How Zuni Navajo Native American Fetishes Are Made

How Zuñi & Navajo Native American Fetish Carvings are Made

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Stones UsedZuni Horse Fetish Carving

Although fetishes are carved from many types of rock today, fish rock is the stone traditionally used for fetish carvings. Also popular are pipestone, serpentine, Picasso marble, turquoise, jet, picture jasper, argite, lapis, azurite, sodalite, marble, dolomite, mother of pearl (MOP), onyx, and spiny oyster. See more about Stones.

Medicine Bundle

Zuni Bear Fetish carving with medicine bundleMany fetishes have a medicine bundle, offering bundle, or adornment tied on the back of the animal that can consists of coral seed beads, shell heishi, feathers and other stone pieces. These may be used as an offering to the fetish, to evoke the spirit of the fetish or to increase the strength of a fetish.

Coral bits, from the ocean, represent marine life or the heart of the fetish.

Turquoise represents the sky and water.

Penn shell heishi is brown and represents the earth.

Use of the six colors (see Six Directions below) white, yellow, red, blue, black and speckled or multi-colored, together symbolize the six directions.

Feathers are very powerful medicine when added to fetishes, so are rarely added to rock carvings for the market.

Arrowhead

Medicine Bundle on Zuni fetish carvingSometimes a stone arrow is included in the bundle. It used to be these were real arrowheads but now they are small arrowheads carved out of shell. The arrowhead can protect the fetish from harm on its journey and the arrowhead can strengthen the power of the fetish.

If the arrow points ahead, it protects the fetish from things it will encounter.

If the arrow points backward, it protects the fetish from things that might come up from behind.

The bundle is tied on with sinew, which is from muscle fiber and symbolizes strength. Some contemporary artists use leather or heavy beading thread.

DetailZuni Horse Fetish carving from Fishrock

The style and detail of carving varies among artists but usually includes detail on the face, ears, tail and mane. Often the eyes and other spots of adornment on the animal are inset pieces of contrasting stones such as turquoise and coral.

Heart Line

Zuni Fetish Carving with Heart LineSingle, double and triple heart lines are inset in some fetishes. The heart line is a line etched, painted or inlaid along one or both sides of the animal. It usually extends from the mouth to the region of the heart.

There are many interpretations as to what a heart line represents, but it is often said to represent the pathway of the breath of the animal to the life force, which is the heart. Others feel that the heart line points to the soul of the animal. It is thought that a heart line gives the fetish healing or medicinal power.

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