The colored pigments are considered the "most sacred part of a dancer's regalia," and their power is superseded only by the masks of the god impersonators. When these masks are omitted, the body paint is imbued
with their magical power. With the colored pigments on his body, the man is charmed as he goes through the ritual, and no one should touch him, for he is not of this world. At the end of the performance he must be discharmed and his human self returned to him by the ceremonial washing of his hair and body. Until this is accomplished he is not permitted to go to his home. At Zuñi this discharming rite is performed, for a kachina impersonator, by his mother or some female relative.
Women performers and the male impersonators of the female deities are rarely colored except for their hands and feet. Generally, the upper torso and the arms and legs of the men are nude and thus provide space and form for a variety of designs and hues. The most frequently used colors are pink, red, and black; white, blue, purple, and yellow are seen occasionally. Colors are combined in patterns which are significant for a particular impersonation or ritual, or which constitute a conventional body design for a group or a pueblo. In the Corn Dance at Jemez the bodies of the men dancers were colored according to the moiety to which they belonged: orange for the Squash or Summer people, and blue for the Turquoise or Winter people. One of the conventional patterns at Hopi for the body paint of the god impersonator is red on the torso and upper legs, with blue on the right shoulder and breast, the left lower arm, and the right lower leg. Yellow is on the left shoulder, the right lower arm, and the left lower leg, and two vertical lines of alternate blue and yellow run from breast to waist and from shoulder to elbow as well as around each knee (pl. 24). This may possibly bear some relation to the Indian conception of the duality of life, in which blue signifies female and yellow male. A similar pattern is found in which the whole body is black or red, with the shoulder, arm, and leg design in yellow (pl. 35).
At Zuñi a double row of dots from waist to shoulder and down the arm, front and back, represents drops of rain and at the same time tends
to slenderize the figure. "The loins are always painted white, regardless of whether kilt or breechcloth is worn. This is 'for the sun'. One informant offered the explanation that the white paint was used to protect the light-colored clothing. When full costume is worn the whole body is said to be painted white."
Sometimes the body is painted in halves, divided medially with the right side, arm, and leg black, and the left white. Marsden Hartley saw, in what he calls a "Mercy Dance", a "warm tawny reddish earth tone with black stripes painted tiger-like at intervals down the entire right half and the other half a light greenish hue." Knees are painted red to suggest speed; runners in ceremonial races always have red-painted knees.
The bodies of the Buffalo impersonators are painted black broken by white crosses (pl. 21), "the sign of the bow." This same design is used to signify the track of the road runner, a bird which leaves a footprint so perplexing that it is not possible to determine in which direction it was traveling.
All these body paints are made up of earth pigments and plant stains which do not require the use of a glue to make them adhere. Thus the mixture is not injurious to the body, as there is no foreign matter to clog the pores and prevent the natural breathing of the skin. The pigments are mixed with water and applied in the liquid state, so that there is no caking of the colored powders upon the skin. Corn smut is used for black, ochers for yellow and reds, clays for white and pinks, and oxide of copper ore for the turquoise color. Stains are applied by rubbing a fruit, like barberry, over the body, or by chewing the stalk or leaves of other plants and applying the fluid thus obtained.