—Yucca, or Spanish bayonet, is a low-growing desert shrub. Its sharp, pointed leaves branch out stiffly from a single stem. The blossoms are white and appear in a cluster on a shoot several feet above the leaves. This plant is called "soapweed," and because it produces an excellent lather it is indispensable to the desert Indian. The roots are crushed or pounded with a stone and put into cold water to steep. Within a few moments a thick lather can be produced by brisk stirring. The fibrous parts are removed and the shampoo or laundry is ready. The glossy black hair which is a source of great pride to every Indian man, woman, and child is washed as often as once a week with this soap lather. No ceremony is complete without hair washing. Among the Hopi every infant when it is named, every girl on her marriage day, every boy upon initiation into a secret fraternity or a medicine society—all must have their hair washed. Before a public entertainment every dancer, and indeed every person in the village, is expected to wash his hair. At the conclusion of a ceremony every impersonator is discharmed—that is, the supernatural spirit which he has assumed is washed away in the shampoo and he becomes human once more. In all these ceremonies the yucca suds represent
clouds. Ceremonial bowls full of suds are often found on the altars; they are imitation magic denoting that clouds are wanted to bring rain.
The costumes of certain kachinas of the Hopi have skirts made of stiff yucca leaves.