More than any other tribe in North America, the Hopi Indians have developed according to the dictates and demands of what may be called a legacy of prophecy. The predictions of the life to come do not merely pertain to the Hopi themselves but deal with impending events on a global scale. These prophecies began to be made public shortly before the mid-20 th century. The Hopi are an aggregation of clans that came together at the “center-point” ( Tuuwanasavi) in northern Arizona during the course of their migrations. Because they are not a monolithic tribe, the sources of their prophecies are fragmentary and multifarious. Part of the lack of narrative clarity also has to do with the secretive nature of the Hopi. These isolated, sedentary farmers living in unpretentious pueblos (basically stone apartment buildings) on the high desert of the American Southwest have looked into the future from their kivas (subterranean, communal prayer-chambers) and have seen some rather disturbing scenarios. Many times they simply do not wish to share these visions with the outside world. Considering the history of exploitation and genocide of Native Americans in general, this is understandable.
Like the Maya, among whom the Hopi once lived and with whom they later traded, the Hopi conceptualize the cycles of time as world-ages. The Hopi believe that we have suffered three previous world cataclysms. The First World was destroyed by fire—a comet, asteroid strike, or a number of volcanic eruptions. The Second World was destroyed by ice—a great Ice Age. As recorded by many cultures around the globe, a tremendous deluge destroyed the Third World. These three global destructions were not the result of merely random earth changes or astrophysical phenomena but of humankind’s disregard both for Mother Earth and for the spiritual dictates of the Creator. In other words, cataclysmic events in the natural world are causally connected to collective transgressions, or negatives human actions.
Unlike the Maya, the Hopi are rarely specific about the dates for the shifting of these ages. It has been said that the Maya were masters of time, whereas the Hopi are masters of space. The verb tenses here are deliberate, given that the Maya no longer follow the Long Count calendar of 394-year cycles. Instead they now use the Tzolk’in calender of 260 days—an amazingly complex system nonetheless. Living on their three primary mesas, the Hopi continue to perform a series of annual sacred rituals within their ceremonial cycle in order to keep not just themselves but rather the whole world in balance.
As time goes by, this task is increasingly difficult because our contemporary lifestyle, with its technological gadgetry and unseemly allurements, continues to erode traditional ways of life and ancestral Hopi values. Fewer and fewer young Hopis are learning their indigenous language, customs, and ceremonies. More youth are leaving Hopi-land to seek employment in urban areas. Those that do stay on the reservation are confronted with intra-tribal squabbles and, much worse, with high rates of alcoholism and increasingly available lethal street drugs. The dire signs of a Native American version of the “End Times” are everywhere.
Many Hopi spiritual elders (singular, kikmongwi) claim that we are living in the final days of the Fourth World. For more than 60 years, different Hopis have predicted various Earth changes that signal the conclusion of the current age and the onset of the Fifth World. In 1970, Dan Katchongva, Sun Clan leader from the village of Hotevilla, who died at age 112, spoke about deteriorating conditions of our time:
We have teachings and prophecies informing us that we must be alert for the signs and omens which will come about to give us courage and strength to stand on our beliefs. Blood will flow. Our hair and our clothing will be scattered upon the earth. Nature will speak to us with its mighty breath of wind. There will be earthquakes and floods causing great disasters, changes in the seasons and in the weather, disappearance of wildlife, and famine in different forms. There will be gradual corruption and confusion among the leaders and the people all over the world, and wars will come about like powerful winds. All of this has been planned from the beginning of creation.
The Two Life-Paths On Prophecy Rock
Another spiritual elder from the same Third Mesa village, David Monongye, who may have lived even longer than Grandfather Dan, had warned: “When earthquakes, floods, hailstorms, drought, and famine will be the life of every day, the time will have then come for the return to the true path, or going the zig-zag way.”
The “zig-zag way” refers to a line found on Prophecy Rock, a panel of ancestral Hopi petroglyphs (rock carvings) in northern Arizona. The zig-zag is the upper of two parallel lines. It supposedly represents the path of the Two-Hearts, who are wreaking havoc on our Earth Mother and living contrary to ecological principles and the laws of Nature. The lower line, on the other hand, is the path of the One-Hearts, who are close to soil and the growth of corn, beans, squash—that is, adhering to the true Hopi way. The upper path is divorced from the natural world and totally immersed in the synthetic, manufactured reality of iPhones and Xbox 360s. In essence, it is a lifestyle that the Hopi call koyaanisqatsi, which means “world out of balance,” or “life of moral corruption and turmoil (regarding a group).” The lower way, rooted in earth-based rhythms, finds solace and spiritual sustenance from corn pollen, sunlight, soaking rains, and vast desert vistas—a life in accordance with the Creator or the Great Spirit.
