Recommendation for Protection against Evil and Bad Luck

Hello,

My friend is interested in a native indian amulet or “charm” for protection against evil and bad luck.  Would these medicine bags be appropriate?  I specificially like the Crazy Horse bag with the gemstones, however, I am not sure about their spiritual powers or purpose.  Would you please be able to direct me to the proper item that I could buy for my friend.

Thank you. IJ

Hi IJ,

Every person has their own belief system when it comes to good spirits and good luck so it is not so important what is used, but what one believes. Picking up a special stone can do more to change one’s luck than purchasing a lottery ticket !!

With that said, you know your friend and his or her habits and propensity to ceremony and ritual. Here are some ideas.

The Crazy Horse bag is very nice.

Crazy Horse Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

I’d highly recommend any of the bags made by Apache artist, Cynthia Whitehawk as she makes each of her items in ceremony and with great attention to detail. They are filled with a wonderful spirit already !  She acknowledges that each of us tends to be drawn to certain animals, stones or other healing spirits, so she makes many bags and shares her thoughts on the protective and healing powers of each totem.  That is indicated at the bottom of each page describing the bag.

Eagle Spirit Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

Carved Zuni fetishes can also be very powerful talismans – many are suitable to carry in a pocket or purse making them handy to hold or rub.

Rainbow Calsilica Medicine Bear by Zuni artist Kenny Chavez

Some of these fetishes are available as pendants so they can be worn on a chain or leather choker.

Sacred White Buffalo Pendant by Zuni artist Cheryl Beyuka

A cross might be the perfect answer.

Sterling Silver and Turquoise Cross by Navajo artist Derrick Gordon

For those who are looking for good luck, such as would come from a finding a four leaf clover, there are Authentic Lucky Horseshoes.

Authentic Lucky Horseshoe

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to find the perfect item for your friend.

Sterling Silver Animal Fetish Necklace – Information Please?

Hi Paula

I have a sterling animal fetish necklace that I would like to know more about it’s origin’s. There are 6 animals about 1/2 long each, hooked together, with a different colored stone in each one. On the back of each animal is a word associated with that animal spirit. A bear – healing,phoenix happiness, a fish – change, a dove – vision, a turtle – wisdom and a fox – swift. It is signed (initials can’t read) and marked ster. Any help? Jacquie

Hi Jacquie,

You have a very nice necklace here ! I’ve not seen one like it but it certainly does have characteristics of being Native American made (Navajo I’d guess). I’ve not seen a necklace with words on the back like this one. Because each piece is stamped Sterling, I’d guess it was from the late 70’s or early 80’s or later.  Let me know if you can ever read the hallmark initials – that would be helpful.

Perhaps someone else reading this blog will have seen a necklace like this and will post some more information.

You said you’d “love to know what it is worth”.  I don’t do appraisals from photos and with something like this, I’d say its worth whatever someone is willing to pay ! Because the fetishes are 1/2″ long, I am assuming this is not a very heavy necklace. But it is cute, unique and colorful !  Enjoy !

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Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

Paula,
I wondered why in your web store you describe some Indian animal carvings and jewelry pieces as fetishes and others amulets or totems. Are they all the same thing? – Stuart

Stuart,
The terms fetish, amulet, totem and talisman are often used interchangeably to describe an object that provides good fortune and protects from evil. The exact meaning of any of these terms depend on the culture and location in which it is used. Briefly, here is how I see them:

Talisman

Alaskan Thunderbird Talisman by David Audette from Sitka, Alaska

A talisman is an object that is considered to possess supernatural or magical powers and is used especially to avert evils, disease, or death. A talisman is typically engraved or cut with figures or characters, constellations, planets, or other heavenly signs. It is often worn as an amulet or charm. From the Greek word “telein”, which means “to initiate into the mysteries”. The word talisman is often used synonymous with amulet.

Amulet

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Lucky Horseshoe Amulet by Navajo artist Wilbur Muskett Jr.

