hopi oral literature, is infused with magic—a seamless tapestry of everyday life and the supernatural. That magic and wonder are vividly depicted in this marvelous collection of authentic folktales.
For the Hopis, the spoken or sung word can have a magical effect on others. Witchcraft—the wielding of magic for selfish purposes by a powaqa, or sorcerer—has long been a powerful, malevolent force. Sorcerers are said to have the ability to change into animals such as a crow, a coyote, a bat, or a skeleton fly, and hold their meetings in a two-tiered kiva to the northeast of Hopi territory. Shamanism, the more benevolent but equally powerful use of magic for healing, was once commonplace but is no longer practiced among the Hopis. Shamans, or povosyaqam, often used animal familiars and quartz crystals to help them to see, diagnose, and cure illnesses.
Spun through these tales are supernatural beings, otherworldly landscapes, magical devices and medicines, and shamans and witches. One story tells about a man who follows his wife one night and discovers that she is a witch, while another relates how a jealous woman uses the guise of an owl to make a rival woman's baby sick. Other tales include the account of a boy who is killed by kachinas and then resurrected as a medicine man and the story of a huge rattlesnake, a giant bear, and a mountain lion that forever guard the entrance to Maski, the Land of the Dead.