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Native American Fetish Guide

Please enjoy surfing through our Native American Fetish Guide which is filled with information on many different fetish carvings, such as Zuni Fetishes, Navajo Fetishes, Hopi Fetishes, and more. You can learn about the meaning of different animal fetishes and other fetish figures such as Corn Maidens!

What is a Fetish Carving?

Fetishes, charms, amulets, or simply good luck pieces, call them whatever you would like, but virtually every culture has them. Fetishes are small carvings made from various materials by many different Native American Tribes. These carvings serve 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 non-religious intentions to collectors worldwide.

 

 

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About the Native Tribes

The Zuni

The Zuni are a Native American tribe, one of the Pueblo peoples, most of whom live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico, United States. Zuni traditionally speak the Zuni language, a unique language (also called an "isolate") which is unrelated to any other Native American language. The Zuni continue to practice their traditional religion with its regular ceremonies and dances and an independent and unique belief system which consist of six sects: the Sun, the Rainmakers, the Kokko (spirit beings), Priests of the Kokko, War Gods, and Animal Beings. Their use of fetishes is extensive and complex. The most common zuni fetish is the mille, a personal fetish which is given to a individual when they join a religious group, which the individual will keep for life. Each fetish has a specific purpose, like protection against witchcraft, luck in gambling, use in war ceremonials, and curing illnesses. The Zuni are known for there amazing fetishes, which makes this tribe the number one leader in Fetish sales.

See our Zuni Fetishes...

The Hopi

The Hopi are American Indians people who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi Reservation is entirely surrounded by the much larger Navajo Reservation. The two nations used to share the Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area. The partition of this area, commonly known as Big Mountain. Among the Hopi fetishes are usually used for healing, protection of their crops, fertility for their livestock, and protection for tribe. They use livestock fetishes for protection and fertility of their horses, and cattle. Puma fetishes are very popular among the Hopi Tribe, to help with personal well-being and treatment of illnesses. A majority of the Hopi fetishes have been stolen over the years and are now in the hands of private collectors.

The Navajo or Diné of the Southwestern United States are the largest Native American tribe of North America. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the Four Corners area of the United States. The traditional Navajo language is still largely spoken throughout the region, although most Navajo speak English fluently as well. Navajo refer to themselves in their native language as Diné, which is translated as "the People" in English.

The Inuit Eskimos

The Inuit people are the most widely dispersed group in the world still leading a partly aboriginal way of life. They live in a region that spans more than 3,500 miles. This region includes Greenland, the northern fringe of North America, as well as a sector of eastern Siberia. Inuit are racially distinct from the North American Indians. In fact, the Inuit are closely related to the Mongolian peoples of eastern Asia. The Inuit - Aleut languages are unrelated to any American Indian language groups. At no time did the Inuit possess a national or well - defined tribal sense. The Inuit emphasis was always on the local and familial group rather than on associations based on land and territory.

The Eskimos are one of the few people who can legally use walrus ivory. They collect this ivory from the walruses that they hunt for food, and from it make beautiful carvings. These carvings are works of art, prized by collectors. Other materials sometimes incorporated into the carvings are whale baleen, fossilized ivory, fossilized sea cow rib, and moose bone.

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Animal Fetish Meanings

Badgers

The badger is a rather independent animal with a fierce and fearless defense when attacked. The badger represents the southern direction in protective and healing fetish set. He is most often associated with the color red and is believed to have knowledge of healing roots and herbs. Characteristics associated with badgers include tenaciousness, passion, control, persistence and earthiness.

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Bats

Among the Navajo the Bat is the night guardian of the east. In payment for his help in overcoming an enemy in Navajo legend, he was given a small yellow diamond on his body. Another legend says that in order to gain Bat's help in a gambling contest, a young man gave him a small buffalo skin and this is why the bat still wears a furry coat.

