©Pahlik Mana by Alfred “Bo” Lomahquahu
Those wings hold character.
Opposites they hold as well as mystery.
So dark but light and sure
Are those butterfly wings.
— Valerie Anderson
The Papago nation is a descended from a larger tribe called the Hohokam. Originally located in the desert regions of the northern Sonora and Arizona, many are currently located in three reservations in southern Arizona, Gila Bend, and several are located in villages in northwestern Sonora. The Papago are also known as the Tohono O’Odham which means “Desert People. ”
For countless centuries, they have honored Butterfly Maiden as a harbinger of Springtime, rejuvenation and transformation. According to their legend, the Creator made butterflies to gladden His heart when He became sad about the impermanence of life. He took a spot of sunlight, some blue from the sky, the whiteness of cornmeal, the blackness of a beautiful girl’s hair, the green of pine needles, and the red, purple, and orange of flowers. He put them in a bag which he gave to the children. When the children opened the bag, thousands of multi-colored butterflies danced about them, lighting upon their skin.
Among the Hopi people, also of the American desert Southwest, Butterfly Maiden is an important energy of renewal, youth, and beauty. She is known as Palhik Mana, a kachina, or nature spirit, of Springtime. She heralds the season of regeneration, newly blossoming hopes and warm breezes from the south.
For the Hopi, kachinas exist in three forms: spirits, masked dancers, and dolls. The Hopis have a pantheon of some 400 different kachinas. Palhik Mana is usually thought of as a dancer, not a spirit. She acts, like the other kachinas, as an intermediary between the supernatural and mortal worlds, fostering fertility, growth, and well-being.
For six months of the year, from Winter to Summer Solstice, the kachinas live among the village tribes. During this time, they are represented by masked dancers. The doll versions, carved from cottonwood root, are given to women and especially girls as a blessing. They traditionally do not stand on a base, but are meant to be hung on home walls.
Women in the Mamzrau Initiation Dance are called the Palhik’ Manas. They are almost never masked, although all of the carved Butterfly Maiden kachina dolls are.
Butterfly Maiden is a gentle spirit who reminds us of the larger picture of which we are a part. Butterfly Maiden can awaken in us wonder, trust, and serenity, which we too often neglect. She offers Her lessons of beauty, peacefulness and hope, all without making a sound.