Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Zuni Fetishes

Zuni Fetishes are small (several cm long at most) carvings from various stones, made by the Zuni Indians. These carving serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators, or they can be sold to collectors worldwide. Typically they depict animals such as horses, wolves, bears, buffalo and others. Even insects may be the subject of the artist. Stones could be turquoise, fishrock, jasper, pipestone, marble, even artificial substances such as slag glass.
The artists’ styles are as unique as the artists themselves, and there are many whose works are highly sought after by collectors. Some carvers prefer a delicate, realistic figure that appears to stalk one from a shelf or curio cabinet, and others carve blocky, heavy styles more suitable to ride in a pocket.

Each animal is believed to have inherent powers or qualities that may aid the owner. The wolf for example, provides guidance through life's journeys, while the raven and the horse are thought to have the power to provide healing. A fetish in the shape of a horse might also be carried during travel in hopes of a safe, swift journey.
A fetish may be signed by the carver, or not. Often, though, a fetishes style will be enough to identify the carver as surely as any other mark would. A horse by Abby Quam, for example, is pretty unmistakable. Some carvers have parents, grand parents or children who also carve fetishes. Besides being made from various stones, (each stone also has unique properties) the fetish can be embellished with small beads of bright red coral, shell, or turquoise. They may carry a miniature arrowhead made from shiny abalone shell. These small items, although colorful to the eye, are intended to protect and feed the fetish itself.

On the subject of feeding, it is believed that the fetishes require a meal of cornmeal and ground turquoise periodically. Fetishes may be kept in a clay pot as it is the tradition, although collectors usually like to keep theirs somewhere where they can be admired. Any but the very delicate fetishes could be carried by the owner in a pocket, pouch or bag.

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