Hopi “Flying Shields” Over Arizona
Gary A. David
Copyright © 2008–2014 Gary A. David
Ever since pilot Kenneth Arnold sighted nine flat disks erratically skipping across the sky
near Mount Rainer in 1947, flying saucers have been firmly fixed in modern consciousness.
From the small silver spacecraft in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to the mother ship in
“Independence Day,” the round aerial machine has become one of the primary icons of our age.
Flying vehicles could conceivably come in many varieties but the most common seem to be disk–
This phenomenon is, of course, not restricted to the present. Shortly after the Arnold report
and the infamous Roswell UFO crash, the spring 1948 issue of Fate magazine carried an article
by a Navajo named Oga–Make.
“Most of you who read this are probably white men of a blood only a century or
two out of Europe. You speak in your papers of the Flying Saucers or Mystery
Ships as something new, and strangely typical of the twentieth century. How
could you but think otherwise? Yet if you had red skin, and were of a blood which
had been born and bred of the land for untold thousands of years, you would
know this is not true. You would know that your ancestors living in these
mountains and upon these prairies for numberless generations, had seen these
ships before, and had passed down the story in the legends which are the
unwritten history of your people.”1
Legends from the ancient Hopi Indians also abound with what they call magical flying
shields. Although this northern Arizona tribe has traditionally been known as the People of
Peace, the warrior shield could be an apt analogy because in Hopi culture the concept of war is
inexplicably connected to the stars.
The traditional term used for flying saucer is paatuwvota. Since the Hopi word paa means
water, paatuwvota possibly refers to the expanding concentric rings in a lake or pool. This might
be a metaphorical description for the way the strange airborne device appears to operate. For a
desert people like the Hopi, water is synonymous with wonder—perhaps the type evoked by
witnessing these spacecraft.
Many flying shields are piloted by entities commonly called kachinas. (The more correct
spelling of the Hopi term is katsinam, plural of katsina.) Like angels, these beneficent creatures
are spirit messengers that act as intermediaries for gods and humans. Although their multicolored
masks come in endless varieties, some resemble space helmets.
Aholi Kachina doll, which wears a cloak of many colors representing flowers,
the brightness of summer, and germination.
One handsome kachina named Pavayoykyasi is known to sprinkle the plants with life–giving
morning dew. His name, in fact, literally means “moisture tablet.” (Again, in the desert, moisture
always means amazement.) This finely dressed figure wears an embroidered kilt, a colorful sash,
and eagle down feathers in his hair. He also carries a wand in his hand and some sort of
He refers to his aircraft as “…his pet, a magic flying shield. The shield has two parts, with
the lower one spinning and the upper one remaining still. Climbing aboard, Pavayoykyasi rose
up into the air and flew off.”2 Because it automatically knew the way to his house, the craft either
may have been partially sentient or it employed an ancient version of GPS technology. The use
of the term “pet” also implies some sort of flying animal. On the other hand, the description of
the lower part spinning and the upper part stationary suggests a machine. Perhaps it was a hybrid
of organic and manufactured, similar to Philip Corso’s account of the saucers in The Day After
A very common motif in Hopi legends is one where a kachina mates with a maiden. This
echoes the Watchers, the biblical fallen angels who had sexual intercourse with human women in
order to produce the giants known as the Nephilim. “There were giants in the earth in those days;
and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare
children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”3
Giants, incidentally, also play a large part in Hopi culture and frequently show up at kachina
dances. At one dance I witnessed at the Third Mesa village of Oraibi, for instance, a Hu Kachina,
or Ogre, walked within a few feet of me into the plaza, carrying a rusty, foot–long butcher knife.
His bulging eyes and fierce teeth even today present a terrifying reminder of the persistent role of
giants in the Hopi world.
Hu Kachina doll
Hu is the name of the Hopi whipper kachina that comes to bring rain to the desert.
This ogre has a black mask, goggle eyes, fangs and lolling tongue. It carries a
yucca whip in each hand. Sometimes it holds a knife in one hand and a whip in the
Hu is also one of the names for the Sphinx at Giza. It acts as guardian of the
horizon in the same way that its Hopi namesake is guardian of the kachina dance.
Hu is additionally known as the Egyptian god of Taste, springing from the blood of
Ra’s phallus. Hu literally means bad or wicked, and naked, as well as to grieve, to
beat, to crush, and to slay. Huhu is the primeval watery mass whence came
everything. In Egyptian, Hu can also mean rain.