This large sandstone panel facing due east was incised in ancient times with various arcane symbols. The petroglyphs were carved on the vertical surface of the boulder. (Caveat lector: What follows are merely possible interpretations. They are by no means an official Hopi reading of the symbology, nor are they sanctioned by the Hopi themselves.) The figure at the lower-left is Masau’u (Masaaw), the Hopi god of death, fire, and the earthly plane. He carries a bow with his arrow pointing to the underworld (previous Third World). His left hand holds the path to the current Fourth World. The circle to the right represents the Earth or rim of the horizon. The Christian cross signifies the Spanish (Catholic) incursion of Hopi-land. The square represents a village, pueblo, plaza, or the Hopi territory.
The two parallel lines positioned obliquely refer to the two life-paths humankind may take at the end of the current Fourth World. As previously mentioned, the upper line is the path of the Two-Hearts. On this line are four figures with enjoined hands, the last figure appearing to have two heads (hearts?). This line ends in a zig-zag up in the air. The lower line is the path of the One-Hearts. Resting on this line from left to right, are three circles, which represent three “world shakings,” or three world wars. To the right of the last circle are a corn stalk and a Hopi man tending corn. This line extends to the right across another section of the rock, whereas the upper line is not extended. The line on the right between the two parallel lines and perpendicular to them represents the last chance the Two-Hearts have to descend to the true path on the lower line.
Grandfather Martin Gashweseoma from the Fire Clan of the Hotevilla village on Third Mesa stated to a group of us in front of Prophecy Rock during the summer of 2011 that this lower line represented “everlasting life” and the rising sun. Indeed, I did a quick compass-check of the extended lower line (see upper-right of the graphic) and found that if one stood at that point with his/her back to the rock, one would directly face the spot on the horizon where the sun rises on the summer solstice. The Hopi say that at this time Taawa, the sun god, is the strongest and resides in his Taawaki, or “summer house.”
Signs that the Fourth World is Winding Down
Some other predictions made public by various Hopi elders in the 20 th century include the possibility of the Fourth World’s demise. These involve an increasingly erratic climate and a few specific signals or signs of social and political imbalance. The prophesized Earth changes include earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, record flooding, wildfires, droughts, and famines. Pandemics are currently on the minds of many. The 2014 ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has already claimed over 5,000 victims as of the end of October, 2014. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects as many as 1.4 million fatalities by January of 2015, although this may be a worst-case scenario.
The Hopi also predicted a number of technological changes that would signal the end of the Fourth World. Long before it happened, the elders said a “gourd of ashes” would fall on the Earth. This refers, of course, to nuclear explosions—first the atomic test blast at Trinity Site in New Mexico, then the dual holocausts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and finally the other hydrogen bomb tests on Pacific atolls and in the American Southwest (with their carcinogenic effects on the “down-winders”). Hopi prophecies include the fact that people would ride in “horseless wagons” on “black ribbons” (vehicles on asphalt). In addition, aerial vehicles would travel “roads in the heavens” (pathways in the sky, either benign contrails or deleterious “chemtrails”). The Hopi also stated that one of the final signs is that People would be “living in the sky” (International Space Station).
Hopi elders also foresaw numerous social changes. They said that Hopi delegates would travel at four different times to the “House of Mica” (the U.N. building in New York), but each time their pleas for peace will be ignored. The socially conservative Hopi culture also believed that the end of the Fourth World would be signaled by women starting to wear men’s clothing (Women's Liberation Movement, etc.). Finally, a Hopi friend of mine in his 50s said that his grandfather had predicted in the 1960s what seems to refer to 9/1l/2001. He said that an event would happen when America was sleeping, and the country would wake up to a thunderous eruption of war.
We must remember that Hopi prophecies are not contemporary readings of world events, but statements made centuries or perhaps millennia ago. These disturbing commentaries on our current state of global affairs were simply relayed through the generations to the present via the Hopi oral tradition, with very few alterations made in the process.