K-achina / Philippe Charlier

Spirits are everywhere. There are 250 of them, but this number underestimates: they are innumerable. As many spirits as clouds in the sky, they say. Twice a year, the adults dance ritually (but it is also a celebration, since it is difficult to separate the sacred from simple joy), educated in spirits of colors, feathers and furs. They dance until they lose their balance, until they get dizzy, to the point of vomiting, sometimes. They dance like crazy. They do not dance to forget, they dance to honor the spirits, to remember them, to remind them of our visibility. But no matter how hard they try, they will never be as agile,evanescent, quick, impalpable, ethereal, immaterial, and changeable as true minds.

At the end of the day,when the heavy humans of the Hopi tribe return home, they offer children small statuettes made in cottonwood (Kachina), hand-carved, painted with bright colors, to which they stick some feathers of eagle or egret. It is to accustom these children to the world of spirits, those who live in this world where we live too. These innumerable spirits are everywhere, with their innumerable forms. They look like fantastic creatures, with their bulging eyes or spherical mouth, their wings behind their heads or their feet of birds… Spirits are everywhere, everywhere.

You do not believe me? Turn around.

Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.

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