Pueblo Clowns

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Koyaala, or Hano clown, 19th century Koshare Kachina fetish

The Pueblo Clowns (sometimes called Sacred Clowns) refers to jesters or tricksters in the Kachina religion (practiced by the Pueblo Indians of the southwestern USA). It is a generic term, as there are a number of these figures in the ritual practice of the Pueblo people. Each has a unique role; belonging to separate Kivas (secret societies or confraternities). Each has a name that differs from one mesa or pueblo to another.


The clowns perform during the spring and summer fertility rites. Among the Hopi there are five figures who serve as clowns: the "Payakyamu"; the "Koshare" (or "Koyaala" or "Hano Clown"); the "Tsuku"; the "Tatsiqto" (or "Koyemsi" or "Mudhead"); and the "Kwikwilyak."[1] With the exception of the Koshare, each is a kachinam (personification of a spirit). It is believed that when a member of a kiva dons the mask of a kachinam, he abandons his personality and becomes possessed by that spirit.

Anthropologists, most notably Adolf Bandelier in his 1890 book, The Delight Makers, and Elsie Clews Parsons in her Pueblo Indian Religion, have extensively studied the meaning of the Pueblo Clowns and clown society in general. Bandelier notes that the Tsuku were somewhat feared by the Hopi as the source of public criticism and censure of non-Hopi like behavior. Their function can help defuse community tensions by providing their own humorous interpretation of the tribe's popular culture, by re-enforcing taboo, and by communicating traditions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pecina, 2013


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