Butterfly Maiden

by forrest fenn

These vignettes from Forrest’s collection are only to share. To see 294 additional pieces  please visit


I hope these kachina dolls don’t take this personally, but I like old things, especially if they are powerful, and gracefully show their age. These three do. More than a hundred years ago the Hopi Indians in Arizona carved them from roots of a cottonwood tree. Most kachinas have multiple duties, but some stand out more than others. Faith is a big part of the colorful Kachina Culture.

This Butterfly Maiden has faded over time, but has kept her Mona Lisa twinkle. At least for me she has. Nothing about her has changed in the 50 years since she came to live with me. She pollinates dreams and makes them come true. Look her up if you don’t believe it. That’s why she’s my all-time favorite.

Kachinas are made to teach Hopi children how to dress for the dances, and the Sao Hemis is one of the most elaborate. Although customs change over the generations some things don’t. Sao Hemis always wears a kilt, a tablita, and their bodies are painted with black corn smut.

The Three Horn kachina is a warrior who likes to sing excitedly when he dances. He’s one of the guards and, when needed, can rush into action with great swiftness. He brings rain to the ground that insures a good harvest. And a good harvest can mean the children will be healthy, the crops will grow, and the water will be potable.

Two books on archaeology say that the Kachina Culture didn’t exist in pre-historic times, but we found those accounts to be fraught with misdirection.

Painting by James Asher

I found two helmet style masks at San Lazaro Pueblo, and paid to have them excavated by professional archaeologists. Radiocarbon (C-14) and archaeomagnetic dates show that the masks were used between 1450 and 1520. The pueblo was prehistoric until 1540 when a Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado entered the Southwestern landscape. The official archaeological record is being revised to reflect my discovery. f

55 thoughts on “Butterfly Maiden

  1. What’s the difference between professional & proficienal?
    Revisional discovery is a key word.
    Great discoveries.

  2. Thank You Dal and Forrest,
    Reflections from the past seldom lie. Congrats on “your” discovery, someone needs to keep those fancy letters in check.

  3. So, Forrest, is Sosoko a “corruption” of your previously owned soyoko kachina James and I bought? That thing is a little bit eerie…

  4. W O W Forrest, what beautiful Kachinas. I love the way that they each have a story to tell. Enchanting. I hope some day to move back to the Southwest, where the waters are clear and potable…not like the yucky water here in Pocatello. JDA

  5. Great discoveries Forrest. I’m sure it was a difficult decision to bring in outside archaeologist to perform the excavation of the 2 helmets. I’m very proud of you for doing that, I’m not sure that I could have made the same decision even though I know it is the right decision to make. This just shows how important history is to us and the future us. I just wish that the T.C. carried the same type of results but I’ve heard to many say they are cashing in on all of it. Then the history is gone , forever.


  6. Very nice kachinas, Forrest. I also have a few kachinas that I bought twenty years ago at the Flea Market on Central. Mine really suck compared to yours, and I don’t know their history but I still like them none-the-less. My favorite is 24″ tall and weighs over 6 pounds. His hair is made of horse hair, I think, and hangs to the top of his moccasins. His ears are red, his eyes bulge, and his mouth looks like a platypus. He’s dressed in beautiful leather with beads, and feathers adorn his head from shoulder to shoulder. He’s an odd looking fellow but watches over me while I study your poem and read your scrapbooks. Maybe you know who or what he is meant to represent…I wish he’d whisper the answers… cynthia

  7. Nice post, this is kind of off the subject but I just had a great idea, I think I will get my beautiful daughter a kachina doll for her birthday this year, I have been trying to think of something special to get her and this seems perfect:

    “Kachina dolls, small dolls carved in the likeness of kachinas given as gifts to children”…

  8. I love going thru museums. Years ago when in London for a short vacation my daughter and I spent most of our time in their museums, which are huge, and at the time, FREE. I especially recall the Egyptian exhibits. Wonderful. A true feast for the eyes.

    These Kachinas remind me of that vacation and I especially like the Butterfly Maiden, though the Warrior (GO Warriors. Sorry guys, had to get that in) is pretty cool too, dancing, chasing spirits and bad guys away, or is it the medicine man who chases spirits away? But what the Sam Hill do I know?And who the heck is Sam Hill anyway?

    Congrats Forrest on your discovery too and thank you for the post. You too as usual Dal for all your hard work. You too Goofy. Hope you’re not still mad at me.

  9. I found an old katchina looking thing like the butterfly maiden near Punta Cana once, only she was half bumblebee. Left her to the sushi chef at the nearby Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant with a tip when I got home. He hung her amongst his ancient prized chopstick collection displayed behind the saki bar to watch over them and where all might see. For some unknown reason she seemed quite pleased with his decision. I never knew bees liked sushi, but I imagine F and Chai would get along. Ill have to stop back in there soon and say hello to my old friends.
    Thanks for that.

    P.S. if you’re done with those helmets, I bet Chang could use another watering pitcher…maybe he’d even consider allowing soy sauce in there 🙂

    • Hey Jonsey,

      That’s a yin yang kind of thing if I’ve ever seen one. Kachina dolls and chopsticks. The image that paints in my mind. Bet this guy might do fusion too huh?

      Your post brought me back to my first “solution” and what a trip that was. Spent a lot of time on that one and then decided to go down the road a lttle when things didn’t start panning out if you know what I mean.

      You should for sure stop by and say hi and have some sushi too. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s hard to beat good sushi when you can get it. We had some at a great place in West Seattle my son and his fiancé took us to for dinner.

      Take care……..ptb

  10. Those are awesome Forrest. I have a small kachina doll that sits on top of my small pueblo that sits on my TV stand in the living room. I would like to know where I can find out what my kachina doll is and what it means or what it’s me is and it’s job. Where can I find this information? Is there a book I can look through to pick it out?