In their classic book Hamlet’s Mill, Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha von Dechend
state that Humeri is an antiquated Latin word for the constellation Orion, which the
Hebrews call Gibbor, or Giant. Humeri is also the plural of humerus, the long bone
between the shoulder and the elbow.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships off the shoulder of
Orion…” –Roy Batty, a “replicant” in the movie Blade Runner
One example of the unusual union of spirit messenger and Hopi mortal involves an unnamed
kachina who took a young woman from Oraibi to the Land of the Cloud People. The girl’s father
had recently died, causing a hardship for the family. The Cloud People had apparently been
watching her and her mother and decided that the kachina should marry her. One day the girl was
in the fields picking squash blossoms when “…she heard a roaring sound, a hissing noise like
wind coming through a small place, and she wondered what it was.” This implies some sort of
mechanism rather than either an organic or a metaphysical means of transport. Then she saw the
approaching kachina, who, like the previous one mentioned, was good looking with a beautiful
kilt and sash and a brightly painted body. He said he wished to marry her and told her he would
take her to his home tomorrow. The next morning he returned to the same field.
“He took her by the hand and walked with her over the hill, and she saw there was
something there, something round, and they went straight for the thing and got
into it. And when they did that, he did something and there was a big roar and
soon they were off the ground. The thing they were in seemed to be spinning, and
it streaked off. After a while he said, ‘We are here.’ They were down on the
ground again and the roaring and hissing sound stopped. He took her up to his
village, to his home. When they got to his house his mother and father were very
happy that he had found the girl they had spoken of.”4
Another kind of aerial device is called a tawiya, or “gourd,” which consists of two halves.
After climbing aboard the rider closes the upper half and installs a tightly stretched sinew
between the bottom of the gourd and the stem button. The rider then twists the sinew between his
palms and the flying machine lifts off, making a humming noise.5 “Hopis say that the gourd is a
magic vehicle used by those who have power to use it for travel—something like a spacecraft or
Hopi narratives additionally describe spinning trays that can transport various beings. A type
of wicker plaque called a sooyungyapu has a star design woven on it, thus suggesting its origin.
These woven artifacts are perhaps mimetic of the aerial craft.
Hopi woman making star plaques at Shungopovi, Second Mesa, 1901, photograph by A. C. Vroman.
One myth incorporating this vehicle describes two virginal sisters from Kawàyka’a (Laguna
Pueblo in New Mexico) who constantly resisted the advances of many young suitors in their
village. They both finally agreed to marry Tókila, the Night. After going outside the village with
him, they found a large póta, or coiled plaque.
“So they all took a place on the tray, whereupon they were lifted up and carried
through the air to Nuwátok’aovi [also spelled Nuvatukya’ovi, the San Francisco
Peaks in Arizona], where they entered a deep canyon or gulch. Here the Night
lived. When they came into the house they saw in an inner room a great many
human bones. They were the remains of many women whom the Night had stolen
in the village, and with whom he had lived a while and then, as soon as they
became pregnant, had thrown them into the room to perish.”7
In this case the entity that piloted the flying shield turned out to be malicious rather than
benevolent. Perhaps “Night” is merely the allegorical name for this murderous creature of
In my previous book Eye of the Phoenix: Mysterious Visions and Secrets of the American
Southwest (Adventures Unlimited Press, 2008), I describe, on the other hand, the compassionate
Hopi sky god named Sotuknang. His face “shone like a star” and his costume “glittered like
icicles.” Interpreted metaphysically, this may refer to the glistening aura of a ghostly inter–
dimensional being. On a physical level, it may point to some sort of electrically lit helmet and a
silvery or metallic spacesuit.
This petroglyph showing Sotuknang is located on the cliff below the village of Walpi on First Mesa.
His face is a crescent moon; above his head is a four–pointed star. His right hand holds a cloud symbol;
his left hand holds lightning. Above the lightning is a symbol for either the four directions or Orion.
As a primary deity in the Hopi pantheon, Sotuknang had been influencing the people since
the beginning of their current epoch on earth they call the Fourth World. In one tale he rescues a
young pair of boy–and–girl twins from a deluge, which, by the way, eventually destroyed the
Third World. He takes them up in his flying shield from which they could see the landscape for
many miles around.
A craft of this sort would certainly allow the perspective by which one could gauge the
accuracy of a star correlation on the ground—that is, the pattern of a constellation such as Orion
spread out upon the Arizona desert. (See my book The Orion Zone: Ancient Star Cities of the
American Southwest, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2006.) From 175 miles above the earth most
of northern Arizona can be seen, from Grand Canyon in the west to Canyon de Chelly in the east,
and from Tsegi Canyon in the north near the Utah/Arizona border to the Little Colorado River in
the south near the modern town of Winslow. (This altitude is a little less than the lowest altitude
for the space shuttle in orbit.)
