My feet are made of mirage,
My bridle of strings of the sun.
My mane is like the white lightning,
My tail is like long black rain.
My eyes are big spreading stars.
My teeth are of the white shell.
My belly is white as dawnlight.
My heart is of everlasting garnet.
Navajo Chant (From Schevill, BEAUTIFUL ON THE EARTH)
Horses have always held a special place in Native American culture. With their arrival (through Spanish conquistadors) work was made easier as horses were used to carry and pull burdens once shouldered and drawn by tribe members. In this way, horses are revered and cared for almost as a member of the family. In this way they symbolize loyalty.
Horses (Du:she) are carved by Zuni artists but mostly used by Navajo who use livestock fetishes to protect their herds from injury and disease and to promote fertility.
(from Mark Bahti’s introduction to Zuni Fetishes by Frank Hamilton Cushing’s 1880 report of ethnology submitted to the Smithsonian)
A turquoise horse is used among the Navajo in a series of specific ritual steps to assist in the birth of a horse with speed.
Horse fetishes might be used in ceremony to increase the horse’s stamina on a long hunt or journey.
The horse is an animal of freedom and symbolizes safe movement.
The Horse Fetish can contribute to the power of healing and strength.
Lakota use spirit horses to commemorate their horses. Alan Monroe writes:
“Native Americans often made Spirit Horses to honor a fallen horse, in hopes that the spirit of the horse would follow them in life. They should gain the strength and power of their fallen friend. These effigies would be used in ceremonies, for healing and often carried into battle. After a Spirit Horse is made, it is believed that the horse will take on a spirit of its own.”