Native American Zuni Fetishes
Badger (south) - healers, aggressiveness, and perseverance
Bear (west) - healer, strength, introspection
Beaver- promotes family unity
Buffalo- strength, endurance to rise above one’s weaknesses
Coyote (east) - ability to laugh at oneself, humor
Deer - abundance in the natural world
Eagle (zenith or sky) - spirit, a connection to the Divine
Fox - camouflage, protection
Frog - fertility, invokes the spirits to bring rain
Horse - partnerships, stamina, mobility, and strength
Mole - (nadir or underworld) protector and hunter of the lower region, the underground
Mountain Lion (north) - leadership, resourcefulness
Owl - wise, smart, patient
Ram - male fertility
Raven - healer
Snake- a force in life, death and rebirth
Turtle - longevity, assures rainfall
Wolf (east) - teacher, pathfinder on the journey of survival
These carvings are thought to inherit the properties of the animal they represent, and these properties are said to help the owner, depending on the specific characteristics of the particular animal or supernatural being represented. Some animals have important symbolic characteristics that are relatively consistent; however, the spirit of the fetish can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the individual owner’s perspective.
Most carvings are made from stone, though for centuries the Zuni people have carved many for personal use out of different materials, such as wood, antler, shell, clay, coral and even silver. They believe that the spirits of the animals can act as messengers to the gods, and provide protection from various evils in the world as well as promote the benefits of other elements.
As you will see with many of the pieces offered here at Kachina House, the animals are sometimes depicted with bundles of shells, stones, arrowheads, feathers and other symbolic elements. These bundles are offerings that the animal spirit will carry to the gods on behalf of the owner of the fetish. However, it is said that only the truly pure of heart will be able to stir the spirits with any true power.
Though many Native American Indian tribes use fetishes, the Zuni are recognized to be the most gifted and prolific carvers of these fascinating artifacts. If you are unable to find a particular item, just email us and we’ll search our extensive collection in our 5,000 square foot showroom to find just the right piece you’re looking for. It does not matter whether you’re looking for the popular animals that represent the four primary directions, the mountain lion of the north, the bear of the west, the badger of the south, and the wolf of the east, or if you’re in search of a most exotic animal like a pelican or a panda, there is sure to have been a Zuni artist who felt compelled to carve one.
Carvings marked with a double asterisk are special and were created by Herbert Halate from the alabaster he used for Donald "Doc" Sharp's headstone. Carvings marked with a single asterisk are from Donald's personal collection. Doc was a Zuni fetish trader, dear friend, teacher and pathfinder for many of us. He will be missed in the industry and mostly by everyone he touched in his life.