The Moqui Prayer for Rain

Artist: Hermon Atkins MacNeil (American, Everett, Massachusetts 1866–1947 Queens, New York)

Date: 1895–96; cast ca. 1897

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: 22 1/4 x 26 x 12 in. (56.5 x 66 x 30.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter C. Crawford, 1978

Accession Number: 1978.513.6


On his visit to northern Arizona in 1895, MacNeil witnessed the Moqui (Hopi) people’s annual prayer for rain at the top of the mesa at Oraibi. At the climax of the snake dance, participants in the ceremony ran down the trail from the mesa holding live serpents, returning them to the plain so that the tribe’s prayer would be answered. MacNeil’s statuette is a dynamic study of motion, from the swift rush of the forward-leaning figure to the writhing of the snakes coiled around his arms and even in his hair.