An amulet is a protecting charm – any object worn to bring good luck and to ward off evil, illness, and harm from supernatural powers and from other people. Amulets are typically carvings, stones (especially with naturally occurring holes), plants (such as sage, 4-leaf clover, shamrock), coins, and jewelry (crosses, horseshoes, gemstones).

Totem

Horse Totem on Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

A totem is an object that symbolizes a person’s or a tribe’s animal guide. This could be a totem pole, an emblem or a small figurine or carving. Native American tradition holds that different animal guides come in and out of a person’s life depending on the direction that person is headed and the challenges he faces. A totem animal is the one animal that acts as the main guardian spirit and is with a person for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Traditionally, it is the totem animal, such as an eagle, wolf, bear, horse or dragonfly, that finds the person, not the other way around.

Fetish

Bear Fetish by Zuni artist Emery Eriacho

A fetish is a sacred object used in religious ceremonies, for spiritual awakening and to communicate with and direct supernatural powers. A fetish can provide protection, promote healing and ensure success in ventures such as hunting or farming. A Native American fetish is most often a carving, usually of an animal, that has some sort of power, and is sometimes decorated with stones, shells, and feathers. A carving without power is merely a carving. A person’s own beliefs determine the difference between a fetish and a carving.

So, whether an object is a talisman, totem, amulet or fetish is up to you. Just as the beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, so the power of an object is in the belief of the seer or wearer.

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How Do I Display Zuni Native American Fetish Carvings?

 

Zuni Fetish Carvings - Corn Maiden and Butterfly Maiden Collection

 

 

Hi Paula,

What is the best way to store or display fetishes? I want to enjoy them but also want to protect them and keep them from getting damaged or dusty.

Beth

Hi Beth,

I can give you some ideas but fetish use and care is a matter of opinion and choice.

The traditional way of housing a Zuni fetish carving is in a clay pot or a bowl with a corn meal offering inside to sustain the fetish. Some fetishes are fed ground turquoise also. This means of fetish storage is based on Zuni legends that tell of fetish powers helping to sustain hunters in the mountains. A fetish pot always has a peep hole in the side so that the fetishes can see out which helps them remain content. A happy fetish makes for a happy person.

Fetish Pot with Peep Hole and Guardians

If a fetish is not delicate or does not have portions that could be rubbed off, a fetish can be stored in pocket – in this way, the fetish can be handled frequently something like a meditation stone. I’ve seen people jingle keys or coins in their pocket as a way of relieving stress perhaps or of connecting, calming or centering……so a small stone fetish certainly would make a quiet and most excellent pocket pal.

A small pipestone turtle that would make a perfect pocket fetish

Special fetishes are added to medicine bags. Usually if a person is drawn to a particular animal, that animal is that person’s totem and might be added to the bag, either attached to the bag or carried inside it.

Hummingbird Spirit Medicine Bag

For collectors, which it sounds like you might be, you might display au natural and lightly dust from time to time such as the maidens in the first photo in this article….

OR

use display cases, either for single fetishes or groups.


Most fetishes are quite sturdy, made of durable stones and are made to be used for years. I hope you enjoy your fetishes whether it is looking at them or carrying them or just having them in your home or office.

Six Directions Fetishes on a Home Water Fountain

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Lakota Ledger Art

Ledger Art evolved from Plains Indian hide painting. Traditionally Plains tribes decorated tipis, leggings, buffalo robes, shields and other clothing items with depictions of life events. The figures were usually drawn with a hard, dark outline and then filled in with color. The painting was done with bone or wood sticks that were dipped in naturally-occurring pigments.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

The women of the tribes often made designs while the men depicted scenes of war, hunting, other personal feats or historic events. Besides battles, the changing lifestyle of the Plains Indians and infusion of Euro-Americans was documented in the art – trains, covered wagons, guns, and even cameras.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

 

Ledger art began in the 1860s and continued to the 1930s and is experiencing a revival with a few contemporary Lakota artists today. It is called ledger art because instead of the paintings being on buffalo hides (which had become scarce from near extinction of the vast buffalo herds) the drawings were done on paper, often ledger book paper that was discarded by government agents, military officers, traders or missionaries. In addition to the new paper format, Plains artists also had access to pencils, pens, crayons and watercolor paints.

