What is a Fetish?

What is a Fetish?

"Fetish" is a term used to describe a Native American carving which is believed to hold special power. A blessing by a priest or shaman gives a fetish "true" power, but all fetish carvings may become "true" fetishes if they are properly blessed and used.

Although a number of Native American tribes create and use fetishes, the most well known are the Zuni. In Zuni mythology, animals at one time were struck by lightning and shrunken into stone, with instructions to help mankind with the magic held deeply in their hearts. A naturally formed stone that resembles an animal is regarded by the Zuni to have greater power than a fetish that requires a great deal of carving, but the same general beliefs pertain to both.

Fetishes may be of any form or material. Regardless of the form or material however, a Fetish has one paramount purpose; to assist man against any real or potential problems. The problems can be those of the mind, the body or the universe.

A Fetish can be owned by any individual, family, clan, kiva society or by the entire tribe. Regardless of the ownership, the care of a Fetish is always the responsibility of an individual. Special care must be taken to see that the Fetish is properly fed, admired, and cared for.

Fetishes are believed to feed on cornmeal while they are kept in a special pot or pouch. Ground turquoise is often mixed with the cornmeal.

A Fetish may be made and "decorated" with turquoise, arrowheads, and coral, etc. as a means of adornment. This adornment is a show of affection and appreciation by its maker and/or owner. The better treatment a Fetish receives, the better performance it is likely to provide. Fetishes are also used to make necklaces and other types of jewelry.

Most Fetishes relate to animals. Most often these animals are animals of prey. They are acknowledged as the most powerful providers in life; so, they are likewise accepted as having the greatest Fetish powers. They are generally admired for their strong hearts. Many believe their strong hearts make them dominant and therefore, survivors; the hunter rather than the hunted.

The Zuni Indians of New Mexico believe strongly in six cardinal guardian Fetishes. Each is symbolic of a direction and has a specific color with which it is associated. The guardian Fetish of the North is the mountain lion (yellow). The South (red) is the badger, the West (Blue) is the bear and the East (white) is the wolf. Additionally, the mole is the guardian of the Nadir of Inner Earth (black) and Zepath (the air) is the eagle (all colored bird forms).

The power and strength of a Fetish is obtained by placing the nostrils of the fetish to one's mouth and taking deep breaths.

Most Fetishes are made from semi-precious stones, minerals and shells which are of natural beauty that are the gifts that nature has provided us. Grandfather's Spirit has a large assortment of Fetishes in numerous colors; made of malachite, azurite, pipe stone, soap stone, marble, jet, sugilite, turquoise, coral, spiny oyster, amber and several varieties of serpentine.So what is a Fetish? "Fetish" is a term used to describe a Native American carving which is believed to hold special power. A blessing by a priest or shaman gives a fetish "true" power, but all fetish carvings may become "true" fetishes if they are properly blessed and used.

American Indians have used Fetishes throughout recorded history; especially the Indians of the Southwest. Fetishes may be of any form or material. Regardless of the form or material however, a Fetish has one paramount purpose; to assist man against any real or potential problems. The problems can be those of the mind, the body or the universe.

Fetish Animals and their meanings:
BADGER Protective animal of the South. Aggressiveness, perseverance.
BEAR Protective animal of the West. Strength, introspection, the power of the soul.
BEAVER Builder, strong sense of family and home.
BIRDS Carry prayers to clouds and sky, asking for rain and blessing.
BOBCAT Hunting animal of the South.
BUFFALO Endurance to overcome one's weakness.
CORN MAIDEN Emerged with the Zuni from the Underworld. Brings plentiful harvest.
COYOTE Hunting animal of the West. Trickster, laughter, humor.
DEER Gentleness; the power of gentleness.
EAGLE Protective & hunting animal of the sky. Spirit, a connection with the Divine.
FOX Camouflage, protection.
FROG Invokes the spirit to provide rain in drought areas.
HORSE Along with the Raven, has the possession of healing powers.
MOLE Protective & hunting animal of the underground. Protector of growing crops.
MOUNTAIN LION Protective & hunting animal of the North. Leadership, resourcefulness.
OWL Guardian of the home.
RABBIT Game species help increase the numbers of each animal.
RAM Used to secure an increase of flocks.
RAVEN Along with the Horse has the possession of healing powers.
SNAKE Transmutation life-death, rebirth.
TURTLE Longevity, a symbol of Mother Earth.
WOLF Protective & hunting animal of the East. Teacher, pathfinder on the never-ending journey for survival.
ARMADILLO
FISH
LIZARD
HORNED TOAD
PORCUPINE
Animals of the Zuni Mythology, but are not usually kept to provide specific benefit of blessing to the owner.

Adapted from New Mexico Bead & Fetish - ©2003

If you would like to learn more about fetishes, we suggest the following four books: