The Native American Fetish

Archaeological excavations have found stones that resemble certain animals showing us that the Indians used Fetishes since pre Columbian times. Zuni fetishes dating back to 650 A.D. have been found in kivas and storage pits protecting food.  Many had added shells and stones wrapped by fiber or sinew.  Native Americans have made and carried these stones believing that they would protect them, that animals and plants have spiritual nature, would bring them good luck and power.  They also believe that the animal spirit would reside inside of the natural or man made object called the Fetish.  It is believed that a natural stone or one that needs very little carving will be more powerful than one that needs a lot of carving.  A Fetish must be well cared for so that the animal spirit will assist and care for it’s owner.

A “Directional” fetish depict the Zuni universe as it is divided into into six regions with each associated with a different color and guarded by a certain animal.  The six regions are North, South, East, West, Sky (the upper region) and Underground (the lower region).

  • The North is guarded by the yellow Mountain Lion:  Essential to hunters, carried by warriors, and protect travelers on their journey. Considered to be the elder brother of all other protective and hunting animals, also believed to possess leadership and resourcefulness.

  • The South is guarded by the red Badger: Helps medicine men dig the roots and herbs used for healing. Believed to possess aggressiveness.

  • The East is guarded by the white Wolf: Wolves are believed to have very strong hunting powers and would be carried by hunters. Believed to possess wisdom.

  • The West is guarded by the blue Bear:  Most important fetish animal with great healing abilities, the white bear is  considered an especially powerful healer. Believed to possess great strength.

  • The Sky or Upper region is guarded by the multi-colored Eagle: Successful for hunting small prey and used as a spirit or prayer carrier which could assist the shaman’s flight when his spirit leaves his body to search for the cause of an illness.

  • The Underground or Lower region is guarded by the black Mole: Also called a Shrew, protects growing crops from rodents that would damage a crop.  

Other Fetish meanings:

Armadillo: Is a slow gentle animal, gets things right because he is not in a hurry.
Badger: The badger is aggressive but also has passion and persistence. It also represents the South direction of the Zuni universe.
Bear: Is considered the healing fetish with great strength and curative powers. It also represents the West direction of the Zuni universe. White bears are considered particularly powerful.
Beaver: Promotes family, home and unity. They are very skillful builders.
Bobcat: Is thought to be a clever hunter because he doesn't have the size or power of larger huntering animals.
Buffalo: The horns are a symbol of success and is believed to possess the endurance to overcome weakness.
Butterfly: Symbolizes beauty, the art of transformation, and rebirth.
Corn Maiden: To the Pueblo Indian culture and many others, corn is the symbol of life given by the Corn Maiden. Just as the sun gives life to corn the Corn Maiden brings power of life to the people.
Coyote: Is considered a Trickster with the ability to laugh at it's own mistakes. He also reminds us to recognize habits which make our lives more difficult.
Domesticated Animals (such as cows, horses, sheep, and goats): These animals are carved by Zuni but are more common among the Navajo. The Navajo use them to protect their herds and flocks.
Eagle: Is considered the messenger to the gods, symbolizing grace, dignity, vision and power. Highly revered and feathers still used in sacred ceremonies.
Fox: Quick and observant he approaches life with amusement, cleverness and the ability to blend in or camouflage.
Frog: Associated with water, rain and fertility. Are believed to possess the ability to bring rain.
Horned Toad: Self reliant andLife longevity.
Horse: Signifies Power, ability to expand, prosper and possess healing powers.
Hummingbird: Symbol of Energy and Joy
Lizard: Symbol of Patience and Wisdom
Mole: Is the keeper of the underground and the Guardian fetish of the Lower Region. It keeps gardens free of pest and it symbolizes awareness and has the ability to look inward.
Owl: Is the keeper of the night who controls the dark side of nature. The Owl is smart, patient and wise. It is said to have the ability to see what others cannot and is the protector of the home.
Rabbit: Is a playful trickster who depends on his wits and is the symbol of gentleness and charm.
Ram: Symbolizes the increase of herds.
Snake: Is a powerful fetish symbolizing life, death and rebirth. Is also associated with the lightning because of it's zig-zag appearance and possesses curative powers in some tribes.
Squirrel: Has the ability to plan ahead with the power of foresight.
Sun Face: Is carved into many fetishes because it is considered the giver of life, promoting warmth, growth and goodness. It is also believed to posess Healing Energy.
Turtle: Serves as a link to Zuni Ancestors and believed t possess the ability of longevity. It symbolizes a long and meaningful life by skillfully navigating through life's obstacles.
Wolf: Is the path finder on the journey for survival and is believed to be loyal with strong family ties. Teaches loyalty, inner guidance and truth.

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