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Bears

The bear represents the western direction in a protective and healing fetish set. He is associated with the color blue and known for his curative powers. Though all bears are healers, white bears are particularly powerful. Characteristics associated with bears include strength, courage, adaptability, healing and spiritual communion.

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Beavers

Beaver fetishes represent home, family and unity. They are revered for their building skills and associated with water by some north eastern tribes. In Zuni they are carved by a variety of artisans some of whom put little tiny twigs in their mouths.

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Bighorn Sheep

The Zuni's use a coyote fetish when hunting for bighorn or mountain sheep but it is in Hopi-land that mountain sheep have the most importance. Some rams will look like goats and without knowing the artists' intention, it may be difficult to discern a ram or mountain sheep from a pronghorn, deer or domestic goat.

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Bison

The buffalo didn't range as far south as Zuni Pueblo but hunters did go out to hunt them to the north and east of present day Zuni. They also traded items for buffalo hide, horn and meat. Moccasins made of buffalo hide, robes and blankets - these were all highly prized by the Zuni as evidenced when the Spanish first encountered them in the mid 1500's. The buffalo is associated with strength, substance and bringing snow in the winter.

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Coyotes

The coyote is the representative of the western direction in a hunting set, replacing the bear in a healing directional set. He's most often associated with the color blue. The coyote's characteristics are arrogance and a sense of self-importance. Despite this, he can be a great teacher showing us how our impulsive nature or our self-centeredness fail to serve us well. And he can remind us to recognize those habits which ultimately make our lives more difficult.

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Deer

Deer Fetishes represent known for Love and Gentleness.

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Eagles

The guardian of the zenith or sky, the eagle is multi-colored and he is part of both a healing and a hunting directional set. He is the messenger to the gods and associated with power, balance, dignity and grace. Highly revered in Zuni, the eagle's feathers are still used in sacred ceremonies.

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Elk

Elk or Wapiti Fetishes represent known for Strength.

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Falcons

Known for their hunting skills and in keeping rodents away from crops, hawks are carved in a similar fashion to eagles. While eagles are the messengers to the gods, falcons and hawks are the messengers to people or between animals.

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Foxes

The fox is quick and observant. He approaches life with amusement and cleverness and can make himself invisible when threatened. When in an uncomfortable situation, become fox-like. Blend in, make no quick moves and plan your escape! Fox fetishes will be similar to wolves but with elongated, fluffy tails. Often their facial features will be very delicate with pointed ears and nose.

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Frogs and Tadpoles

Frogs are a motif that are found in much of pueblo art. They are most often associated with water, prayers for rain, and fertility. Even tadpoles, in their various progressions to maturity, are carved into fetishes. Frogs are carved from various materials by many different artists. But the carver most associated with frog fetishes has to be Ricky Laahty.

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Hawks

Known for their hunting skills and in keeping rodents away from crops, hawks are carved in a similar fashion to eagles. While eagles are the messengers to the gods, falcons and hawks are the messengers to people or between animals.

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Horses

Horses are not a traditional animal of the Zuni but they carve them (and probably have for generations) for other tribes and for herd protection. Characteristics associated with horses are power and achieving one's potential.

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Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are known for bringing Inspiration and Luck.

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Mountain Lions

Thought to be the most powerful hunter, the mountain lion is the guardian of the northern direction. He is associated with the color yellow and appears in both hunting and healing directional sets. Today, mountain lion fetishes are carved with great realism and detail and also in the more ancient, primitive style. Before the introduction of power tools, most mountain lions were represented with their tails up and over the back. Now carvers are able to carve long, flowing tails that extend behind the back or even curl in delicate swirls. The mountain lion can remind us to persevere, clarify our goals and move forward to achieving our dreams.

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Owls

Owl Fetishes represent keeper of the night. controls the dark side of nature. wise, smart, patient and endurance of mind.

