Kokopelli (aka Kokopilau) is a fertility deity, usually pictured as a hunchbacked flute player. He was worshipped in the Southwest of the United States by Native American tribes like the Hopi.
Kokopelli tattoos have a certain popularity nowadays as a way for someone to express his or her Southwestern identity or interest in Native American tribal cultures.
As a Native American symbol, there are plenty of stories that encompass Kokopelli, but most are up for interpretation and they vary based on region. Kokopelli is the bearer of fertility and agriculture, but he is also a trickster god and a bit mischievous.
Kokopelli is a symbol for fertility and renewal on many different levels going from childbirth to crops and seasons. He turns winter into spring and is responsible for babies being born.
Kokopelli tattoos are a symbol of renewal, of a new phase in life.
The first known Kokopelli images go back to somewhere between AD 750 and AD 850. They were found on pottery of the Hohokam, one of the first inhabitants of Southern Arizona.
Here are some of the theories of Kokopelli's origins:
- Kokopelli images are a depiction of ancient Aztec traders. The hunchback is actually a sack with goods and the flute is a way to draw attention.
- Another theory says that Kokopelli is a sort of insect (a robber fly), that is known for its fervent reproductive urge.
- Some theories suggest Kokopelli is carrying a flute, other say it is a blowgun.
Combining the image with another element is quite common. Some of the most common design combinations include the sun, an animal such as a ram or deer, music notes and tribal tattoo patterns.
Trying to design your own Kokopelli tattoo is a process that you are likely to find highly personal. While some people think that dark colors are suitable for the image, others prefer to design the tattoo around the bright colors that they enjoy the most. Regardless of the colors that you choose, you can have a bit of freedom with the actual artwork that you choose for the basis of the tattoo.
While traditionally Kokopelli had been depicted bent over playing the flute, many designs feature him standing up, with the flute pointed towards the sky. This is only a matter of preference and just provides some example of the different ways that the tattoo design can be customized to fit your personality.
Your ultimate tattoo will be something that is still consistent with the Native American symbol, as well as uniquely your own. In short, Kokopelli tattoos have the benefit of being widely recognizable, unique and full of spiritual meaning at the same time.
Here's a gallery with more designs: