Book of the Hopi by Frank Waters, Viking Press (1963)
Book Summary and Analysis by David Worrell

Published five years before Castaneda's first book, so the possibility that a young anthropology student interested in the southwest might easily have encountered this work is not at all far-fetched. There will be few comments on my part--mostly quotes—appearing in italics.


"Laurens Van Der Post, gifted writer, and perceptive student of humanity, has deplored the loss to our society of the "whole natural language of the spirit."


Waters says that the Hopi speak to us "out of immeasurable time, from a fathomless unconscious whose archetypes are mysterious and incomprehensible to us."

(use of descriptors: fathomless, mysterious, incomprehensible)

"What they tell us is the story of...their emergences from previous worlds."

"It is a world view of life...whose esoteric meaning they have kept inviolate for generations uncounted."

"It is a mytho-religious system ... as complex, abstract, and esoteric as any in the world. It has been the despair of professional anthropologists, ethnologists, and sociologists."

(use of the word "abstract" to refer to a system of "myth")

"The esoteric meanings and functions of the ceremonies themselves have remained virtually unknown. This is not wholly due to Hopi secrecy. Professional scientific observers themselves have never granted validity to those aspects of Hopi ceremonialism that border the sixth-sense realm of mysticism. Indeed, the rationalism of all the western world vehemenently refutes anything that smacks of the unknown..."

(use of the term "the unknown")

"That these Hopi have revealed their conceptual pattern of life to us now, for the first time, imparts to their gift a strangeness unique in our national experience... They reassert a rhythm of life we have disastrously tried to ignore. They remind us we must attune ourselves to the need for inner change if we are to avert a cataclysmic rupture between our own minds and hearts."

(a strange system, being revealed for the first time)

"Nor will the Hopi view of the universe as an inseparably interrelated field or continuum be quite palatable to those who tacitly accept the role of man as a rational entity created to stand apart from nature."

A Note About the Compilation of the Book

"[W]ork on the project required nearly three years. Much of this time I lived the reservation...with my research co-worker Oswald White Bear Fredericks...the discourses of our Hopi spokesmen were taken down in Hopi on a tape recorder by White Bear, who later translated them into English."

(precisely recorded dialog which was subsequently translated)

"All the Hopi spokesmen willingly and freely gave the information...none of them was paid informant fees in the manner customarily followed by professional researchers."

(echoes of "pay me for my time with your time")

"This great cooperative effort could not have been obtained before, nor could it be obtained now; already some of the older spokesmen have died. Their traditions come to us by the dictate of fate we call fortuitous chance, at the time when we, as they, most need them."

(Spokesmen unavailable, received by "fortuitous chance")

"I must reiterate that this book is an expression by the Hopis of the traditional viewpoint. All the material in it, save my own obvious commentaries, was supplied by our Hopi spokesmen and approved as transcribed in manuscript form. Its aim as a free narrative was to achieve the full spirit and pattern of Hopi belief, unrestricted by detailed documentation and argumentative proof... The documentary scholar may question whether an ancient primitive people could have evolved such a rich belief and preserved its full tradition for generations by word of mouth. He may assert that the myths, legends, and ceremonies are largely my own speculations. He will certainly deny that invisible spirits manifest themselves as described. To these doubts and denials my only answer is that the book stems from a mythic and symbolic level far below the surface of anthropological and ethnological documentation. That it may not conform to the rational conceptualization ruling our own beliefs does not detract from its own validity as a depth psychology different from our own. It stands for itself as a synthesis of intuitive symbolic belief given utterance for the first time."

(no proof, no documentation, word of mouth, contains magical events, etc.)

Tokpela: The First World

"Then he, the infinite, conceived the finite. First he created Sotukang."

(This being Sotukang went to the first world and created "Spider Woman", so here you have a male/female pair of first beings.)

"nine universal kingdoms: one for Taiowa the Creator, one for himself, and seven universes for the life to come"

(The Eagle, the organic band, and seven inorganic bands?)

