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
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
NATIVE AMERICAN CEREMONIAL AND DANCE RATTLES
© 2010 Cherry Hill
Native American rattles have been and are used for many purposes including healing and other medicine uses, dancing for ceremony and celebration, commemorating birth and more. To First Nations people, shakers or rattles represent rain (for prayers of abundance and prosperity) and tears, especially those of emotional release. Tears of joy signifying when the mind, body, soul and spirit connect. Ceremonially, rattles are used in cleansing and purifying, spiritual guidance work, celebration and in thanks and respect to Ancestral Spirits.
Rattles can be made of many materials including deer and elk hooves, rawhide, turtle shells, gourds, wood, buffalo parts (horn, hump bone, scrotum) bones, horns and antlers of all kinds, leather (cowhide, buckskin, elkskin).
The rattling items are either inside or outside. Rattles such as gourds might have small items inside such as beans, corn, small stones, or even the seeds native to the gourd itself.
Rattles with external sound makers are adorned with pieces of metal, tinkle cones, bells, beads and more.
Generally, medicine rattles are made entirely of natural materials and the sound is more muted. Dance rattles are made of almost any materials, natural and otherwise. In fact, unusual items such as pieces of scrap metal, coins and other resonating materials are used to create a loud, crisp sound. Dance rattles are often made like a coup stick, using bone or wood with a handle on the end.
Native American Symbols – The Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel, or Circle of Life, is found in many tribes and in many parts of the world, but there are beliefs common to them all. The compass points North, South, East and West give four directions. Mother Earth is below and Father Sky is above, giving six directions. These six directions are also symbolized by animal fetish carvings.
The circle shape represents life. We change like the seasons as we pass through life, traveling through the path of the circle. The center of the circle is the Spirit, from which everything extends and everything returns.
Below are some general beliefs about the colors, animal totems and uses of the medicine wheel. Various tribes have different versions of the medicine wheel as to which color should be located where and what it represents. Every tribe and every person has their own beliefs and you should use what best fits what you believe.