Zuni Fetish Information
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A little history about Zuni Fetishes you may find interesting.
Zuni Fetishes were thought to be so powerful by the U.S. Government that in the late 1800's Frank Hamilton Cushing was sent out to the Zuni Reservation to live among the Zuni people and investigate and study the mysterious power of the Zuni Fetishes. His task was to see if they were a possible threat to the U.S. Government and the country. His research & findings along with primitave drawings of fetish carvings can be found in what is now published as a book entitled "Zuni Fetishes" by Frank Hamilton Cushing.
Another little tidbit on fetish carvings you may not be aware of, is the fact that they are believed to be so powerful and beneficial to your well being, that a Directional Fetish Carving set carved by Navajo Fetish carver Roy Davis and his brothers Herbert and Jeff, was sent into space aboard the space shuttle "Endeavor" in 1994.
Many people are of the belief that the Zuni Fetishes are a new or fairly recent art form as they have evolved into such realistic and detailed carvings. Zuni Fetishes were first used as early as 650 A.D. The fetishes that have been in Zuni tribal possesion or in individual possesion for centuries are considered to be the most holy and powerful fetishes as well as the more valuable fetishes.
Although many southwest tribes carve fetishes, the Zuni Fetish carvers are generally acknowledged as doing the finest work among all of the tribes. Navajos will barter for Zuni Fetishes of sheep, cattle or goats to help keep their herds and flocks healthy and ensure propagation.
The worship of animals is looked upon by the Zuni people as a way to relate and connect to the higher more mysterious and remote powers. The Zuni fetishes are carved to represent the animals which the Zuni people feel are the "mediators" between themselves and a higher power.
Power of the Fetishes: The Zuni people feel that the power of the Zuni fetish lies within the heart of the Zuni Fetish, much like the power of the animal the fetish represents. It is believed that the hearts of the great animals of prey are infused with a spirit or medicine of magic influence over the hearts of the animals they prey upon. The "breath of life" derived from their hearts whether near or far never fails to overcome a game animal. The breath of the powerful prey animal overcomes the weaker animal, piercing it's heart and causing it's limbs to stiffen and the animal itself will lose it's strength. The roar or cry of the beast of prey is fatal to the game animals which hear the cry. It charms their senses as does the breath of their hearts. Since the mountain lion lives by the blood or "life fluid" and flesh of the game animals, and by these alone, he is endowed not only with the above powers, but also with peculiar powers in the sense of sight and smell. Moreover, these powers as derived from his heart, are preserved in his fetish, since his heart still lives, even though his person has been changed to stone. (Frank Hamilton Cushing Findings)
Zuni Fetish carvings need to be fed! Make certain that you have fresh cornmeal available at all times for your Zuni fetish to feed on! If you display your Zuni fetishes in a case, leave small amounts of cornmeal scattered throughout the case for your collection to fee upon. If you carry a Zuni fetish with you in a pouch or pocket, be sure to sprinkle some cornmeal in the pouch or pocket along with the Zuni fetish! The better you treat your Zuni fetish carving, the more it will do in return for you!
There is a lot of controversey over Zuni Fetishes vs. Navajo Fetish carvings or Zuni Fetishes vs. fetish carvings from a pueblo other than Zuni. We want people to be aware of the fact that in the 1970's and early eighties when the real trend towards Native American art was reaching it's height, very few Zuni carvers were actively carving. Most of the fetishes being carved at Zuni during this time were remaining in the village for personal use among the Zuni people. Mainly the Navajo were carving the fetishes that were sold in galleries during this time period when Native American art was really becoming mainstream. Many people feel that the Navajo have copied this art form, by carving the fetishes, when in actuality, it was their carvings during this time period that kept the interest in Zuni Fetishes alive and helped bring about the revival of the Zuni Fetish carvings at Zuni in the early eighties. If you purchased a fetish carving in the 70's anywhere other than at Zuni Pueblo, directly from the carver... there is a good chance that it was Navajo carved. Excellent Navajo carvers including the Davis brothers, the Livingston's, David Yazzie and Julia Norton were producing a great number of the fetish carvings during this time. They still continue to produce quality carvings along with the 600+ Zuni Fetish carvers of today. These Navajo Fetish carvers deserve a great deal of appreciation for keeping the spirit of the Zuni Fetishes alive!