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Rabbits

The rabbit is not a traditional Zuni animal but was likely carved to satisfy requests from other tribes and, in more recent times, demands from collectors. They are often carved by Jayne Quam with soft curves, minimal detail and fluid lines. Travis Lasiloo also carves them with great detail and often humorous postures. Rabbits are usually the dinner of predators so they are often associated with facing fears and the avoidance of making them our reality. Due to their reputation for abundant reproduction they are also associated with birthing and fertility.

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Ravens

The raven is not a traditional fetish but he is carved often, and beautifully, by a number of artists. Some artisans will put a stone in the raven's mouth. He is generally carved of jet or black marble though he can appear in virtually any stone of the artist's choosing. While considered somewhat of a prankster, he doesn't have the negative characteristics associated with the coyote. The raven can help us work through failure and short-comings by reminding us that anything we have the courage to face, we have the power to transform.

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Snakes

Snake Fetishes represent a powerful fetish symbolizing life, death and rebirth.

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Turtles

The turtle is a symbol of the earth in most Native American cultures. He is also associated with self-reliance, non-violent defense and being a skillful navigator through life's obstacles. Though he is not a traditional pueblo fetish, he is carved frequently today by many different artisans. Some will carve them in a realistic style and others will employ inlay and sgraffito to decorate the turtle's shell.

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Wolves

In Zuni the wolf is considered the younger brother of the bobcat in a hunting directional set. He is most often associated with the color white and may be carved from selenite or white marble, alabaster or serpentine that is pale in color. Today's artisans will carve him in great detail with etched fur and a stalking pose. Characteristically he's thought to be loyal with strong family ties.

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Other Fetish Figure Meanings

Corn Maiden's

Most Zuni fetish carvings take the form of animals. But a human form, the corn maiden, is becoming an increasingly popular subject.

These carvings, like many Zuni fetishes, have their roots in Pueblo legends. Corn is an essential crop for the Pueblo Indians, and is prominent in their sacred ceremonies. In Pueblo stories, the corn maidens saved the people from famine by bringing them life-giving corn.The maidens were also connected to seasonal changes and to harvests.

 

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Materials used for Fetishes

Anhydrite

 

anhydrite

 

An anhydrous calcium sulfate harder than many other gypsum materials, anhydrite ranges from almost white to a powder blue often sold as angelite.

 

 

 

aragonite

Aragonite

This form of calcium carbonate named for a deposit in Spain is also found in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. It changes structure under normal temperatures and eventually becomes a calcite, which is stable. The pearly layer of many shells is composed of aragonite, the outside calcite.

 

 

 

azurite12

Azurite

A copper carbonate that appears in various shades of blue, mostly deep blue, azurite is sometimes mistaken for Lapis. Found with malachite, a more common copper mineral than azurite, in New Mexico and Arizona.

 

 

 

chalcosiderite1

Chalcosiderite

Sometimes called white turquoise, chalcosiderite is actually not a turquoise but is very closely related, containing iron rather than the aluminum in turquoise. The material used by Southwest Indian artists comes mostly from southeast Arizona.

 

 

 

charoite

Charoite

A calcium potassium silicate found with inclusions of tinaksite (orange), augite(black), and feldspar(white) that was discovered near Chara River in eastern Siberia in 1976.

 

 

 

chrysocolla1

Chrysocolla

Sometimes confused with turquoise, this blue-green hydrous copper silicate may be banded and often appear to be somewhat translucent because of its crystalline nature. It's usually found with copper, malachite, and azurite and is mined in Arizona, with striking examples found at the Bisbee Mine.

 

 

 

chrysoprase1

Chrysoprase

A form of quartz, this apple-green chalcedony gets its color from nickel oxide. In the middle ages of europe, it was believed that a thief about to beheaded or hung could escape his executioner if he placed the stone in his mouth.

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dolomite1

Dolomite

Usually banded and warm in color, dolomite may sometimes include black and green. The form most often used in carvings is opaque, although it can also be transparent. If it contains manganese and iron, its called ankerite. Found in Missouri and New York, as well as Mexico.

