Zuni Fetishes

According to the Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology as submitted by Frank Hamilton Cushing in 1881, and posthumously published as Zuni Fetishes in 1966, the Zuni world is made up of six regions or directions. At the center of each region is a great mountain peak that is a very sacred place. Yellow mountain to the north, blue mountain to the west, red mountain to the south, white mountain to the east, the multicolored mountain above, and the black mountain below.

Each direction is represented by a "Prey God", or guardian animal, and are listed by Cushing as follows: north—the yellow mountain lion, west—the black bear (represented by the color blue), south—the red badger, east—the white wolf, the sky or upper—the multicolored eagle, and the underground or lower—the black mole. Each prey god is the "guardian and master" of their region with the yellow mountain lion being the elder brother of all animals and the master and guardian of all regions. Each one of these regions contains an order of all the guardian animals, but the "guardian and master" of a particular region is the elder brother to all animals of that region. These guardians are considered as having protective and healing powers. They are held by the priests of the medicine orders as if "in captivity" and act as mediators between the priests and the animals they represent.

A second group of fetishes, the "Prey Gods of the Hunt", belonging to the Hunter Order, or Society, are given in the "prayer songs of the Sa-ni-a-kia-kwe". These guardian animals are the same as the original regions with the exception of the coyote, which replaces the bear; and the wildcat (or bobcat), which replaces the red badger (Cushing, 1994:20). Sa-ni-a-kia is the awakening of the fetish and subsequently the power of the hunter (Cushing, 1994:15).

Typically Zuni fetishes depict animals such as the wolf, badger, bear, mountain lion, eagle, mole, frog, deer, ram, and others. There are many more subjects of contemporary carvers that may include dinosaurs, for example, that would be considered non-traditional, or some insects and reptiles that are traditionally more integral to petroglyphs, symbolism, and the patterns of design in pottery, e.g. dragonflies and butterflies, water spiders, and lizards (See Bunzel,1929, and Young, 1988). Other animals, such as the horse, were carved mainly for trade. The Zuni was not a horse culture but their horse carvings were considered by the horse cultures to the north as having great power for the protection of their herds (Cushing, 1994, Bahti's Introduction).

Lema's Kokopelli Gallery offers a huge selection of Zuni Fetishes.

Zuni fetish carvings depict animals such as the lizards, badger, bear, mountain lion, eagle, frog, and others. The styles are as unique as the artists themselves, and there are many whose works are highly sought after by collectors.

Questions? Call: 435-259-5055
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