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Common Zuni Fetish Carvings & Their Meanings
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Common Zuni Fetish Carvings and their Meanings

The Zuni tribe in New Mexico is widely known for their rich art and cultural history, and one aspect of particular note is hand-carved animal tokens known as fetishes. If you’re interested in Native American art, culture, or history, then learning more about Zuni fetishes is definitely right up your alley.

What are Zuni Fetishes?

A major part of Zuni artistic and cultural tradition, fetishes are carvings shaped from organic materials which serve as homes for spirits who would in turn share powers with the holder of these pieces. The properties of the fetish are said to protect the owner from various issues or challenges of mind, body, or surrounding environment. Each Zuni fetish is in the form of an animal or spirit, such as a corn maiden, and each fetish has its own unique meaning. It is an expectation that the bearer of these fetishes will also provide them with proper care, and they are often given different offerings and kept in decorative pots or pouches.

Animals of the Six Directions

Traditionally, the Zuni People represent their six cardinal directions through six guardian fetishes taking on a different animal form and distinct characteristics. These animals are commonly found as fetish carvings and each has its distinct meanings.

  • The Eagle: Guardian of the Upper regions and representative of great power, balance, and grace achieved through knowledge and hard work.
  • The Bear: Guardian of the West, and a character of healing, solitude, change, and strength in the face of adversity.
  • The Wolf: Guardian of the East and representative of insight, loyalty, social and family values, and expression of deep and personal truths
  • The Mountain Lion: Guardian of the North and connected to intuition, resourcefulness, dedication, and connection to a higher power.
  • The Badger: Guardian of the South and representative of single-mindedness, passion, groundedness, and connection to the Earth.
  • The Mole: Guardian of the Lower Regions and connected to energies and knowledge of the earth, sensitivity to touch and kinesthetic awareness, introspection, and awareness of deeper subtleties of the world and surrounding influences.

Other Common Zuni Fetishes

While the six cardinal fetishes are very commonly represented in Zuni fetish carvings, there are a number of other animals commonly seen which also have their own unique representations. For example, you might stumble across a snake which is symbolic of exploration of life’s mysteries, or maybe a rabbit which is representative of luck or the playful trickster. Regardless of what type of fetish you have, there is sure to be a much deeper symbolic meaning behind the simple shape of the animal.

If you’re interested in purchasing your own Zuni fetish carving, check out the wide variety of options we have available at Palms Trading company. Get in touch with us today and let our friendly staff help you find the perfect piece to add to your collection!

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