More Fetish Information:
Zuni Fetishes are an animal, bird or figure hand carved from stone, shell, antler, wood or other natural materials. Zuni Fetishes were first carved as "hunting" fetishes. When taken on a hunting expedition they would ensure a plentiful and successful hunt. Each fetish is believed to have a spirit within. If treated and taken care of properly Zuni Fetishes will help guide you on the right path of life. When you purchase or are given a Zuni Fetish it is your responsibility to care for and treat it with the proper respect it deserves. Fetishes are believed to feed on cornmeal, so don't neglect to feed your fetish. "Offerings" are often attached to the fetish by the artist, however you may make your own "offering" to your fetish by attaching a small stone or feather adornment. It will be greatly appreciated and you will be rewarded with the healing or strength you desire. We cannot guarantee that a fetish carving will change your life, but in our many years of experience we have seen astonishing changes in peoples lives as a result of their belief in the power of the fetish. Our fetishes are Zuni carved unless otherwise noted, out of a variety of stone and shell. Prices will vary depending on detail, artist and the medium used. With your fetish you will receive a description of the stone used, what the animal or figure represents and instructions on care and feeding of your new found friend
Prized for their "down to earth" beauty and spiritual renewal, fetishes have long been an important part of Native American culture. When a fetish maker prays over his created work, a mystical power is believed to be released which can assist him in finding a solution to his present problems. All Southwestern tribes make and use fetishes. However, the Zuni people have developed a reputation for being skillful carvers. There are six cardinal guardian fetishes which are symbolic of the six directions. The first is a mountain lion which represents the North. The South belongs to the badger, the West to the bear, while the East goes to the wolf. Additionally, the mole guards the inner earth, while the eagle protects the heavenly regions.
Zuni Fetishes And Their Characteristics
Badger Zuni Fetish Carving: the ability to reach a desired goal
Bear Zuni Fetish Carving: strength, inner power to perceive ones present circumstances
Beaver Zuni Fetish Carving: progressive builder, one who promotes family unity
Buffalo Zuni Fetish Carving: steadfast endurance to rise above one's weakness
Coyote Zuni Fetish Carving: the ability to laugh at oneself, humor
Eagle Zuni Fetish Carving: a soaring spirit that transcends personal problems, a connection to the Divine
Fox Zuni Fetish Carving: camouflage, protection
Frog Zuni Fetish Carving: for centuries able to petition the spririts to bring forth abundant rain
Horned Toad Zuni Fetish Carving: self-reliance, longevity in life. conservation of native bounty.
Horse Zuni Fetish Carving: one of only two fetishes that have innate healing powers
Mole Zuni Fetish Carving: keeper of the underground. amplifies connections with the earth.
Mountain Lion Zuni Fetish Carving: leadership, resourcefulness
Owl Zuni Fetish Carving: keeper of the night. controls the dark side of nature. wise, smart, patient and endurance of mind.
Ram Zuni Fetish Carving: used to procure an increase of herds
Raven Zuni Fetish Carving: this bird's beak is scratched across an afflicted person's skull releasing it's healing powers
Snake Zuni Fetish Carving: a powerful fetish symbolizing life, death and rebirth
Turtle Zuni Fetish Carving: a symbol of long, meaningful life
Wolf Zuni Fetish Carving: teacher, path finder on the never ending journey for survival
Dolphin Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Gentleness and Playfulness
Cat Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Patience and Independence
Butterfly Zuni Fetish Carving: represents "Everlasting Life"
Hummingbird Zuni Fetish Carving: known for bringing Inspiration and Luck
Deer Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Love and Gentleness
Elk or Wapiti Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Strength
Whale Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Leadership and Strength
Spider Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Ingenuity and Creativity
Kokopelli Zuni Fetish Carving: known for Fertility and Music
GUIDELINES FOR SELECTION OF A FETISH
Choose what you like. Fetishes are an art form and should be judged individually.
CARE OF FETISHES
ZUNI / PUEBLEO AND NAVAJO FETISH CARVERS LISTING:
Andrew and Roberta Abeita, Isleta Pueblo
Check in from time to time for new information on the "mysterious and powerful" Zuni Fetishes!
If you are interested in Zuni Fetishes or Zuni Pueblo, be sure to check out our information and photos listed under "Trip to Zuni"!