The Hand Symbol in Native American Art

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

The Hand

In Native American art, the hand usually represents the presence of man. From the earliest hand imprints on cave walls, the hand depicts a man’s work, achievements and his personal history.

When a hand had a swirl in the middle of it, that is said to be the “eye in hand” and represents a mystic, or all-seeing, hand, the presence of the Great Spirit in man.

Mystic Hand Pendant

Mystic Hand Pendant

A Native American’s horse was highly honored and often covered in symbols for various purposes. This would vary from tribe to tribe but hand prints were often used in various positions on a horse to mean different things.

FH427-fishrock-martinez-1

The most prized handprint was when preparing for battle, if it was a kill-or-be-killed mission, an upside-down hand would be placed on the warrior’s horse.

If a horse knocked down an enemy, right and left hand prints were put on the horse’s chest.

The Pat Hand Print was the left hand pressed onto the horse’s right hindquarters. It was put on a horse who had returned from a dangerous mission with his master unharmed.

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Paula

Raven Crow Medicine

Lakota Kangi Pejuta Medicine Bag

Lakota Kangi Pejuta Medicine Bag. Kangi Pejuta means Medicine Crow.

RAVEN/CROW –  Raven and Crow are very similar in their strengths: both carry great responsibility to Spirit and are the messengers of magic and healing from the universe where all knowledge waits for us.

Raven Crow Feather Necklace by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

NP574-feather-raven-whitehawk-2 Raven Crow Feather Necklace by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

They also symbolize changes in consciousness, levels of awareness and perception.

Zuni Raven Fetishes

FF306-raven-pooacha-1 Zuni Raven Fetishes

Shamans, Spiritualists and Healers using Raven/Crow Medicine are able to use their gifts with deeper clarity, understanding and insight, developing greater power and skill in their abilities and their means to help one move forward in life.

Kangi Pejuta Smudge Kit

Kangi Pejuta Smudge Kit

Raven Crow Medicine Smudge Feather

Raven Crow Spirit Smudge fan by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Raven Crow Spirit Smudge fan by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Raven Crow Medicine Pouch

Raven Crow Medicine Pouch with hand carved and painted buffalo bone raven feather. Cynthia Whitehawk

 

Zuni Buffalo Fetish Carving
Raven – Crow – A symbol of Magic, Mystery, and a Shift in Consciousness
(from our conversations with Lakota and Apache healers)
Paula

Foot Forward Carver

Hello Paula,

Unless this rings a bell, please don’t waste any of your time, but I have a fairly simple question.
 
Some 20 years ago we bought a turquoise bear fetish by the “foot forward” carver. Do you know that carver’s name?
 
The right front foot is slightly forward of the left foot.
 
Thank you for your time!
 
Richard
Sorry Richard, for me, no bells are ringing on a carver, but perhaps a reader of the blog knows and will add a comment.
Here is the walking bear design, sometimes called the 3-legged bear, used by Navajo silversmith Rosco Scott
NBS323-med-bears-scott-150h
Paula

Serpentine used in Native American Fetish Carvings

When we buy Zuni and Navajo fetish carvings and aren’t positive about the stone used, we ask and are often told “serpentine”. You might think that is a catch-all category but when you really look into it, you’ll find that serpentine comes in a wide variety of colors. It is one of the oldest stones used for carving, as early as prehistoric times.

Serpentine can range from green to pink and everything in between including tan, brown, red, black, yellow, gray and more.

A very popular and traditional stone “fish rock” is actually serpentine. It is a light stone usually with small splotches and veining.  Here are some examples of fish rock serpentine.

FH261-fishrock-shack-2

FC306-badger-fishrock-yazzie-3

Ricolite is another serpentine that is dark green with grey or light green bands.F240-frog-serpentine-lementino-1

F238-frog-serpentine-poncho-1

Here are some other examples of serpentine.

FT245-buffalo-serpentine-bird-laiwakete-1

FC276-lion-serpentine-davis-1

FC287-coyote-serpentine-siutza-1

F282-lizard-kallestewa-1

Serpentine is widespread in California where it is the state rock. Here is a photo of serpentine along a beach.

bigserpentine800To read more about serpentine and see more examples, click here.

Here is an interesting glossary Gemstone Terminology

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However, if you have a new question, please contact us through our website.

Pendant loop too small for leather choker – what do I do?

Hi Paula,

Perhaps you can help out a fetish newbie. A few weeks back I bought from your website a black bear pendant and a leather necklace to put it on.

NP354-ABC-blackbear-pino-A

leather-chokers-braided-1

leather-chokers-braided-5

I’ve found the loop on the bear is too small to fit over the clasp on the necklace. I don’t want to return either one, but any suggestions? Should I take it to a jeweler? Try to flatten the loop to make it a little bigger? I sure don’t want to damage it. Or perhaps buy a different chain? How would I know that one would fit? I plan to eventually make a necklace of several fetishes that have special meaning for me, and I guess I need some help before I start.

I would appreciate any directions or suggestions you could give me.

Thanking you in advance,
Linda

Hi Linda,

First of all, any time your purchase something from us, feel free to ask ahead of time if a certain bead necklace, for example, will go through the bail of a pendant you are looking at. We can always check that out for you. For most pendants and necklaces we list the size of the bail on the pendant and the diameter (or thickness) of the necklace so you can get a pretty good idea.

The pendant you purchased was shown with a sterling silver round omega which would work very well with it as would most chains.

omega round thin

Also we have some very small, 5mm, antiqued beads that could work.

BD792-18-4mm-smooth-antiqued-arviso-2

And yes, you could take your bear pendant to a jeweler who could gently heat and open up or otherwise reshape the heavy wire loop.

Paula

Zuni and Navajo Carvers and Mountain Lion Tails

Native American stone fetish carvers tend to do mountain lion tails in one of 3 ways. Which is your favorite and what do you think the lion’s body language is saying?

Up and curled – I think friendly and curious

Mountain Lion Fetish by Zuni carver Fernando Laiwakete

Down and curled -Looks like sneaking and ready to pounce

Mountain Lion fetish by Navajo carver Alex Begay

Laid along the back – Intense concentration

More on Navajo and Zuni Fetish Necklaces

There is a term associated with fetish necklaces – stacked.

That refers to fetishes strung one right on the top of one another rather than separated by a length of heishi. If heishi is used, it can be pen shell, olive shell, white clam shell, turquoise, jet or other.

Here are some examples of the various heishi that is used in between fetishes.

Pen shell heishi with turquoise heishi accent
Jet heishi
Pink shell heishi
Turquoise heishi

Here is an example of a “semi-stacked” fetish necklace, that is, one that has just a small amount of heishi in between each fetish.

Semi-stacked fetish necklace

Here are some examples of true stacked fetish necklaces, those that are fetish on fetish.

Stacked Fetish Necklace
Stacked fetish necklace
Close-up of stacked fetish necklace

Every artist has his or her own vision of what a fetish necklace should look like:

  • the size of the fetishes

  • the style of the fetishes

  • the stones and shells used for the fetishes

  • the stones and shells used for the heishi

  • the space between the fetishes

  • the type of closure (more on that in tomorrow’s post).