Volltext: Anthropos, 78.1983,1-4

Reports and Comments 
Book of the Hopi* The Hopis Book? 
Armin W. Geertz 
Senior Research Fellow (Department of the History of Religions, 
University of Aarhus, Paludan-Müllersvej 17, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark) 
This article is meant as a reply to F. Bornemann’s review of the German edition of 
Frank Waters’ Book of the Hopi (Das Buch der Hopi, Düsseldorf und Köln 1980: Eugen 
Diederichs Verlag) in Anthropos 77. 1982: 959-960. My intention is not to criticize 
Bornemann, rather to use the occasion of his review to attempt to enlighten the scientific 
community concerning this disturbing enigma called Book of the Hopi. 
Bornemann’s words of praise are understandable, since the book seems wonderful 
from a superficial point of view. But Bomemann has gone further, following that natural, 
nagging sense of doubt which any humanistic scientist has when confronted with literary 
wonders. His review finishes with a series of questions which reflect a healthy scepticism. 
Some of the questions are not relevant, but others are exactly to the point, seen from a 
specialist’s point of view. 
We can clear the air of those questions which do not apply to the Hopi situation. 
Bornemann’s surprise concerning the existence of a coherent and seemingly Ur-indigenous 
religion among the modern Hopi is understandable. He asks whether the Catholics, Mor 
mons, and Mennonites have really meant so little to Hopi development. The answer is yes, 
relatively speaking of course. One can refer here to an excellent study concerning these 
problems by E.H. Spicer (1962). The Hopis have not shared the same enculturative 
developments such as those of the Eastern Pueblos. As Spicer noted, by 1955 less than 
2 percent of the Hopi population had become practicing Christians (Spicer 1962: 207). 
The indigenous religion had indeed changed, but it is still decidedly Hopi. One finds all 
the phases of culture contact from disintegration to revitalization, and quite a spattering 
of eclectic pocket philosophers in between. But there is no doubt to anyone who has 
lived with the Hopi, that the old ways and the traditional religion are alive and thriving. One 
can, by way of comparing from a historical perspective, identify most of the motifs found 
in the mural evidence in the area during the 14th and 15th centuries on the basis of 
modem Hopi religious ceremonial symbolism (cf. W. Smith 1952). Why is this? Because 
the Hopi are still living where they have been living for perhaps a thousand years, they 
still speak their own language, still preserve traditional subsistence activities, traditional 
authority systems, and traditional moral values. These latter elements are modified, and 
do pose conflicting contrasts to the urges of the modern Anglo world, but they are not 
The remarkable thing about the Hopi religion is that it has a built-in mythical 
model which has taken the present cultural situation into account and which, judging by 
the Aztec traditions, existed since the time of the Spanish Conquest at the very least. 
It is Bomemann’s questions concerning the authors of Book of the Hopi, their 
informants and the role of Hopi clans in the construction of and preservation of oral tra 
dition, that are the most relevant in defining the reliability of this work. And it is along 
these lines that one must try to understand exactly what Frank Waters has achieved. It 
must be emphasized here that my intention is not to ridicule. This book demands a res


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