Like the space flights of Ezekiel or Enoch, a ride on a flying shield would reveal the
panorama of the sky–earth correlation and confirm the hermetic maxim “As above, so below.”
The celestial template of Orion is projected on the high desert of Arizona. A Hopi ruin site or
village corresponds to each major star in the constellation. The belt stars correspond to Third,
Second, and First Mesas. The distance between Betatakin and Canyon de Chelly is slightly
stretched in relation to the constellation—about twelve miles. The distance between Walnut
Canyon and Homol’ovi is also stretched—about ten miles. (See my book The Orion Zone: Ancient
Star Cities of the American Southwest for a full description.)
In August of 1970 a rash of UFO sightings occurred in the skies over Prescott, Arizona. Over
a two–week period many hundreds of flying saucers were seen by hundreds of witnesses. This
prompted Chief Dan Katchongva of the Hopi Sun Clan, his councilor, and an interpreter to travel
southwest about one hundred and twenty–five miles from his village of Hotevilla on Third Mesa
to Prescott to learn more of the event.
He described to the Prescott Courier an ancient petroglyph near the village of Mishongnovi
on Second Mesa that depicts a dome–shaped object. “‘We believe other planets are inhabited and
that our prayers are heard there,’ he said. ‘The arrow on which the dome–shaped object rests,
stands for travel through space,’ Katchongva said in explaining the rock carving. ‘The Hopi
maiden on the dome–shape (drawing) represents purity. Those Hopi who survive Purification
Day will travel to other planets. We, the faithful Hopi, have seen the ships and know they are
true,’ he said.”8 As we have seen, the purity of Hopi maidens throughout the ages has attracted
the high–flying kachinas.
Paul Solem, a non–Indian expert on Hopi prophecy and Mormon doctrine, was also key
figure during the Prescott sightings. He even claimed to attract the flying saucers by
telepathically communicating with them. In one instance he took a group of people outside and
then began to mentally focus on extraterrestrial contact. He soon exclaimed: “They are here! I
can’t see them, but I know they are here. One just said, ‘We’re here, Paul!’ There are several
people in the saucer. I can hear them talking.” After a few minutes a star–like UFO appeared,
halted, then moved first in one direction and then the other.
He believed the entities in the spacecraft were angelic and kind, like the Hopi kachinas, and
hailed from the planet Venus. He said that they had shoulder–length hair neatly cut and their
voices were musical and androgynous. This sounds like what we would typically describe today
as a Nordic ET. He even received the space travelers’ proclamations, which he transcribed:
“We come to lend credence and as a sign or token that the Hopi prophecy was of
a divine nature. Great sorrow and fear will be coming to this planet very soon and
few will escape it. Our leader as spoken of in Hopi prophecy is already here (on
Earth) in mortality and is known as the Apostle John (the same as in the New
Testament). The white brother shall be introduced by a huge fire and the Earth
shall quake at his arrival. We are of the 10 lost tribes and we will return several
nights unless there is contempt for us.”9
Local UFO researcher Dan Carlson said that the area around Prescott had been a magnet for
many of the early important though controversial figures in the field of ufology, including
George Adamski, Daniel Fry, George Van Tassel, as well as former Prescott residents Truman
Bethurum and George Hunt Williamson. “If one is to believe Hopi prophecy,” Carlson remarked,
“the reasons the saucers are sighted here most often and contactors seem to be attracted here is
that this is a chosen land. Prescott is within the Hopi circle of sacred ground where the beings
from another world are supposed to bring about prophecy.”10
Chief Katchongva had been one of the elders most active in bringing the knowledge of Hopi
legends and prophecies of End Times to the world at large.11 He believed that these persistent
UFO visitations were among the signs and omens that the Fourth World is about to end.
Apparently on the last day of his visit to Prescott an unidentified spacecraft flew in very low—
about eight hundred feet.12
Chief Katchongva passed away in 1972 at age 107 under some rather strange circumstances.
“When Dan Katchongva ‘died’, his body was never found. He was last seen walking up a small
valley where a UFO had just been seen.”13
Thumb Butte in Prescott, Arizona, is a miniature version of Devils Tower, Wyoming, which was
featured in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Like the larger geological uplift, it may
serve as a beacon for extraterrestrial craft. According to Mrs. Irene Wood during the 1970 Prescott
sightings: “…we saw a huge brilliant mass of light looking as big as three moons coming very fast
over Thumb Butte. It seemed almost over Prescott and went to the east. It halted and a huge mass
detached itself and fell straight down behind the hills.”14 Was this a UFO or merely a huge meteor?
