American Indian Fetishes
Known around the world for their work, Zuni people have traditionally used small stone carvings of animal figures as power objects and mediators. The body of the fetish can be shaped of bone, shell, clay, stone or other materials. The polished and carved stones can be found in the shape of eagles, bears, mountain lions, wolves, rabbits, fish, badgers, snakes, falcons and corn maidens, among others.
Source: Heard Museum
Zuni Frog Fetish
Artist: American Indian FetishesDescription: Various Artists
Since we’ve been experiencing a lot of rain in the Desert Southwest during the Fall 2019, we thought it apropos to highlight a few of the Zuni frog fetishes which are associated with rain and water. Frogs and tadpoles also represent the cycle of life; hence the frog is also the fertility fetish.
“In this context, the word fetish refers to a small charm or talisman carved by hand from various materials such as stone, mineral, wood, bone, antler or fossil. Fetishes have existed in one form or another all over the world in various ancient cultures since before the beginning of time. The existence of fetishes today is reserved primarily as an expression of tribal art and beauty rather than serving the practical yet superstitious role they have in the past.
Today, the Zuni Tribe of northern New Mexico remains the primary producer of fetish carvings in Native American culture. These small fetish carvings have been believed by the Zuni Tribe to hold protective and/or healing powers and specific animals were also known to provide luck in hunting game. Zuni fetishes can be thought of as objects holding a spiritual significance that can provide supernatural support if treated by the owner with the necessary respect. Owners or Zuni fetishes range from enthusiastic collectors who admire these small carvings as breathtaking works or art to those seeking the special powers believed to be held within. Whatever your intended purpose, one thing is for certain: it's easy to love and cherish these tiny native carvings.”
Source: Turquoise Village in Zuni, New Mexico
Artist: American Indian FetishesDescription: Dinah (b.1944) and Peter Gasper, Sr. (1938-2012)
Fossilized Ivory w/ Heishi | 3 Strands Each, 16”
Dinah (b.1944) and Peter Gasper, Sr. (1938-2012) collaborated as an award winning husband/wife team creating finely carved animal, bird and fish fetish, as necklaces and as standalone pieces. They are credited as being the first Zuni carvers to incorporate the heartline symbol representing the breath of life force of an animal as well as developing a silver tag with their personalized hallmark applied to the fetish that identified their work. Shown here, the two fossilized ivory fetish necklaces with brown heishi, three strands each, include the Gasper silver hallmark.
Artist: American Indian FetishesDescription: Esteban Najera
Antler Carved Zuni Fetish | 7”h x 3”w
According to the Zuni, fetishes, or animal depictions, house the spirit or supernatural qualities of animals only after they have been blessed by the tribal Medicine Society at the winter solstice gathering. If they are properly cared for and nurtured they may bring special power to the people who use them. They also believe there are six primary directions: north, east, south, west, upward, and downward. The Eagle is the messenger to the gods and represents power, balance, dignity, vision, higher truth, and grace. The eagle is found in both the healing and small game hunting directions.
Zuni artist, Esteban Najera, displays expert knowledge of anatomy when his carvings emerge. His antler bird carvings are so wonderful and delicate that it seems that the Zuni spirits have guided him. He started carving around 1990.
Artist: American Indian Fetishes
Artist: American Indian Fetishes