In recent decades, the mischievous, flute-playing trickster has become something of a pop icon. His image has been silk-screened on more T-shirts than Jim Morrison’s; gift shops throughout the Southwest sell coffee mugs, coasters and bumper stickers emblazoned with the cheerful silhouette of “the flute dude.”
Unfortunately, the merchandisers who envisioned a Kokopelli with skis, saxophones, bicycles or golf clubs instead of a flute forgot something. According to Dennis Slifer, author of Kokopelli: The Magic, Mirth and Mischief of an Ancient Symbol (published this month by Gibbs Smith in Layton), “[I]n the majority of contemporary depictions, he is missing something vitally important. His erect penis, the essential feature of his original role as a god of fertility, is typically lacking in the kitschy images.
In petroglyphs, Kokopelli is very obviously a fertility god on par with Priapus or Pan. The commercial version has, unfortunately, been sanitized for mass appeal.
Neo-Kokopelli may sell more T-shirts'but it’s difficult to see how anyone could make the corn grow using just a stupid golf club.