Native American Symbols – Knifewing

Who is Knifewing?

Knifewing, also Knife Wing, is a half man – half eagle Zuni spirit or god with razor sharp feathers made of flint. He is the ultimate warrior.

Anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, who lived with the Zunis from 1879-1884 described knifewing this way:

“This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, the tutelary deity of several societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap (representative of his dwelling place among the clouds). His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rainbow), and the Arrow of Lightning. His guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the upper regions. He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis.”

Horace Iule (also known for his crosses) is credited with creating the first knifewing design in the late 1920s, cut and filed out of wrought silver. Afterwards, other Zuni, Navajo and Pueblo began producing knifewing designs. The knifewing became one of the first designs that the Zuni inlaid with stones.

Knifewing Inlay Pin Pendant by Zuni artists Herbert and Ester Cellicion

Knifewing Inlay Pin Pendant by Zuni artists Herbert and Ester Cellicion

Knifewing Sterling Silver Inlay Box by Suzie James

Knifewing Sterling Silver Inlay Box by Suzie James

5 thoughts on “Native American Symbols – Knifewing

  1. I.M. Shelf wrote and asked

    Knifewing looks like he has influence from India or Indonesia. Coincidence or is there some basis you know of?

    I know the figure you mean, with wide spread legs and dressed in colorful clothing yet I could not find it searching India, Indonesia, Hindu or Krishna. Nevertheless, I’m quite certain that Knifewing and that figure are not related. If you think of the name of that figure, please let me know. Thanks for writing !

  2. Pingback: Can you Help me With OLD Bolo Hallmarks? | Native American Jewelry Tips

  3. Hello,

    I have a necklace that I received from my grandmother years ago. I believe the pendant is a inlayed Zuni knifewing. Sometime before I received it the silver chain on one side of the pendant snapped. I have all of the beads (which appear to be hand made) … But I am not sure were to even start with trying to figure out how old it is, where it was made, etc. I would appreciate your help or if you could point me in the right direction to get started on trying to find out more about this piece.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s