Zuni fetishes

The past autumn, September 2000, Sue and I drove a loop in the southwest, in order to return to Bryce Canyon as well as visit some places we hadn't seen before, such as Canyon de Chelly (pronounced du Shay), in the heart of the Navajo Nation.

It was in the gift shop of Canyon de Chelly that I first noticed Zuni fetishes, which struck me as being remarkably beautiful. Afterward, we noticed them at many different places in the southwest.

Bear fetishes at dawn

(I couldn't resist designing my own virtual fetish.)

Perhaps it is somewhat ironic that the Zuni (who are known to themselves as the Ashiwi) number only about ten thousand but have influenced many, many times that number in terms of their fetishes and the good feeling that animalism brings. Identifying animals as mystic symbols representative of the forces that influence our lives expands the fetishes beyond art. Although almost any animal can become a fetish, the primary six (via the four compass directions and up and down) include the following (drawn from the book Zuni Fetishes, by Hal Zina Bennett, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993):

    Wolf: guardian of the east. Intuition.
    Eagle: guardian of the air. The big picture.
    Mole: guardian of the depths. The earth, the outdoors, and feminism.
    Mountain lion: guardian of the north. Courage.
    Bear: guardian of the west. Self-enhancement.
    Badger: guardian of the south. Passion.
While humans can benefit from fetishes, animals may have fetishes of their own as well. When Cloudberry (our beautiful cat) became out of sorts, Sue came across a fetish - a fox - which seemed to suggest Cloud. So she bought fox (hand-carved by Terrence Tsethlikai) for Cloud.

Cloudberry is very enthusiastic about her fetish, has extensive conversations with fox, and takes fox with her about the home. True, fox has picked up various tooth marks, but I guess it is all part of their bonding ritual. On fox's back, incidentally, is an "offering." (I had to re-tie it, since Cloud can become quite exhuberant.)

Cloudberry's fox fetish

Two views of Cloudberry's fox fetish.

Should anyone wish any more information about Zuni fetishes or want to purchase any, the following three sites have been very helpful and are run by good people. (I have over a dozen fetishes myself, though none of them have any tooth marks - yet.)

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