Zuni Fetishes

What are Zuni Fetishes . . . and Why?

“The Zuni believe animals have more power than humans and these powers, both practical and spiritual, reside in their fetishes,” says Kent McManus in his book Zuni Fetishes and Carvings a book highly recommended to anyone interested enough to be collecting examples of these beautiful works. A fetish can represent whatever you want it to and will provide you with a true appreciation of the skill required in its carving, as well as  the sheer delight in the object itself.

Zuni Fetishes Carvings - Available at the Museum Store - Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum

Zuni Fetishes Carvings at the Museum Store – Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum

For over 1000 years the Zunis have lived in a Pueblo, now the center of their reservation and with a population of approximately 10,000, which includes more than 700 carvers! Fetishes have significant characteristics attributed to each animal, with many interpretations by the artist who may use any one or more of a variety of materials. The difference in a true “fetish” and a “carving” is that the fetish has been blessed and is reserved for spiritual and or religious use. Specific animals represent the directions of the Zuni compass, some represent predators, or objects of the hunt to both protect the possessor of the fetish and to help him achieve practical and or spiritual assistance. Below is a list of many of the most frequently carved and most popular and a brief description of the object’s significance to the Zuni.

Traditional Zuni Fetishes

  • Badger: aggressiveness, perseverance, healing, growth.
  • Bat: ritualistic death, initiation, rebirth of self, way of life.
  • Bear: inner knowing, strength, protection, compassion.
  • Beaver: hard worker, home and family life, “group mind”.
  • Big Horn Sheep: male fertility, helpful hunter, attraction.
  • Bobcat: intuitive, powerful hunter, fierce, knower of secrets.
  • Bison: prayer, humility, gratitude, abundance of life, strength, warmth.
  • Coyote: trickster, foolishness, laughter, wisdom.
  • Deer: gentleness, fearlessness, true love, compassion, caring, abundance.
  • Eagle: connection to Great Spirit, personal power, courage.
  • Elk: stamina, endurance, friendships with same gender, abundance.
  • Fox: camouflage, cunning, swiftness, protection of family.
  • Frog: cleansing of negativity, rain-bringer, replenishment, fertility.
  • Lizard: dreamtime, seeing the shadow, imagination.
  • Mole: connection to the earth, ability to turn inward, spirit guide.
  • Mountain Lion: leadership, truth, responsibility, protection from threat.
  • Otter: balanced female energy, play, love without jealousy.
  • Owl: magic, ability to see through deception, guardian.
  • Rabbit: fearlessness (learning to face & stop it), fertility, individualistic.
  • Raven: magic, messenger of great mystery, healing.
  • Snakes: connection to life-death cycle & experiences.
  • Turtle: Mother Earth Goddess power, creativity, grounding, connection to water.
  • White Bear: especially powerful healing.
  • Wolf: pathfinder, teacher, mates for life, individualistic, family.

Fetishes have become so popular with collectors that many are never blessed but are made for the collectors for whatever reasons they may have for acquiring them. These are done with the same artistic craftsmanship and beauty, no matter their use, for whoever acquires them.

Do not hesitate to pick up and examine the carvings we offer at the Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum. We ask you use reasonable care, of course, to not damage or mar them in any way . . . but a Zuni carving, in hand, is like nothing else. Sometimes they “speak” to you and often help you decide which one you would like to own. All of “our” carvers are recognized as among the best and their work appears in the book displayed here which explains many of them.

Domestic animals and those from the far reaches of the world are not “classics” but the demand by collectors for such specimens has encouraged the carvers to produce some of the more popular ones . . . cats, dogs, seals, cows, horses, etc. Following is a list of some of the most popular traditional Carvings. . . feel free to refer to the book by the display case to learn more about each one: Armadillo, Badger, Bat, Beaver, Buffalo, Coyote, Deer, Eagle, Elk, Fox Frog, Hummingbird, Lizard, Bobcat (Lynx), Mole, Otter, Owl, Rabbit, Raven, Snakes, Turtle, Wolf and more.

Zuni Fetishes (Wikipedia)