Ledger Paper medium


An 1884 crayon ledger drawing by Lakota artist Red Dog honoring the valor of a warrior named Low Dog.

Noted Lakota artists include Black Hawk and Sitting Bull. Black Hawk, in an effort to feed his family during the very harsh winter of 1880-81, agreed to draw a series of 76 pieces of art for an Indian trader that depicted one of Black Hawk’s visions. He was paid 50 cents a drawing. That book of 76 drawings sold in 1994 for nearly $400,000 dollars. Although not technically ledger art since the drawings were on new lined paper, not ledger paper, Black Hawk’s work are one of the finest examples of that style of Lakota art. Two examples of that series are shown below.

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Contemporary Lakota artist Alan Monroe uses traditional ledger-style designs on rabbit skins.

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe


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The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather of the Dine’ (Navajo)

The Dine’, more commonly known as the Navajo, is the largest American Indian nation in North America.

The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather is part of their creation stories and teachings.

 

Sacred Talking Prayer Feather by Alan Nash, Navajo

 

 

 

Feathers are beings and represent many beliefs. These beings, as birds and their feathers, are used to guide and control a person’s mind and body.

 

The eagle helps to heal and guide; the eagle’s feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. The eagle feather is called the Sacred Talking Prayer Feather and is used in various ceremonies for physical as well as social healing.

At one time, eagle feathers were put in a moccasin to protect the wearer and give guidance and swiftness.

 

Because it is illegal to own or sell eagle feathers, today Sacred Talking Prayer Feathers and other Native American feathers and fans are made using natural turkey feathers or white turkey feathers than have been hand painted to look like an eagle feather.

 

Hand Painted Feather Hair Tie by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

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Native American Pipes – The Sacred Pipe

The Sacred Pipe
©  2010 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information

The pipe figures into Native American culture in many ways and for each culture there are different uses and traditions. The intent of this article is not to provide a comprehensive explanation of the sacred significance of the pipe in Native American cultures, but to just offer a brief idea of how pipes have been and are used by Native Americans.

On first contact with Native Americans, the French used the word “calumet” [from the Latin “calamus”, for reed] to refer to the sacred pipe. Early pipes of the Miami and Illinois were hollow canes decorated with feathers.

The Lakota sacred pipe, the chanunpa, is an important part of healing ceremonies conducted by medicine men. Once a pipe is made, it must be blessed in a special ceremony that connects it to the original sacred pipe that was brought to the Lakota by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. This is to ensure that a good spirit resides in the pipe.

Lakota Catlinite T Pipe

The Sacred Calf Pipe bundle is the most sacred object of the Sioux. It was brought to them by a messenger (White Buffalo Calf Woman) from wakan tanka (the holy being, the great mystery, the source of all healing).

The sacred pipe of the Osage is the Niniba.

Pipes currently in use by the Plains Indians are made of a catlinite bowl and a separate wooden stem, usually made of alder or ash.

Ash Pipe Stem

The bowl can be a simple L shape or a T shape or can be a carving of an effigy or other symbol.

Catlinite L Shaped Bowl

The primary source of Catlinite is in Minnesota along Pipestone Creek which is a tributary of the Big Sioux River. This area under control of the US National Park Service is now named Pipestone National Monument. Native Americans can apply for a permit to quarry catlinite there. Catlinite is named for the New York artist George Catlin (1796-1872), who was the first white person to visit the Minnesota quarry from which it was obtained.

Catlinite, a very deep red stone, is symbolic of blood of the ancient people and the buffalo.

Catlinite Double Eagle Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

Although the words catlinite and pipestone are often used interchangeably, there can be a great difference in the two stones. Catlinite, with its dark red color and exceptional ability to be carved, is only found in the Minnesota mine. Pipestone found elsewhere in the US and the world has a different composition, is often a pale terra cotta color, and cannot be carved like catlinite.

Using a Pipe
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The bowl and stem are separated and carried along with a tamper, the smoking mixture and other smoking accessories in a bag or pouch.