 

 

 

fluorite

Fluorite

A calcium fluoride, this crystalline material is also called fluorspar. It is relatively translucent and ranges from nearly colorless to blue and green, occasionally with warmer shades and banding. Found in many areas of the Midwest and West.

 

 

 

gaspeite1

Gaspeite

The type used most frequently by Southwest Indian artisans is a nickel carbonate colored iron and magnesium that is almost chartreuse in color. Named for the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada where it was first identified, most comes from the Kambalda nickel mine in western Australia.

 

 

 

gypsum

Gypsum

This is a hydrous calcium sulfate that occurs in forms from alabaster to selenite. Gypsum is commonly found in many locales.

 

 

 

hematite

Hematite

An iron oxide that may appear in a form called clay ironstone used for carving. The crystalline form called specular hematite was a valuable trading commodity between many of the Pueblo tribes up to the earl 1900s because of it uses as a paint for certain religious objects and as an offering.

 

 

 

jet1

Jet

A form of the bituminous mineral coral called liginite. Liginite is brown, however, and mineralogy texts list jet as a black variety of brown coal.

 

 

 

lapis1

Lapis

This popular stone contains lazurite as well as varying proportions of calcite, pyroxene, and iron pyrite. The Blue Wrinkle Mine near Crested Butte, Colorado produces a very pale grade of lapis. The only other known source in the western hemisphere for this variety is in Chile. Most lapis comes from Afghanistan and other South Asian sites, and there are prolific deposits around Lake Baikal in Siberia. Lighter grades have recently been dubbed "denim lapis" Once used in Europe as a cure for melancholy.

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lepidolite

Lepidolite

Surprisingly part of the mica group of minerals, lepidolite ranges from pale shades of pink to yellow to purple. Most of the lepidolite in current use comes from a quarry on the Pala Indian Reservation in California. Its mined as a source of lithium.

 

 

 

limestone

Limestone

A sedimentary rock composed of calcite, which may also have magnesium carbonate. Marble is a metamorphic and more compact form of limestone.

 

 

 

 

magnesite

Magnesite

Also called magnesium carbonate, magnesite is a form of hard limestone. The pure white color is preferred by carvers and jewelers, but it can range into warm brown shades if colorbed by iron oxides. Much of what is in current use is mined in California.

 

 

 

malachite1

Malachite

A form of copper carbonate that ranges from light to deep green and is usually banded. It can be found with azurite, a rarer form of copper carbonate. Although found in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, much is now imported from Zaire. Charms carved of malachite were used in Europe and the Middle East to ward off the evil eye. Regarded as an appropriate talisman for children, it was also believed to protect its wearer from falling, like turquoise. If carved with the image of the sun, it would protect the wearer from venomous snakes and evil spells.

 

 

 

opal1

Opal

A silicon dioxide, similar to quartz, can include iron or aluminum, which affects the color and its intensity. ( In its pure form opal is white.) Common opal, which is partially translucent and generally milky, occurs in many regions and is the form used more often than precious opal from Australia, boulder opal from British Columbia, or fire opal from Mexico.

 

 

 

picassomarble1

Picasso marble

A type of marble that has distinctive, often angular brown, black, and white markings. Found in Utah.

 

 

 

 

pipestone

Pipestone

A red-brown to white clay-like material also known as catlinite. The primary source is in Pipestone, Minnesota, now a national monument. The name refers to its use as a material from which pipes were carved. It was so important and so widely traded that even the traditional enemies laid down their weapons when entering the quarry area.

 

 

 

rhodochrosite1

Rhodochrosite

A mottled pink manganese carbonate related to calcite, this stone is generally banded and can have delicate, almost lacy markings. Found in conjunction with silver, manganese, copper, and lead, much of the stone cam from mines in Colorado, Montana, Nevada; but most of that used by carvers today comes from Argentina.

