Meaning and History Behind the Zuni Fetish

Meaning and History Behind the Zuni Fetish

Indigenous people have carved and used fetishes throughout history.

What are Zuni Fetishes?

Fetishes are carvings, often palm-sized, usually of animals or figures that hold spiritual importance to the Zuni. These small carvings are believed to hold magical powers that can assist in:

  • Zuni Carved African Lion FetishProtecting their owner or creator from harm to the spirit and body
  • Successful hunting
  • Curing disease
  • Bringing success in battle
  • Affecting weather
  • Aiding in fertility
  • Defending against evil

Zuni Fetish history

The Zuni believe the spirit of the animal remains alive in the stone it is carved from, carrying the characteristics of the animal spirit residing in it. Also called wemawe, these traits help whoever possesses the fetish.

Zuni Elephant FetishIt is thought that the amount of care given to the fetish dictates the amount of protection it can offer the individual who owns it. Therefore, a fetish should be treated with the care that the owner would like in return.

Carvings of these sorts were traditionally created by many indigenous people but here in the southwestern United States it is the Zuni people who have shared this aspect of their spiritual beliefs with outsiders and have developed an economic means of support for their members.

Originally made of stone or antler, fetishes have become much more intricate through the years and are now made from a variety of materials including glass, wood and gemstones.

Some fetishes have heart or spirit lines—the connection between the intake of breath and the heart. Many Zuni fetishes carry bundles of stones and feathers, representing the offerings they carry to the gods for their owner.

The six sacred directions of the Zuni tribe

There are six sacred directions and traditional colors associated with the Zuni beliefs:

  • Black Bear Zuni FetishNorth – a yellow Mountain Lion
  • East – a white Wolf
  • South – a red Badger
  • West – a black or blue Bear
  • Zenith (sky) – an Eagle in multiple colors
  • Nadir (inner Earth) – a black Mole

Each animal—and its traditional color—is the guardian of its respective region, representing the hunting and healing powers that region possesses.

There are many animal fetishes, each presenting its owner with specific characteristics.

Depending on the aid sought, there are different animals that can be called upon. While some animals have important and consistent symbolic traits, others can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

At Kachina House, we understand that many Native Americans have their own fetishes, but it is the Zuni people that are the most gifted carvers of these artifacts. Give us a call at 800-304-3290 today to learn more about the different fetishes and to find your perfect match.

We have an extensive collection of Native American Zuni Carved Fetishes to browse through, so check them out and find the animal that calls to you!

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