Spiritual Apache Crafts
The Apache native Americans are a collective of many different tribes, located in the Southwestern section of the United States. Among them are the Navajo, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan, Western and Plains Apache.
The Apaches believe in the power of God (referred to as Usen), the influence of ancestors and the spirits that inhabit plants and animals. There are many spiritual crafts used to illustrate folklore, perform rites and protect the body and soul.
The Apaches are known for their intricate beading and silver jewelry. Turquoise creations are some of the more prized trinkets, dating back to pre-Columbian America. The stones are either sculpted into beads or set in silver to make bracelets, rings, pendants and necklaces.
The greenish-blue mineral is believed by the tribes to unite the powers of the sky and sea, helping warriors and hunters to be more astute and increase their powers. Additionally, it is believed that dipping turquoise jewels into water can aid bladder infections and that wearing turquoise can protect the mind and spirit.
Mythical figures depicted in miniature form, kachina dolls were adopted by the Apache native Americans from the Hopi tradition. An educational tool used to teach children about native American spirituality, the kachina dolls are not meant to be worshiped or idolized.
There are more than 300 different dolls, each designed to emulate native American spirits, called “katsinas.” The figurines stand about 10 inches tall, are often made of wood and are painted. Various beading, feathers and costumes decorate the doll, as each doll has its own meaning and symbolism.
In rituals and dances, masks were often used to help tribal members depict the various native American deities. The effort to create a life-sized kachina doll starts with the Apache mask — a headpiece made out of leather.
Creating the masks is a craft still practiced today and includes molding a piece of leather to create an abstract face. The leather is painted to indicate features and it is often trimmed with fur around the collar. Other decorative elements include wool, feathers and straw, which often top the mask, elongating its shape.
Another craft with spiritual significance is the drum, which is used in the Apache rites, rituals and dances. The drum is often shallow and can range in size, from 13 to 17 inches.
Also known as “hoop drums,” the foundation of the Apache drum is a wooden frame, which can be made from cedar, maple and willow oak. The top of the drum is fashioned from dry stretch leather — made from elk, horse, moose or buffalo — that is held in place with twine. Additionally, ceremonial drums can be painted with symbols or mythical scenes.
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