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Fetishes and Their Meanings

Posted by Anita Earnest on 3/31/2016
A carving believed to have power to protect or aid its owner. Animals often suggest characteristics that we respect and by focusing on those we desire, we can experience them more fully into our lives. Since the beginning of time, fetishes have played an important role in the life of Native Americans. The earliest fetishes in archeological excavations date back to the 7th century.
Fetishes may be made in any form and of any material. They can be used as a pocket fetish, table fetish, jewelry and large sculptures. Some fetishes have a line of inlaid stone which forms the shape of an arrow. This is called the Heartline or Lifeline. The breath path begins at the mouth where breath gives life and points to the heart where faith and inner strength preside. When an arrow was piercing the heart it was believed and hoped that equal success would benefit the hunter. Some fetishes have medicine bundles tied to the back which adds additional power. Shells, feathers, carved stones, antlers and other small objects can be used and tied with sinew. Regardless of the form or material a fetish has one dominant purpose: to assist man against real or potential problems. The problems can be those of the mind, the body or the universe. The power of the fetish is believed to derive from the animal's spirit that resides within. According to Zuni belief, all true fetishes are petrifications of the animals they represent. Though the owner of a fetish can be an individual, a family, a clan, a kiva society or an entire tribe, the care of a fetish is always the responsibility of an individual. Special care must be taken to see that the fetish is properly fed, admired, and cared for. Fetishes are believed to feed on cornmeal while they are kept in a special pot or pouch. Ground turquoise is often mixed with the cornmeal. A properly nurtured fetish can assist its possessor in better performance, and in accomplishing tasks. The strongest fetishes are generally animals of prey. These are acknowledged as the most powerful providers in life so they are likewise accepted as having the greatest fetish powers. The power and strength of a fetish is obtained by placing the nostrils of the fetish to ones' mouth and taking deep breaths.