Common Zuni Fetish Carvings and their Meanings

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This ancient art form is rooted in complex Zuni religious beliefs. Zuni Fetishes are hand carved "animal totems" from the Zuni tribe in New Mexico. Fetishes were shaped from organic material to serve as abodes for spirits, and would impart their powers to those who carried them. The Zunis believe that the animal shares some of its traits with the bearer of a Fetish Carving. Each Zuni Fetish Animal has a different meaning and is used for different purposes. Today, fetishes have moved beyond their traditional forms and can be found in increasing variety.

The most traditional and powerful of the Zuni Fetishes are the animals of the Six Directions.

Fetishes of the Six Directions

I. Eagle (Guardian of the Upper Regions)

Direction of the Home of the High

Great Power and Balance, Dignity with Grace, Ability to See the “Big Picture”, Grace Achieved Through Knowledge and Hard Work, Intuitive and Creative Spirit, Respect for the Boundaries of the Regions, Connection with Higher Truths

II. Bear (Guardian of the West)

Direction of the Home of the Waters

Introspection (self-examination), Strength in the Face of Adversity, Healing, Introversion (withdrawal from the world), Solitude, Change, Management of Transitions, Communication Between Humans and Spirit

III. Wolf (Guardian of the East)

Direction of the Home of the Day

Loyalty, Insight and Revelation, Social and Familial Values, Clarity, Teaching and Learning, Instinct Linked with Intelligence, Inner Guidance, Expression of Personal Truths, Newness, Including New Choices

 IV. Mountain Lion (Guardian of the North)

Direction of the Swept or Barren Place

Personal Power, Territorialism, Intuitive Ability, Steadfastness, Inner Spirit, Bond With Higher Source, Resourcefulness, Loyalty or Dedication

 V. Badger (Guardian of the South)

Direction of the Place of the Beautiful Red

Aggressiveness, Single-mindedness, Antidote to Passivity or Victimization, Passion, Persistence in the Service of a Mission, Control, Groundedness and Knowledge of the Earth

 VI. Mole (Guardian of the Lower Regions)

Direction of the Home of the Low

Connection with the Energies of the Earth, Love Expressed in Nature, Knowledge of Herbs, Roots, Minerals, Seeds, Rivers, and Other Hidden Bounties of Earth, Sensitivity to Touch and Vibration, the Kinesthetic Sense, Ability to Turn Inward, Introspection and Blindness to All but Light and Dark in the Material World, Awareness of Subtle Energies and Influences


The Zunis have many other Fetish carvings. Here are a common few below with examples of each Fetish's traits:


Coyote –

Self-centeredness, Crazy Wisdom, Buffoonery, Arrogance , Vanity , Clownishness, Personification of the “Human Comedy”, Ability to Laugh at One’s Own Mistakes, The Antihero Whose Antics Make it Easier to See Ourselves, Puppet of the Gods, The “Trickster”, Clownishness

Snake –

Exploration of the Mysteries of Life, Elemental or Primitive Energy, Elusiveness, Zigzagging and Slithering Motion, Personification of Lightning

Raven –

Magic and Sorcery, Transformational Powers, Courage and Comfort with the Darkness, Guidance for Deeper Understanding of the Shadow Self

Falcon – Younger Brother of the Eagle

Power and Harmony, Ability to See the “Big Picture”, Intuitive and Creative Spirit, Grace Achieved Through Knowledge and Hard Work, Telepathic Communication with Other People or Animals

Owl – Night Bird

The Medicine of Sorcery, Communication Between Spiritual and Physical Realities, Link Between the Dark, Unseen World and the World of Light, Magical Transformation, Comfort With the Shadow Self

Rabbit –

Lucky, Playful “Trickster”, Crazy Wisdom, Irony Aimed at Getting Us to Look at Ourselves, Representative of the World of Illusion and Double Meanings, Paradox and Contradiction, Guile, Example of Living by One’s Wits

Fox – 

 Cleverness, Loyalty and Protectiveness of Family and Friends, Observational Skills, Ability to Disappear Into the Landscape, Clarity About the Value of Blending In 

Armadillo –

Variety in One’s Inner Life, Thick-skinned, Nocturnal, Gentle, Slow-moving, Reserved, Ability to Live in a Narrow Niche of its Own

Turtle – 

Symbol of the Earth (“Turtle Island”), Connection With the Center, Self-reliance, Tenacity, Nonviolent Defense, Skilled Navigator

Frog – 

Our Primordial Cousin, A Reminder of Common Bonds With All of Life, Singer of Songs That Celebrate the Most Ancient Watery Beginnings

Deer (Bison/Buffalo) – 

Ability to Sacrifice for the Higher Good, Grace and Appreciation for the Beauty of Balance, Moderation, Understanding of What’s Necessary for Survival, Power of Gratitude and Giving

 Horse –

Power, Expanding One’s Own Potential Abilities, Control of the Environment, Interspecies Communication, Awareness of Power Achieved With True Cooperation


SHOP for Zuni Fetishes

1 comment

  • Regina Mathews February 24, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    I inherited some native American fetishes one of them appeared to be made out of some kind of clay.. It has no indication of who made this. It is a bear fetish. The sand color has swiggly black lines on it. And has a bar of etchings cut into it. .I am uncomfortable with what I want to say next. When I placed it on the shelf. Over time since Christmas, it has moved a total of 3 times on its own. I took a white art pencil and drew a line around the fetish where I placed it on the shelf. No indication of it moving again. However I saw a small gray mass leaving the fetish and vanish. Was this a vessel for a spirit? Any idea who made it.?

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