The Hopi Symbols
Like all other Native American tribes, the Hopi found great spiritual relief and guidance in symbolism. They gained knowledge and understanding through both things found as is in the wild and their own artistic depictions of life values and challenges.
The Tapuat is one of their most commonly used Hopi symbols, as it is meant to be an icon of Mother Earth, the creator and protector of all things. The Hopi word “tapuat” translates to “mother and child”, making it a perfect symbol for the Earth: she is the Mother and all of nature is her child. This symbol uses the same depiction as the Hopi symbol of life – a maze – which is very fitting, as the Earth is the home of life.
The Tapuat Hopi Symbol
Both the Tapuat and the life maze focus on the cyclical nature of life and the individual paths that we each must follow along the journey. However, the Hopi labyrinth goes beyond the bigger picture of life to specifically symbolize a mother and her child throughout the prenatal and after birth. The lines of the Tapuat maze symbolize these stages of life, starting with the attachment to the mother via the umbilical cord.
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Beginning in the center, which signifies the fetus within the amniotic sac, the child feeds off of its mother as she nourishes it with her own body. This is the beginning and center of life, the start of the journey. After birth, children must journey outward, finding their own paths in life. Often times adolescence may feel like a never-ending maze. However, this Native American symbol shows us that these trials and errors all take place within the greater surrounding wall – the eyes of the caring and watchful mother.
When considered from this angle, it is conceivable to interpret the maze as a symbol of the nature of birth and rebirth – a relationship that concerns not just the human mother and child, but also the Earth and her children of nature on a grander scale. Furthermore, this connection between mother and child can be applied even more broadly to include the Cosmic Mother – the mother of the universe – as well.
Tapuat Hopi Symbolism
In addition to demonstrating the connection between the feminine forces of nature with offspring and physical dependents, the Tapuat more broadly signifies the complex labyrinth of life. By looking at this symbol even for a moment, we can see the obvious twists and turns, ups and downs that the maze presents us with. This directly mimics the natural course of the journey through life.
As we try to find our way, the path will throw us curveballs that require us to make definitive decisions. With each of these choices, our paths turn in a different direction. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for it is the result of organic growth. As long as we recognize our ability to choose and then choose again, we an always work out the path to go the way we want it to. This task will not be without struggle, but the labyrinth lets us know that it is possible, as long as we have the end goal in sight.
The initiation of the labyrinth symbol into Hopi tradition comes from one of their most ancient legends regarding how men surfaced on the Earth. The legend states that man emerged from the womb of Mother Earth in underground caves and were required to find their way to the surface by navigating through a complex labyrinth.
In order to find the correct and true path, they had to put their complete trust and faith in the mother, who would guide them when they listened. Because of this, the Tapuat is viewed as the first symbol of initiation into the world. It is frequently used during walking ceremonies and sweat lodge rituals, in which a person or group is trying to find their way through life. By utilizing this symbol and the story behind it, they are each reminded that they choose their own path and that life is thus a work in progress. As long as we continue to move forward, we continue to evolve and grow.