  11. “Two books on archaeology say that the Kachina Culture didn’t exist in pre-historic times, but we found those accounts to be fraught with misdirection”.

    This reminds me of High Rise Village, Wy.


  12. Coronado was in Blanco Canyon as well. Did you happen to find any artifacts of his party while searching for Trooper Gregg’s resting place? Or in your pueblos? So far my favorite story is the one you told about finding the Conquistador in Meeteesee Wyoming (I think). I’m sure the official archaeological record would need revising to reflect that discovery as well. Imo. Grovel. Another wonderful share. Thanks

    • I think he mentions evidence of Coronado’s expedition in his San Lazaro book and a little in his San Lazaro video here on Dal’s — horseshoes, cannon balls (not sure about actual cannon balls, but evidence of their impact in the rock), crosses, etc. Maybe even Castaneda’s journal (that’s what I like to believe, lol).

  13. Congratulations on making the history books, forrest. That’ll teach em’! 🙂

    • I was going to say the same thing, Jdiggins.

      Making the history books must be really gratifying.

      I wonder what rewriting the history books would feel like.

      I don’t have a clue…but I can imagine that would be awesome.

      Congrats, Forrest! That’s just the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from him. Keep on keepin’ on. Thanks.


      • In my history books the extinction of dinosaurs was still a mystery. So much has been added to the books since I attended. I can only imagine the changes in Forrest’s lifetime. And what an awesome deal, he helped add knowledge to the world!

  14. Very interesting history behind the dolls. Great parts of your collection.


    Windy City

  15. I truly feel like I have missed out in not having read “Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo”. It is one thing to own a piece of antiquity and one neat thing to find a unique piece, but better still to change a long held belief with something like those masks. Forrest you have always been on fire!

    Tom T

    • Tom I so agree with you. It must be a wonderful book. Surely Mr. Feen feels validated with the findings of the archeologist.

  16. Mr. Fenn, Thank You !, I’ve come to know you’re a Genius, and So much more not recognized completely.

  17. Really enjoyed learning about your Kachinas Forrest. Thanks for sharing their history and lore. I was lucky to find a reasonably priced used copy of your book The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo which was hugely interesting to me. You must have grinned for days after unearthing the duck masks…such an important discovery with historical importance. Are you able to share with us who is continuing your work at San Lazaro?

  18. very nice dolls.the butterfly maiden,is a sprit,that is suspose to make your life more teachable of values,make you a better person.but can come from the underworld,Hell.I’m sure some people still believe this stuff. But I don’t.Only God can change my heart,and when he does this,my mind is changed for the better as ,I’m now living for god,repented of my sins,asked jesus into my heart .god the father,jesus the son, and the holy spirit.( three in one)his spirit lives in me,I give my self up for god.I still have a physical spirit,but I also have gods sprit in me,so when I die,I just go from this life to heaven with god forever.nice story tho.

  19. Oh, I think I saw these at CVS Pharmacy. You just water them for a while and they get covered with this green grass and….. oh, those are Chia pets..sorry.

    Very poor joke. 🙂

    • Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

      Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

      Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants. (from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics aka eatright.org) Just sayin’. ☺ And I read somewhere a few different times that southwest runners considered 2 tablespoons of China seed enough to sustain a man for the entire day. It’s good food!

  20. Those dolls are delightful. I would have never held them in such high regard if I had not paid attention to your perspective. I cherish my gift from my family, Historic American Indian Dolls.

  21. I never read ‘The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo’ but I would like to. And I didn’t realize that the cover painting by James Asher was a representation of the helmet masks that you discovered there.
    I’ll bet the archaeological community really enjoy being corrected by an ‘amateur’ archaeologist don’t they?

    • Randawg, I would be happy to share my copy of “Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo” with you if you will simply cover media mail postage both ways. It’s hard to find and expensive to purchase. Let me know if you would enjoy borrowing it.

  22. Forrest, I like your Butterfly Maiden. I found it interesting to learn that the irregular edges on her headdress (tableta) represent rain and clouds. Thanks for sharing another story and more pictures of your collection.

  23. Mr. Fenn, what is the story on the Osage doll? (FCDOL1364) I believe it is the only item on your collection from the Osage Nation.

    I just find it curious that the period shows to be 1775-1800. Her top seems to be a calico flower pattern done by cilinder printing invented in the mid-1800’s in England, I think. And the skirt showing the tri-color Germania flag also from early 1800s. That could be coincidence but that is what caught my attention. I couldn’t find any history on the German silver fish eyes.

    I don’t know much about this things but her fashion sets her apart from the rest in the collection for sure.

  24. Did the Butterfly Maiden help to make Fenn’s dreams come true? Such a fabulous find and history rewritten also. I’d say the Butterfly maiden is kind of fabulous too.

  25. CORN POLLEN 101

    The last time I worked for my father was in 1991. We were changing sprinklers in the corn at a place I knew had rattle snakes. I had no appreciation for the discomfort of the corn pollen falling all over me at the time. Being slow has its disadvantages. I never understood why he wouldn’t buy us kids rubber boots to fit our smaller feet.

    After one trip to that endless corn field I quit that job asap and moved the city. Over time I forgot about all of my farming knowledge and skills. On my property I think I’ll plant some corn.

  26. “…fraught with misdirection.”
    “The official archaeological record is being revised to reflect my discovery. f”

    You know they take everything personal. I’m of the opinion that you have done them a true service by allowing them room to breathe once again. The Flutter By Maiden and Her Hunter, he still chases her after all these years. They are there to remind us how some stars never burn up entirely.

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