A much more recent sighting of a flying shield occurred on the evening of January 24th,
2007, about fifty miles south of Third Mesa. Sean and Deanna Dover were driving east toward
their hometown of Leupp, Arizona, when they spotted a triangular–shaped craft with three lights
on it flying an estimated mile–and–a–half above them. The object was moving too fast to be an
airplane and was not making any noise whatsoever.
Returning home, they got some night vision equipment that Sean’s father owned as a Navajo
Nation Police Ranger. That’s when they saw (and heard) two jets flying from the southwest
intercept the completely silent object, which managed to evade these aircraft. Eventually about
thirty witnesses in the small, somewhat isolated town saw the UFO circle the area a total of
fifteen times over a period of almost an hour before it headed southeast toward Winslow.
They all said the object was triangular with three or four tiers and a pulsating light positioned
on a sphere on its underside. A local fifth grade teacher claimed the craft emitted a yellow light
and was about twice the size of the school gymnasium.
This amazing sighting, however, did not at all surprise Sean Dover. “I believe that it really
was a UFO because of my family’s history. I’ve seen [UFO’s] too many times to remember,”
Sean said. “Leupp is a hot spot for UFO’s.”15
The historic relationship between flying shields and the Native Americans of Arizona has
become a part of a long tradition. Legends of ancient star beings that pilot spacecraft and
sometimes mate with the indigenous people are an accepted fact for the native peoples, not a
matter of dispute. Perhaps we should start listening to the deep wisdom and wide experience that
the original inhabitants of this continent possess. They’ve been on the case for ages.
1. Fate magazine article quoted at: www.burlingtonnews.net/kivas.
2. Michael Lomatuway’ma, Lorena Lomatuway’ma, and Sidney Namingha, Jr., Hopi Ruin
Legends, collected by Ekkehart Malotki (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1993),
3. Genesis 6:4
4. Harold Courlander, Hopi Voices: Recollections, Traditions, and Narratives of the Hopi
Indians (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982), pp. 200–202.
5. Ekkehart Malotki, Hopi Stories of Witchcraft, Shamanism, and Magic (Lincoln, Nebraska:
University of Nebraska, 2001), p. xl.
6. Ekkehart Malotki, editor, Hopi Dictionary: A Hopi–English Dictionary of the Third Mesa
Dialect (Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1998), p. 587.
7. H. R. Voth, Traditions of the Hopi, Field Columbian Museum Anthropological Publication,
Vol. VIII, 1905, www.sacred–texts.com/nam/hopi/toth/toth042.htm#fn_99.
8. www.dreamscape.com/morgana/iapetus.htm and
9. Prescott Courier, Sunday, August 9, 1970.
10. Prescott Courier, Tuesday, August 11, 1970.
12. Prescott Courier, Tuesday, August 18, 1970.
14. Prescott Courier, Friday, August 21, 1970.
Gary A. David is an archaeo–astronomer and independent researcher who has studied
Southwestern archaeological ruins and rock art for over twenty–five years.
His books about the Hopi and other ancestral Pueblo cultures of Arizona and New Mexico
The Orion Zone—Ancient Star Cities of the American Southwest
Eye of the Phoenix—Mysterious Visions and Secrets of the American Southwest
The Kivas of Heaven—Ancient Hopi Starlore
Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest.
These are all available from Adventures Unlimited Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
His most recent book titled Mirrors of Orion—Star Knowledge of the Ancient World was
released by CreateSpace.
Mr. David earned a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado,
and he is a former college professor. He is also a poet, with numerous volumes published,
and a professional lead guitarist and vocalist.
His articles or interviews have appeared in many magazines, including:
Ancient American, Atlantis Rising, Fate, Fenix (Italy), Mysteries (Greece),
Erich von Däniken’s Sagenhafte Zeiten (or “Legendary Times”), UFO, and
World Explorer. His work has also been featured in both of the Graham Hancock Readers
and in Underground! The Disinformation Guide to Ancient Civilizations, Astonishing
Archaeology and Hidden History.
Gary continues to give presentations, including:
Ancient Mysteries International Conferences (AMI), Conference for Precession and Ancient
Knowledge (CPAK), Verde Valley Archaeology Society, and many branches of Mutual
UFO Network (MUFON).
He had given international radio interviews, including Coast to Coast AM with George
Noory, Jeff Rense, Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland, Paracast, and many others.
He recently appeared on the History Channel’s TV series:
Ancient Aliens, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, The Coming Apocalypse,
as well as on both Japanese and Russian TV programs.
His website is: www.theorionzone.com.
Gary, his wife, and an aging cat live together in Chino Valley, Arizona, where the
skies are still relatively pristine.