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Meaning and History behind Zuni Fetishes
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Meaning and History behind Zuni Fetishes

The Zuni people are a Pueblo tribe which have historically been situated in the Zuni River valley in what is now Western New Mexico. The tribe has occupied this territory for thousands of years and is widely known for their farming and irrigation practices. They are also known for their strong arts and cultural traditions of jewelry making, stone carving, and pottery crafting. While other Pueblo tribes, including both the Navajo and the Isleta, also carve stone fetishes, the Zuni people are most known for their fine lapidary work and beautiful fetish carvings.

The History behind Zuni Fetishes

The Zuni people’s beautiful and intricately carved stone fetishes date back to as early as 650 A.D., and traditional carvings are made from stone or antlers. The carvings normally take the form of specific animals or icons that have spiritual significance to the Zuni people. Many fetishes are passed down through generations, with older fetishes being said to have the most power and value for the holder. While many other tribes also had their own practices of creating fetishes, the Zuni fetishes were upheld as particularly valuable, and many other tribes were eager to trade for these beautiful pieces.

Spiritual Properties of Zuni Fetishes

Zuni fetishes are normally palm-sized carvings that take the form of different spiritually significant animals or figures that are said to hold different powers based on the form of the fetish. For example, different fetishes are thought to protect their owner from spiritual or physical harm, help cure disease, influence the weather, bring prosperity, and even promote fertility. Zuni fetishes, also known as wemawe, are thought to hold the spirit of the animal represented within the stone and pass on the characteristics it holds to its owner. However, the owner must stay vigilant in caring for the fetish, as it’s believed that the amount of attention given to the fetish dictates the amount of protection it can offer its owner.

The Sacred Directions of the Zuni Tribe

Many of the most commonly found fetishes align with the guardian animals associated with the six sacred directions from Zuni spiritual beliefs. The north is represented by a mountain lion, the east by a wolf, the south by a badger, the west by a bear, the sky by a – eagle, and the inner earth by a mole. In addition to these animals, other animals such as frogs, deer, and rams are commonly depicted. More modern carvers might also choose to shape exotic creatures like dinosaurs, lizards, or tropical birds.

Find the Zuni Jewelry You’re Looking For

Zuni fetishes make a beautiful addition to any home, whether you’re drawing on its spiritual protection, or simply for decorative purposes. Get in touch with Palms Trading Company today and let our professional staff help you find the perfect Zuni fetish carving for your collection. We even have a free personal shopper service to help you find exactly what you’re looking for!

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