Who doesn’t recognize Kokopelli, the hunchbacked flute player? His cheerful, casual look and spiritual significance makes him ideal for a tattoo, but make sure you know a little something about Kokopelli tattoos before you commit to getting one.
The symbolism of Kokopelli
Kokopelli is a deity legendary among the Southwestern Native Americans such as the Anaszai and the Hopi. Although beliefs about him and depictions of him vary, most native cultures of this region have some variation of this flute-playing figure.
He’s a symbol of renewal and fertility in many areas of life. To bring new life to crops, he travels along playing his flute, which can be heard in the spring breeze, to melt the snows and turn winter into spring. The hunch on his back represents a sack of seeds that he carries.
He’s also a symbol of human fertility who blesses marriages and even causes conception. As if that’s not a big enough job, Kokopelli also spends his time as a trickster and a storyteller.
A warning about Kokopelli tattoos
Before you start looking for Kokopelli tattoos, it’s important to realize that this deity is a symbol of human fertility and all the physical elements that go with it. Some may consider a tattoo of Kokopelli slightly obscene, especially in areas where everyone knows the symbolism.
Variations on the Kokopelli design
Original native depictions of Kokopelli are usually found in petroglyphs (rock carvings) and on pottery throughout the Southwest. Some of the carvings date back 3,000 years or more, making it nearly impossible to pinpoint which nation was the first to believe in Kokopelli.
Most of the depictions of Kokopelli that make it into the main stream all look pretty similar. If you’re looking for a unique Kokopelli tattoo design, though, you’ll be glad to know there are about as many ways to draw him as there are nations who believe in him. Just be aware that since he was, after all, a fertility deity, some drawings of Kokopelli can be rather graphic.
Where to find Kokopelli tattoos
While the flash you find in an average tattoo parlor may offer a few designs that look good, where you’ll find the most authentic designs are the rock carvings and pottery of the people who consider him a deity. You can find images of some of these online. Failing that, though, browse some online tattoo galleries to collect ideas.
Thoughts on Kokopelli tattoos and cultural identity
If you happen to be of Hopi or other native Southwestern ancestry, getting a Kokopelli tattoo could be the perfect way to show off your heritage. Those from other cultures, however, may be concerned that having someone else’s religious symbol inked on their arm could seem disrespectful. If you’re concerned about this, have someone knowledgeable about native Southwestern cultures check over the design you want before you have it done.
Kokopelli tattoos have the advantage of being unique, yet widely recognized and spiritually meaningful. If you’re thinking about getting using Kokopelli’s image as a tattoo, take the time to look around at the different varieties available before you settle on one.