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).

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.

Are these Bird Fetish Necklaces Authentic Native American made?

Paula, we have bird fetish necklace and earrings to go with it (3 sets). The birds appear to be hand craved and detailed. We have done some research but are unable to find another necklace like this one instead of colored beads between the birds there are silver beads. Just trying to find out who made it and if it is authentic. It is in excellent condition as it has been stored away for years. Thank for your help. Tom

Is this authentic Native American made?

Close-up of bird necklace - Native American made??


Hi Tom,

I’ve never seen a Zuni or Navajo fetish necklace made with silver beads between the birds. And I’ve not seen birds carved in this particular shape before. With both of those things being said, it is possible that these could be an exception. However, from what I can see, I’m thinking they are not Native American made. I’m posting the photos so that if another reader has seen something like this from perhaps Mexico or the Philippines, you might get some feedback on these necklaces.

As your research has shown you, typically there is heishi made of penn shell, olive shell, turquoise, coral or other shell or stone material in between the carved animals. And in the case of birds, the two most common and traditional bird shapes are a longer general “song bird” or a hummingbird, some examples below.

Coral birds with coral heishi by Navajo Hector Goodluck

Turquoise Birds with turquoise heishi by Hector Goodluck, Navajo

Mixed Stone Hummingbirds with Penn Shell and Turqoise Heishi by Corrine Ramirez, Navajo

Orange Tip Olive Shell Birds with Olive Shell heishi and turquoise nuggets by James and Doris Coriz, Santo Domingo

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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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Happy Easter – Happy Rabbit Day – Zuni Bunnies

I’m up to my ears in marshmallow rabbits but I can never get enough of Zuni Bunnies !!

Rabbit Fetish by Lorvin Kiyite, Zuni

Rabbit Fetish by Kenny Chavez, Zuni

Dolomite Rabbit Fetish by Gordon Poncho, Zuni

Pipestone Rabbit Fetish by Chris Peina, Zuni

Happy Bunny Day !!

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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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Wanted – A Six Directions Fetish Necklace Set

Six Directions Fetish Necklace by David Yazzie, Navajo

Dear Paula,

My name is Erika and I am inquiring about a necklace and earring set that I saw on your website, however it said that it was already sold. I would like to know if it is, in anyway possible, to special order another one from the artist? I know that these are unique items, but this necklace was so wonderful and perfect, I thought it was worth the try!! The necklace was by Navajo artist David Yazzie and it was his Six Directions Fetish necklace with matching earrings.

I great appreciate your time and love your website!!!!

Thank  you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!

Erika

Hi Erika,

It just so happens that I do have one more set like that which I have not had the time to photograph and list yet………so it is yours !!

Each year when we come back from our annual buying trip, we have hundreds of items just waiting for us to have the time to get them up on the website.

Some of the rest of you have written about items and have already received them – that makes me happy !

So don’t hesitate to write me and ask if there is something you are looking for – it could likely be in in a tray next to the photo light box……in the queue to be photographed.

By the way, I just love the Six Directions necklace and the Six Directions in general, so I am so happy you asked.

Be sure to watch the NEW page.

Six Directions Zuni Fetishes

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