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Zuni Fetishes From Frank Hamilton Cushing

The use of fetishes by Indians dates from pre-Columbian times but their use is probably as prevalent today as it was in the past, for man's desire to control those forces beyond his immediate power has not lessened. 

Of the Pueblo tribes the Zuni have the reputation for being the most skillful at carving fetishes. The Zunis are looked to as a source for personal charms & amulets by members of other tribes. Concretions, plant or animal material, and of course carvings in shell, stone or wood can all be used as fetishes but their purpose remains the same, to assist man, the most vulnerable of all living creatures in meeting the problems that face him during his life. Each fetish contains a living power, which, if treated properly and with veneration will give its help to its owner. Should a desired result fail to be attained the fetish is not at fault but the person who conducted the ceremony is. Either he offended the fetish(perhaps by failing to feed it ceremonially) or was not of "good heart" when he asked for its assistance. Because the power of a fetish is regarded as a living thing it must be carefully tended and ceremonially fed, usually with corn meal. The purpose for which fetishes may be used are varied: hunting, diagnosing and curing diseases, initiations, war, gambling, propagation, witchcraft, and detection and protection against witchcraft.

The difference between a fetish and a carving is purely a matter of belief. If a particular object is believed to possess power then it is a fetish. The collector is interested in form, material and age of a fetish; the Indian is interested in efficacy. These attitudes are culturally determined.



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