Monday, April 19, 2010

Man in the Maze in Hopi Land

A Hopi jewelry seller told me this past weekend that the Hopi people have an affinity for the man in the maze symbol in large part because they are linguistically related to the Tohono O'Odam and Pima of southern Arizona. The symbol is shared by a number of Native American tribes. The maze is very commonly woven into baskets, inlaid in silver, and painted on pottery. My son Cheves, who was born on the Tohono O'Odam reservation, had the symbol tattooed on his right forearm when he was still a teenager. The central figure of the man in the maze is called I'itoi or I'ithi. He is said to have led the Tohono O'Odam ancesters, the Hohokam, from the center of the earth and now resides in a cave just below the peak of the Baboquivari mountain. I once climbed to the top of that mountain and I felt much like a man in a maze on my descent in the dark. I never saw I'ithi's lair and at that time did not know I was supposed to leave him a gift.

The silver overlay work in this bracelet is impressively fine. The ram and headdress wearing corn maiden kachina figures make this a remarkable conversation piece. Also note the silversmith's--Eddison Wadsworth Soohafya (corn clan)--simplistic Lakota hallmark. Price $649.