A long, long time ago there lived a Hopi girl who was called Xochitl, which means Flower. And Xochitl was in love with the sun.
When the women retired to the cool dwellings to grind corn, the girl would scurry out as often as possible, looking for the bright ball in the sky. Did Tonatiuh, the sun god, still send his rays to earth? How long, how short had the shadows become? Did a little cloud weaken his strength?
In the evening she crouched in the ocher glow of the evening and watched sadly from the ladder at the entrance to her house as the sky ball disappeared behind the mountains. Then, when the grandmother called so that she could comb the girl’s hair, Xochitl snuggled up to her and asked:
“Grandmother, nothing happens to the sun god so far away?”
“Tonatiuh can take care of himself, nothing happens to him. You just lie down calmly!”
“Will he be coming back?”
“He will come back again.”
“Tomorrow when I open my eyes?”
“We shall see, child!”
Sometimes the sun was shining the next morning, but sometimes it wasn’t. That saddened Xochitl so much that she brooded and didn’t feel like doing anything. She didn’t grind flour and she didn’t want to weave baskets. Her grandmother was often worried: she thought the girl was far too young to ponder! She should rather learn and be happy!
The year Tonatiuh came every day
But there came a year when Xochitl was happy – Tonatiuh sent his rays day after day, not once did a cloud darken the sky. Now Xochitl learned what Hopi girls have to learn:
To grind flour and create pottery, make baskets, press oil from the corn seeds, cook vegetables and gather herbs and stir healing ointments. And she even learned to weave beautiful rugs.
Xochitl was busy all day long and so happy that Tonatiuh was accompanying her day after day.
Shortly before sunset every day she grabbed the water jar, climbed down the ladder, and made her way to the fountain to fill it. Tonatiuh’s rays ran with her. When the bucket was full and only a few rays of sunlight were left, she crouched in front of the house entrance and watched the sun finally disappear on the horizon:
“It was nice today, Tonatiuh. I had fun! You too? Will you come back tomorrow?”
And Tonatiuh came back. In July the sun shone every day, the same in August The rainy season, on the other hand, did not come.
But without rain, the fields dried up.
The corn stalks let their leaves hang, beans and melons refused to sprout. Even the pumpkin plants didn’t bear.
Looking for a way out
“Ay, grandmother, why are the men meeting?”
“They’re planning the big dance, the snake dance, child!”
“But with that they will call Tlaloc, the rain god, so that he can drive Tonatiuh away. I don’t want the sun to go out!”
“Understand, child! We really don’t have much time left. You know, Tlaloc rarely sends his children to pour out their buckets.”
Shortly afterwards, the men went in search of rattlesnakes. They carried them into the Kiva to prepare for the arduous dance days. For nine days the men would drum, dance and beg for rain.
Meanwhile, the women rummaged worriedly through the supplies.
Would there be enough for the near future? Or would they have to resort to leftover food that they had buried in the ashes after a good harvest for bad days? Would they have to leave their homes? Move on to the wealthier relatives near the river?
Xochitl observed the expressions of the people in the village, watched the women dig in the ashes, listened when they spoke of their worries. She looked thoughtfully at the dirty water in the cistern. Finally one evening she asked Tonatiuh:
“Please, don’t come tomorrow. Hide behind the clouds so that Tlaloc can pour out his buckets. I beg you, Tonatiuh. Don’t come tomorrow!”
The next day – even before the men beat the drums – the sun disappeared behind a large rain cloud. And it rained this day and the next, this week and the next and the next …
The cisterns filled and the irrigation systems as well.
The joy was great
The corn on the cob sprouted and so did the beans. The pumpkins grew so plump and abundant that the people in the village could hardly keep up with the harvest. It was a pleasure! The people could not get enough of the abundance, working together in the fields every day until late at night to make use of this blessing.
The women could save supplies and grind enough flour. They peeled beans and dried them, preserved the pumpkins with ash covering them.
They worked hard, they dug and harvested. Xochitl was always among them.
At first nobody noticed it. But after a while the grandmother saw, that the girl was much thinner than before. She seemed weaker from day to day. Every rainy day apparently made her more tired and paler.
“What is the matter, child?”
“Nothing, grandmother. I just don’t feel so well today.”
There was so much to do that the grandmother forgot her worries. The girl went to the fields every day until one day she collapsed at the edge of a corn field. There was hardly a breath left in her; it looked as if she was going to die in a moment. The grandmother pleaded:
“Tonatiuh, please, please, help her!”
And the sun god sent a ray of sunshine from behind one of the clouds and called out to the girl:
“Xochitl, get up and run to the flowers near the house. There I can protect you! Hurry up, run!”
Xochitl Tonatiuh – The sun flower
As weak as the girl seemed, she got up and set off – towards the flowers. But with every step she faded more and more …
Before her grandmother’s very eyes, she turned into a bright yellow flower. Only the middle remained dark, as dark as her eyes and her long hair.
And since that day it exists – the flower that grows on the edges of the maize fields or next to the houses in August and whose blossoms turn towards the sun. The Hopi call it Xochitl Tonatiuh: sunflower.
The Hopi have used the sunflower in many different ways since ancient times. Next to corn, the flower is the most precious thing these Native Americans in northeast Arizona know. For generations the Hopi have passed on their knowledge to their descendants in a way that makes it impossible to forget – with stories like this one.
If you want to know more about the Hopi, their lives, their crafts and art, you are welcome to visit the “Hopi Pueblo” (Craft-World, 31, 229, 25 or search for “Hopi Pueblo” in your map). At the landing point you will find a sign that – if touched – will give you a notecard with general information about the Hopi. Inside the village you will find different workshops – on the signs over the doors you see what you can find inside – touching the signs will give you notecards with more information about each shop. All notecards are translated to Italian also.
Some Hopi Pueblo dwellers have asked not to be disturbed – their doors and windows are locked. Please respect their privacy,
pleads Tosha, chewing some sunflower seeds while waiting for the piki bread to finish…
On friday, April the 23rd you are all invited to the inauguration of the Hopi Pueblo. You can nose around (almost) all you want, dance with some Katchina, and above all: Watch the great performance of Medora Chevalier (Dance) and Terra Merhyem (Music)!
A huge thanks to these fabulous ladies already now!