Each person has their own ritual about handing and smoking their pipe. It usually starts by smudging (purifying) the pipe and all of its parts and accessories in the smoke of sage, sweet grass, pine or cedar.

Once the pipe has been purified, the stem is connected to the bowl, the stem being viewed as male and the bowl as female.

Important – How to insert the stem into the pipe.

CAUTION – Never roughly jam the stem insert into the pipe hole. If you force the insert into the barrel, you could break the pipe.

Instead. . .
Moisten the insert with your lips. Insert the stem into the pipe barrel and gently give it ¼ turn. This will give the stem a good hold on the inside of the barrel. The slight moisture will swell the stem insert slightly which results in a snug fit.

If you treat a pipe with respect, it will last a long time.

A certain number of pinches of the smoking mixture are added to the bowl in ceremony. Each pinch is smudged before loading in the bowl. (Read about smudging.)

The smoking of the pipe generally consists of puffing on it, not inhaling it. It is viewed as a means of sending one’s prayers to the Great Spirit and making a connection between the earthly world and the spiritual world.

As the pipe is passed, one holds the pipe in the left hand while using the right hand to wave the smoke over the top of one’s own head as a blessing. When speaking to the Great Spirit, often the stem of the pipe is pointed toward the sky.

In the hands of a medicine man, his sacred pipe is full of mysterious power and able to accomplish many things for the health, safety and well-being of his people.

When smoking is finished, the pipe is again treated with great respect as the bowl is cleaned, the stem is detached from the bowl, the pipe is blessed and stored in its special bundle or pouch.

Catlinite Horse Effigy Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

Storing a Pipe
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According to Native American tradition, once a pipe has been smoked and blessed the first time, the bowl and stem of the pipe should only be joined for smoking. When they are joined, during smoking, the spirit of the pipe is released. After the ceremony, the bowl should be separated from the stem and they should be stored that way. If you store or display a pipe with the stem and bowl connected, the spirit is free to roam.

Raven Effigy Catlinite Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

The Offering Pipe
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The Offering Pipe is a small scale, less expensive version of the Sacred Pipe and is meant to be used as an offering or give-away.

Catlinite Offering Pipe by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

In many cultures, offerings are left at sacred sites and as a gift to the Spirits. In Native American culture, offerings might be left each time someone passes a certain way or takes water from a spring or stones from a mine. An offering can also be left for a person (alive or dead) or for a Spirit as a symbol of thanks and respect. The offering might be tobacco, food, money, flowers, craftwork or special objects. When a person goes on a Vision Quest the pipe that he smoked during that time would be one of the greatest offerings he could make to the Spirits. The Offering Pipe by Alan Monroe is perfect for such uses. When left as an offering, the pipe is separated from the stem and traditionally wrapped in red cloth which represents the red road or the good path. The bundle can be tucked in a rock crevice or a tree at the appropriate location.

A Give-Away Pipe also has tradition in Native American culture. When someone dies, there is a ceremony similar to a wake where people come to pay respects to the departed. Sometimes an Offering Pipe is placed in the casket for burial with the deceased. (See above.) Also, the family passes out gifts to family and friends at this time as a symbol of the tradition of giving away some of the deceased’s belongings. This is where a Give-Away pipe might be used.

A year after the person has passed, a feast is held in the person’s honor and the rest of the person’s belongings are given away. This is another instance where a Give-Away pipe would be suitable to exchange between family and friends of the deceased.

Choosing a Pipe
©  2010 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information

If you are looking for an Offering Pipe or Give-Away Pipe, see above.

For a personal pipe, generally the L-shaped bowls are thought to be for a woman, a single man or for an everyday smoking pipe.

The T-shaped bowls are for a man or a family pipe. The nose of the pipe represents a man coming of age.

The animal effigy pipes are for those who have aligned with a particular animal spirit.

Horse Effigy Pipe from Catlinite by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

The pipes we sell at Horsekeeping.com are new pipes. They have not been smoked or blessed.

Thank you to Alan Monroe, fourth generation Oglala Lakota pipe maker from South Dakota, for his amazing high quality pipes and works of art and for some of the information used in this article.

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