"All the vibratory centers along the earth's axis from pole to pole resounded..."

(hey, cool!)

"So Spider Woman gathered earth, this time of four colors, yellow, red, white, and black...molded them, and covered them with her white-substance cape which was creative wisdom itself...and when she uncovered them these forms were human beings in the image of Sotuknang. Then she created four other beings after her own form. They were wuti, female partners for the first four male beings."

(two "special" beings, naguals?, then four male types and four female types)

"they understood that the earth was a living entity like themselves"

(the earth as a living being)

The Nature of Man

Speaking of how a child was reared...

"[A]lthough he had human parents, his real parents were the universal entities who had created him through them--his mother Earth, from whose flesh all are born, and his father Sun, the solar god who gives life to all the universe."

(our emanations are contained within the Earth's and our energy is a little piece of the Sun)

"The living body of man and the living body of the earth were constructed in the same way. Through each ran an axis ... along this axis were several vibratory centers ... "

(an axis through the body, with "vibratory centers", hmmmm...)

"The first of these in man lay at the top of the head ... just below it lay the second center, the organ called the brain ... The third center lay in the throat ... The fourth center was the heart ... The last of man's important centers lay under his navel, the organ some people now call the solar plexus."

(These do not correspond exactly with Castaneda's, but Castaneda himself is not consistent about his labeling of "centers" in his early books--for example at one point saying that the center of "seeing" is against the ribs, and since "seeing" was later explained as a euphemism for moving the assemblage point, that makes no real sense.)

The fifth center, the one under the navel was said to be "the one which directed all the functions of man."

(corresponding to what Castaneda early on called "the will")

"The first people knew no sickness"

(Castaneda said a man of knowledge did not get sick)

Speaking of a medicine man...

"The hands of the medicine man were seer instruments; they could feel the vibrations from each center."

(use of word "seer")

Tuwaqachi: The Fourth World

"'I am the caretaker, the guardian and protector of this land'. The people recognized Masaw. He had been appointed head caretaker of the third world, but, being a little self-important, he had lost his humility before the Creator."

(use of words: caretaker, guardian, protector, and self-important)

The Legends

The Hopi don't refer to "the path with heart". However, they do refer to "the road of life".

(there is a lot of talk about how Hopi beliefs refute a great deal of what anthropologists believe about how the Americas came to be inhabited--a theme Castaneda would also play on frequently)

" rises upward, bringing into predominant function each of the higher centers. The door at the crown of the head then opens, and he merges into the wholeness of all Creation, whence he sprang. It is a Road of Life he has traveled by his own free will, exhausting every capacity for good or evil, that he may know himself at last as a finite part of infinity."

(Center at top is last step, going beyond good/evil to join the infinite)

Waters gives a procedure for creating and then "planting" a "magic jar" which brings water from the desert. The detailed procedure reminds of some of the elaborate procedures Castaneda puts in his first two books:

"The time will come when the villages you establish will fall into ruins. Other people will wonder why they were built in such inhospitable regions where there is no water for miles around. They will not know about this magic water jar, because they will not know of the power and prayer behind it."

(In the book there is frequent use of the word "power")

At the beginning of their entrance to the fourth world, the Hopi encounter an Eagle who has been there since the creation of the world. And it was the Eagle which "gave the people permission to occupy the land."

(So ... an "Eagle's Gift"? :-) stretching it here...)

There is an account of how Waters took an Indian to examine museum pieces from ancient sites, and the Indian was able to give detailed and totally unknown explanations of the pieces.

(Castaneda told a similar story)

"The old wu'ya had left a sign which all could read clearly. His heart had been pure, his power great. In his dying hour he had gone down to the spring below the village and transformed himself into a spruce tree."

(man of power becomes a tree)

Note: specialized names like wu'ya are italicized throughout this book, just as they always were in Castaneda's books.

