There are so many symbols and patterns that are part of our daily lives, especially today in such an image-heavy world.
We take in thousands of images a day without really having the capacity to process them as we see them.
As a result, there are many images that have become familiar to us without having a name in our minds.
This can be unfortunate when we think of how many images we know about, without knowing where they came from or who they belong to.
This seems to be the case with Kokopelli, an Indigenous symbol who has made his way into the American cultural milieu.
Kokopelli can be spotted specifically in the south western states as a tattoo, logo, or even a decor staple in Arizona’s adobe style homes.
Where Does Kokopelli Come From?
Kokopelli (pronounced Cocoa-pelly most often, though it may vary by tribe) is a spiritual, mythological being.
He belongs to The Pueblo Peoples of the Southwestern United States.
Pueblo is an umbrella term for the several tribes who were the original inhabitants of the area before colonialism.
They were also the original architects behind the adobe homes that have inspired the popular styles in the southwest states today.
In fact, the reason these tribes are known as “Pueblo Peoples” is that they called a grouping of these adobe homes a “pueblo,” referring to the village.
Though they have historically been under pressure to assimilate to Spanish and Anglo influences and lifestyles, the peoples have managed to keep up many of the ancient traditions that are unique to their culture.
Kokopelli is part of this landscape.
Interestingly enough, after years of the Pueblo Peoples having to protect these traditions from being erased, now there are many settlers who want to claim these traditions for themselves!
Who is Kokopelli?
Kokopelli is a funky looking little guy, so it’s no wonder people enjoy having Kokopelli tattoos or artwork around.
He is a simplistic, stick figure style character with a hunched back.
He has several long antennae coming out of his head in a kind of mo-hawk shape.
This visual has the feeling of long hair that seems to be standing up or blowing in the wind.
He is playing a flute, and is often surrounded with music notes.
Though he is a simple to draw figure, every depiction of him is infused with life and movement.
Sometimes Kokopelli’s hunched back is a backpack, and it is in this luggage that he carries his seeds.
Kokopelli, similar to the Pagan figure Pan, is a fertility God.
He leads people with his flute song and they follow, but he is not seducing them into evil or death as in the tale of the pied piper- quite the opposite!
Kokopelli is leading his followers from the quiet contemplation of winter to the rowdy, sunny, sexual nature of spring.
Kokopelli brings the earth to life again.
Legends of Kokopelli
Kokopelli belongs to a few tribes, so there are many fun stories and legends associated with his image.
Similar to Dionysus in Greek mythology, Kokopelli’s presence can be felt at any lively gathering.
Though the Puritans who eventually settled in America gave people ideas about sexuality and lively behavior being sinful- this was never the case in more ancient traditions.
Kokopelli encourages you to enjoy your body and party down- responsibly and respectfully of course.
There are some young women who fear Kokopelli, however, because he does carry unborn children (like seeds, but human!) on his back.
If a young girl wasn’t careful with all this partying and sexual expression, she may be surprised with one of these Kokopelli babies.
Being the busy, bursting with energy deity that he is- Kokopelli didn’t just preside over crops and human reproduction.
He is also associated with animals- particularly sun loving lizards and snakes or game animals.
What Does a Kokopelli Tattoo Mean?
Kokopelli can be a nice tattoo for someone who is starting a new venture, walking away from a bad habit, or starting an exciting new venture.
Because of his associations with spring he is a symbol of life and renewal.
Because of his associations with fertility, he could also be a nice tattoo for a mother or father.
Common Themes in Kokopelli Tattoos
Flute: Kokopelli just isn’t Kokopelli without his magic flute! If you haven’t caught on yet- this is definitely a phallic symbol. In some drawings, Kokopelli’s flute is actually his erection! Pretty impressive… Joking aside- though Kokopelli is a sexual creature he is a sacred one as well. So he shouldn’t be depicted in a vulgar, aggressive or silly way.
Sun: Kokopelli is often paired with other symbols, a sun being a natural companion to his springtime attitude!
Ram: Sometimes there is a ram’s head nearby in a Kokopelli tattoo because of his association with game animals. Rams specifically are symbols of increase- so they are compatible with the fertility theme.
Turtle: Because of his hunched back, Kokopelli is sometimes depicted as a turtle, who represents water. Because water is so precious in these hot areas of the world, the turtle is an extremely sacred symbol.
Word of Warning
Kokopelli is a trickster character!
So to invite him into your life with a tattoo can invite a certain amount of unpredictability and chaos- especially if you don’t have the proper respect for him or the Pueblo Peoples.
Kokopelli Tattoo Ideas
For Pueblo Peoples, or people with a special tie to the southwest states, Kokopelli can be a nice symbol to carry with you.
But, as we’ve mentioned, there are alternate fertility symbols that exist in other cultures.
Perhaps it would be fun to look into your history and see what you can find that will resonate with your ancestry!
Either way, be sure to admire our curated gallery of Kokopelli tattoos.
Read more about tribal tattoos: