The image of the hunched over flute player is likely the most reproduced image of the Southwest, and one of the most widespread images in Native American prehistoric sites of the Southwest. Although he is a god in the religion of the Pueblo people, his precise meaning varies from tribe to tribe: sometimes a healer, a prankster, or a story teller, sometimes associated with agriculture or fertility, he embodies the spirit of music.
My favorite Kokopelli myth comes from the San Ildefonso pueblo. In that legend, Kokopelli is a wandering minstrel who carries songs on his back, which he dispenses along with good luck and prosperity. In other legends he carries seeds on his back, so clearly there is an association with regeneration and renewal. In essence, music brings life.
Perhaps that explains his popularity. He is our pied piper, charming us with his songs. It’s too easy to dismiss him as a cliche, as Southwest kitsch, but if you look beneath the surface you’ll find a spiritual presence that understands how music and life are intertwined.