There is an account of a chief planting a male and a female spruce tree which both grew abnormally fast, allowing him to claim "proof of our power ... and a sign that all the high places around the village will be covered with spruce trees whose power you may use in your ceremonies."

(Example of an "omen"-- this book is filled with stories of "omens." In fact, the people direct their lives by following "omens" or "signs" and "spirits" and offering "tokens" of various kinds. And those are the actual words used.)

"A kachina is a spirit of any kind--a star, mountain, plant, animal, or invisible force. So is the man who impersonates the spirit ... wearing the sacred mask and costume which invests him with its power."

(similar to Castaneda's early forces and allies)

"Sunflowers are living persons imbued with life by the deities and our Father Sun, just as we are."

(men being equal to plants)

"These kachina people did not come to the Fourth World like the rest of the people. In fact they were not people. They were spirits sent to give help and guidance to the clans, taking the forms of ordinary people."

(in early books, allies often take the forms of ordinary people)

There is mention of "how the stars affected the climate, the crops, and man himself," and there is mention of taking an object and putting it on a ceremonial mound "where the first ray of the rising sun would strike it" thus fertilizing it by Father Sun.

(Don Juan looks for omen in first rays of rising sun, man is affected by energy from the stars)

"The Coyote Clan was also assigned its proper place among the clans, being designated to come last to "close the door."

(special use of phrase: "close the door")

There is a story involving a "talking deer." There's also an account of how they timed their ceremonies by the positions of the stars, and a description of a painting includes this:

"the seven dots near the swallow's beak represent the seven stars in the Pleiades; the nine larger dots, the nine stars in Corona..."

(mention of Corona)

Here's a particularly nice description of waiting for an omen:

"[T]he chief sent out four young men to climb a high ridge to the north and wait there for four days for a sign to guide them. On the fourth day the sign came: a tall cloud that built up like a tall pillar and fell, pointing the way..."

In one story there is a man who makes a sound that is heard by his own clan at an enormous distance. In the same story, there is another man who can turn into a bird and fly like a bird.

(Genaro calls Castaneda from a distance with a sound; Castaneda turns into a bird)

The Mystery Plays

(the name of the rituals reminds one of "sorcery theater")

Waters says of one of their religious symbols that it is:

"part of the wildness of the earth and the everlasting mystery of creation which man has never understood and will never completely dominate and domesticate."

(the world is an endless mystery)

I want to emphasize that while Waters' style is primarily documentary, he often waxes poetic. For example, speaking of some dancers:

"How beautiful and brilliant they are, touched by a strange other-worldliness, as they come dancing slowly and singing deeply through the narrow, dusty streets... The frozen pond behind the village has melted, and naked children are crowding the sunny stone walls. From the high mesa top one can see the dry, tawny desert stretching emptily away to the lofty buttes sixty miles south. The softly pounding feet, the soughing voices ... it is a little mesmeric, as always."

(a style both documentary and artistic, at the same time)

Speaking of a ritual which has shocked observers:

"Mastop ... has come a long, long way. His black helmet mask suggests the interstellar space he has traveled, the three white stars on each side of his head being the three stars in Orion's belt (at this point he grabs a woman from the audience and goes through motions of copulation with her)... but this is not promiscuous and is with married women only... for copulation is for the express purpose of procreation of man, that he may climb from world to world on his continuing Road of Life."

(sex is for creating life, ala Fire From Within days)

"An individual who obeys the law of laws and conforms to the pure and perfect pattern laid down by the creator becomes a kachina when he dies and goes immediately to the next universe without having to plod through all the intermediate worlds or stages of existence. From there, traveling through the vast wastes of interstellar space, he comes back periodically with kachinas of other forms of life to help mankind continue its evolutionary journey.

Beyond these seven universes ... lie two more beyond man's reach. The eighth is the realm of Sotuknang, who helped to create and still helps to maintain the other systems; and the ninth is the indefinable, incomprehensible domain of the one divine Creator of all."

