So what’s up with the Squash?


I didn’t make this guy up.

I know, I know, I wish I had. But the Hopi–or possibly Zuni–beat me to it by a coupla hundred years. Our patron deity of gardening is a small and cute version of the Patung, or Squash Kachina, one of a group of dancers representing gods that perform at First, Second, and Third Mesa among the Hopi Indians.

We don’t know much about Squash. He might be originally Zuni. He’s possibly important to the Pumpkin Clan, but apparently there aren’t many of them left, and they don’t know either or aren’t talking. (Kachina research is riddled with this sort of thing. If you want rituals free of paradoxes and contradictions, you’re in the wrong place.) More commonly he’s portrayed as a runner, one of a group who challenge people to footraces and reward the winners with food, and beat the losers with yucca whips. (And a good time was had by all!)

Do not, I hasten to add, take any of the portrayals here as an actual representation of the Hopi Kachina–this is a lighthearted tribute, chibi-fied and cute, and in no way shape or form actual anthropology. All I know is that I think Squash is friggin’ gorgeous. He’s all green and stripey. I have painted him a number of times, and it’s…well, it’s fan art, really. Art for the pure love of Squash. I am not sure if confining my fangirlishness to an obscure vegetable member of an indigenous religion is more or less dignified than the usual sort. Were I thirteen, I would paper the inside of my locker with pictures of Squash. He’s just that cool-lookin’, damnit. (I draw the line at saying he’s dreamy. I have a purely platonic affection for Squash, I assure you.)

I spent a chunk of my childhood in Arizona, and the single possession that I have had longest in my life is a large book entitled Kachina: A Hopi Artist’s Documentary which was given to me for my seventh birthday. It was then that I fell in love with Squash. (It was also during that period that I conceived my affection for Southwestern decor, which means that I have a shameful affection for pastel coyotes, and may someday build the only pueblo in North Carolina. It’s not my mother’s fault. She raised me better. I think it was something in the water.)

My long-standing affection for this little Squash god led me to dedicate the blog to him. While we don’t know much about him, I suspect he’s probably a gardener. And since squashes are native to the Americas, it seemed to make sense for him to be the patron of a garden full of native plants.

I have even learned to love growing squash.[/one_half_last]