A fetish is an animal carving from stone, antler, ivory or shell, designed to remind us of the special traits and qualities of a particular animal. This art form is a tradition of all Pueblo people, especially the Zunis of New Mexico.
Every animal has something to teach. By respecting an animal’s wisdom or “medicine”, we may honor and enhance that quality in ourselves.
Historically, the Pueblo Peoples of the American Southwest were farmers, depending on corn as their main staple. Referred to as “the Mother,” corn is used in prayers and ceremonies to affirm the connection between Earth and all living things. In Pueblo life, corn is never sold but rather given as a gift in remembrance of the need to give back and to always be thankful.
In honor of the spirit within a fetish, as well as in oneself, corn meal is ritually sprinkled on the animal from one end to the other and back. The Zunis say, “When you offer corn in a respectful way to your fetish, in return you will be blessed.”
Gift (medicine/prayer) bundles are the stones, coral, arrows or feathers tied around the backs of certain fetishes as a special offering from the artist to the fetish to enhance its qualities or ‘medicine.’
Ant — Travel and restoration. Badger – South Directional. Red tribal color. Summer Land. Healing. They are aggressive and tenacious. They can help us achieve a specific goal or purpose/achieve discipline and mental focus. Bat — Night guardian of the east. Bear – West Directional. Blue tribal color. Night Land. Health and Strength. Healing. Protection. Journeying. Bear’s hibernation reminds us of the value of going within ourselves. Beaver – Navajo Water People. Birds — Peace and Harmony. Bison/Buffalo – Abundance and Prayer. Bobcat/Wildcat/Lynx – Hunting animal of the South used when antelope is the prey. Butterfly — Change. Corn Maiden (emerging from corn with butterfly hair buns but no children) – Potential. Corn Mother (has children with her) – Life Giver. Love and nourishment. Corn Grandmother (has shawl with her or over her head) – Wise Elder. Coyote – A Trickster. Many tribes credit the clever coyote with bringing fire to them. Coyote fetish used for hunting rabbit at Zuni Pueblo. Coyote’s curiosity and meddling disrupted the placement of the stars and thus they are scattered willy-nilly across the night sky. Crow — Warns of attack. Messenger. Deer — Most important big game animal in Southwest. Rainmakers. Dragonfly – Carries our prayers to the Spirit World. They are a sign of water and life. They can guide us to our own positive and life changing goals. Eagle – Zenith (Sky Above) Directional. All colors. Land of Light. Gives us perspective. They have extraordinary vision and see the whole picture. Helps us remember our journey is spiritual as well as physical. Elk — Love and courtship. Fish — Faith. Fox — Runners. Frog – Sign of water and life. They are cleansing. Promote emotional and physical health. Horned Lizard (Toad) — Cures a variety of illnesses. Cures “soul loss”. Used in Navajo infant blessing ceremony. Horse – Freedom and Cooperation. Hummingbird – Harmony. Kokopelli — Fertility for vegetation. Songs from the flute warm the earth and plants grow. Lady Bug — Good Luck. Lizard — Curiosity. Mole (Shrew) – Nadir (Earth) Directional. Black tribal color. Land of Darkness. Protection from “underneath”. Foundation. Trust what we feel not just what we see. Guardian of Mother Earth. Mountain Lion (Puma) – Also known as Long Tail. North Directional. Yellow tribal color. Winter Land. Great Hunter and Leader. Travel Protection. Strong Medicine for setting good example and boundaries. Identified with deer hunting. Owl – Guardian of the home. Warn of approaching enemies and impending danger. Quail — Motherhood. Parrot — Prosperity. Rabbit – Reminds us to acknowledge our fears so we can move beyond them and not allow them to dictate our behavior. Fertility. Raven – Symbol of inner self. Transformation. Snake – Sheds its skin which is a symbol of discarding old ways and transforming negatives into positives. Spider — Wisest of all creatures; lives and travels everywhere. Quiets the anger of one’s enemies. Saves us from danger. Turkey — Important food and feather animal. Associated with people. Water Birds — Associated with movement of the sun and the changing seasons. Ducks especially associated with moisture/rain. Turtle – Carries their home on their back. Goes with the flow of the river. Reminds us to respect Mother Earth. Longevity. Wolf – East Directional. White Tribal Color. Loyalty. Dawn Land. Healing. Finding new pathways for the benefit of everyone (the pack). Gathers information.