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

(echoes of "the Eagle", "the unknowable', our "evolutionary journey," and the warrior who journeys into other worlds)

Replica Watches  Replica Watches

Waters emphasizes that spirits are invoked "so that man may be enabled to continue his never-ending journey."

Another relevant speech by Waters:

"Academic considerations, however, are invalidated by the basic truths and meaning of the kachina ... In its conception the Hopis have created a form for the everlasting formless; a living symbol unique in the world for that universal and multifold spirit which embodies all living matter; which speaks to us, as only the spirit can speak, through the intuitive perception..."

At one point, as each kachina enters the kiva, a kachina-mana makes fun of or praises him, causing him to review his past actions. This is regarded as a 'confession' or 'purification.'

(A kachina-mana is "a man dressed as a woman", and Waters frequently uses the actual word "recapitulation" to describe retelling or reviewing the past.)

Waters describes a ritual called Saqtiva, or the "jump of death," wherein the performers leap from tall poles and catch a thong secured to a cross bar and swing themselves out over the edge of a cliff. Any miscaluclation results in actual death on the rocks below, so they are ceremonially painted for death beforehand.

(the jump from the cliff?)

Then Waters mentions how this is similar to a prehistoric ceremony of the Aztecs: Los Voladores, The Flying Pole Dance. Waters even describes the performers as "four men known as voladores or fliers."

(use of term "fliers")

"The Hopis first ask permission of any plant before cutting it for ceremonial use."

(talking to plants)

Now get this...

"A still more significant parallel between Los Voladores and Saqtiva is the sublimation of sex so that the generative power of the fliers may be transferred to the power of the ritual... The four fliers are always selected from young unmarried men who have no sweethearts. They are required to observe rigid continence and to promise to fly for seven consecutive years."

(seven years of celibacy)

Eagles killed in ceremonies are buried "head to the west." An old Hopi man "points to the horizon with his chin."

After a dance in which the men hold live rattlesnakes in their mouths, Waters reports on how the men drink a strong emetic then "stand on the edge of the cliff to retch. Otherwise their bellies would swell up with the power like clouds and burst."

(reminds of Gorda making Castaneda vomit after contact with allies)

Note: Waters twice uses the word "indulgence" to describe overdoing something.

There is a story told of a magic feat of:

"putting hands in a bowl of white wash and then making the motions of painting a wall in front of them. Several people laughed, for there was no wall in front of them. But the Ya Ya members quietly pointed across the desert to a cliff ten miles away. It was painted with the white wash."

(kind of reminds one of Castaneda seeing the plant on the other side of the hill)

Humorously, the Hopi consider "sorcerers" and "witches" people who abuse the power of life, and who suffer penalties for doing so, and are not allowed to evolve as rapidly as others. :-)

There is a long section after "the Mystery Play" section about how the Hopi fared under the Spanish conquest, and the coming of the Americans, but I'm not going to go into any of that.

In the conclusion of the book, there is an interesting remark about time: "Hopi time, unlike our own, is not a shallow horizontal stream. It does not flow out of a conveniently forgotten past through the present into a future we are hurrying to reach. All Indian time has a vertical dimension that cups past and future in a timeless present."

("wheel of time"?)

Summing up the Hopi religion, Waters says:

" is a belief whose core is not spoken, but expressed by the abstract ritualism..."

("abstract core")

In closing, Waters shows appreciation for...

"the courageous and cooperative effort of our thirty Hopi spokesmen in recapitulating here for the first time all their myths, legends, history, and meanings..."

:-) Recapitulating.

Final Note

I hope it may be a bit clearer how it might be quite possible to use the imagery of a Native system, subtly modified and mixed with Western philosophy in order to create "amazing tales." (Gee, I almost feel like I could have a crack at it myself.) Anyhow, this book may well have been quite influential. While any single point could be debated, it is quite interesting to find so many similar ideas all in the same anthropological work, which was published prior to Castaneda's works.