 

 

 

rhyolite

Rhyolite

An igneous rock with quartz and alkali felspar, occasionally with magnetite, ryholite ranges in color from grey to pinkish brown. Can be banded and therefore is often confused with fine-grain sandstone.

 

 

 

sandstone

Sanstone

A sedimentary mix of quartz with silica, carbonates, or iron oxides, the latter affecting the intensity of it brownish hues. They're used occasionally for fetishes, usually painted after carving to add the necessary features.

 

 

 

 

septarian

Septarian

A yellowish to white calcite cluster usually found in a grey to brown limestone matrix. Utah is its primary source.

 

 

 

serpentine

Serpentine

This hydrous magnesium silicate ranges from yellow to deep green, to brown, black, and grey. It can be speckled, banded, mottled, or evenly colored, as well as colored by the presence of iron and magnesium. Carvers often use serpentine from New Mexico.

 

 

 

soapstone

Soapstone

Also known as steatite, soapstone is a hydrous magnesium silicate that is used only infrequently by carvers. It tends to run from almost white to dark green. Serpentine is often misidentified as soapstone.

 

 

 

sodalite

Sodalite

A sodium aluminum silicate with chlorine that runs from blue-grey to blue and is occasionally mistaken for lapis.

 

 

 

sugulite1

Sugilite

This recent addition to the carvers inventories is composed of alkali metals, iron, aluminum, water, and manganese. Yellow brown (found in Japan) to purple(found in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa.) Also known as royal azel and royal lavulite. Similar to sogdianite, but sogdianite has zirconium and sugilite does not.

 

 

 

travertine

Travertine

A crystalline carbonate, banded form of limestone, usually a mix of calcite and aragonite, travertine is usually creamy white to beige in color. Its found in deposits around calcareous springs and is sometimes called Mexican onyx, our onyx marble.

 

 

 

turquoise1

Turquoise

This popular hydrous aluminum phosphate, colored by copper salts, ranges from pale green to deep blue, even in the same stone. Turquoise is found in all shades of green and blue, which lend themselves to associations with the sky and water, as well as with the direction west. Primary sources from turquoise nowdays include China, Iran, and the southwestern United States ( New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada). It is sometimes confused with the more glassy chrysocolla, which has a more crystalline structure.

 

 

 

variscite

Variscite

A hydrous aluminum phosphate that is sometimes mistaken for turquoise but is greener and contains no copper. Very pale shades have been marked as "white turquoise" as happened with chalcosiderite. It was first discovered in Germany; in the U.S. it can be found primarily in Utah and Nevada.

 

 

 

 

abalone

Abalone

The more common and readily available red abalone is most frequently used, although abalone also appears green. Not only is it used for fetishes and jewelry, but the whole shell if in tact, can be used in religious rituals.

 

 

 

motherofpearl1

Mother of Pearl

This substance occurs in both bivalves and mollusks and comes in a range of colors, white, yellow, purple, and black. The shiny, nacreous inner layer of the shells is composed chiefly of aragonite, while the outer shell is calcite. Exposure to harsh chemicals and soaps will convert the aragonite to calcite, causing the shell to lose its luster.

 

 

 

spondylus

Spondylus

Commonly known as spiny oyster shell, spondylus come from the Pacific ocean of Baja California and the northwestern coast of South America. Until the Spanish introduced coral, it was highly prized for its orange to reddish orange to red colors because it was the only source for the shades. Spondylus pictorium is the red variety. Spondylus calcifer is known as "purple lip" for the band of deep purple along the outer rim.

 

 

 

ivory

Walrus Ivory

Walrus tusk ivory comes from two modified upper canines. The tusks of a Pacific walrus may attain a length of one meter. Walrus teeth are also commercially carved and traded. The average walrus tooth has a rounded, irregular peg shape and is approximately 5cm in length.

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