American Indians have used fetishes throughout recorded history, especially the Indians of the southwest. A fetish is a carving which is believed to have magic powers.Fetishes maybe of any form or material. Regardless of their material however, a fetish has one paramount purpose – to assist man against any real or potential problems which may be those of the mind, the body or the universe.
A fetish can be owned by an individual, a family, a clan; a kiva society or an entire tribe. Regardless of ownerships, the care of a fetish is always the responsibility of one person. Special care must be taken to see that the fetish is properly fed, admired and cared for. Fetishes are believed to feed on cornmeal while they are kept in a special pot or pouch. Ground turquoise is often mixed with the cornmeal.
A fetish is made and “decorated” with turquoise, arrowheads, coral, etc. as a means of adornment. This adornment is a show of affection and appreciation by its maker and/or owner. The better treatment a fetish receives, the better performance it is likely to provide.
Most fetishes relate to animals of prey. They are acknowledged as the most powerful providers in life, so they are likewise accepted as having the greatest powers. They are generally admired for their strong hearts. Many believe the strong heart makes them dominant and therefore, survivors; the hunter rather than the hunted.
The Zuni Indians of New Mexico believe strongly in six cardinal guardian fetishes. Each is symbolic of a direction and has its own specific color. The guardian fetish of the north is the mountain lion (yellow); the south (red) is the badger; the west (blue) is the bear and the east (white) is the wolf. Additionally, the mole is the guardian of the nadir or inner earth (black) and zepath is the eagle (all colored bird forms) guardian of the skies.
The power and strength of a fetish is obtained by placing the nostrils of the fetish to one’s mouth and taking deep breaths.”