American Indians have used fetishes throughout recorded history. Fetishes are believed to hold magical powers and protect the owner or craftsmen from various problems of mind or body. Some believe that their mystical powers can even protect against problems of the universe. It is also believed that the care a fetish receives is directly proportional to the protection it will provide.
Zuni Corn Maiden Fetish, carved in Black Jet and Turquoise. | Harpo Paris
Fetishes are used by the Zuni primarily for hunting, protection and to ensure fertility. The Zuni believe that a spirit lives within the fetish, giving it its unique power. Common animal fetishes include bears, moles, badgers, wolves, mountain lions, foxes, coyotes and birds. Less common fetishes include domestic creatures such as goats, sheep, horses and cows, as well as snakes, frogs and turtles. Real and symbolic figures such as corn maidens are often carved. Tied to the back of many fetishes are medicine bundles, tightly bound with sinew. Coral in the bundle represents ocean life, blue represents birds, black represents night creatures, brown is earth and white is winter.
The Trade Roots Collection. But today the word is most often used to mean an animal carving, usually in stone, which houses the spirit or supernatural qualities of that animal. Native Americans have great reverence for the unseen world, believing everything contains spirit. Fetishes, amulets and talismans are related; all may be used to invoke protection, luck, fertility, abundance and healing.
Zuni fetishes are small carvings made from various materials by the Zuni people. These carvings have traditionally served a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons integral to their culture. As a form of contemporary Native American art , they are sold with secular intentions to collectors worldwide. The main source for academic information on Zuni fetishes is the Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology submitted in by Frank Hamilton Cushing and posthumously published as Zuni Fetishes in , with several later reprints. Cushing reports that the Zuni divided the world into six regions or directions: north, west, south, east, above, and below.