Zuni Fetishes: Using Native American Sacred Objects for Meditation, Reflection, and Insight


The Zuni have traditionally used small stone carvings of animal figures as power objects and mediators between themselves and the spirit world. Any object that has special meaning can be used as a fetish. In this fascinating, informative, and beautifully illustrated guide to the fetishes of the Zuni people of New Mexico, Hal Zina Bennett explores key principles of Native American spirituality and how early Zuni teachings can benefit us all today. He provides an excellent guide to Zuni traditions and an intriguing...

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The Zuni have traditionally used small stone carvings of animal figures as power objects and mediators between themselves and the spirit world. Any object that has special meaning can be used as a fetish. In this fascinating, informative, and beautifully illustrated guide to the fetishes of the Zuni people of New Mexico, Hal Zina Bennett explores key principles of Native American spirituality and how early Zuni teachings can benefit us all today. He provides an excellent guide to Zuni traditions and an intriguing picture of their early life, along with detailed instructions for using fetishes for mediation, reflection, and insight in modern life. He describes key fetish figures, including the Guardian of the Six Regions, their legendary meanings, and the personal qualities each figure can support and help its owner develop.

In explaining the nature of fetishes and the psychological and spiritual benefits that we can gain from their use, Bennett provides illuminating cross-cultural comparisons, stimulating exercises, and journaling opportunities.

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What People Are Saying

Hal Zina Bennett

From the Author:

Animals have been teaching us the sacred ways for at least 20,000 years. In Earth-based cultures our quiet observance of creatures in the wild transform us. Stripped of the illusions of human ego, our animal companions reconnect us with the spiritual essence of life in its natural state. More than that, their behavior becomes a mirror for better understanding our own lives. Centuries ago the Zuni people developed a sophisticated way of working with animal spirits as teachers. They use small stone carvings to remind us of the spiritual essence of whatever animals we choose or which offer themselves as our teachers. When I wrote the book I had been using fetishes for about 20 years and they had become part of my spiritual practice. Like Runes, Tarot Cards, or the I Ching, they reconnect us with our own inner wisdom and with the Universal Flow of our lives. This book was born after articles I published in Shaman's Drum magazine came to the attention of Harper Collins publishers. The book is now in its 9th printing, and judging by the comments from readers it has been helpful for a wide range of folks, from every walk of life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062500694
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1993
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 705,083
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Hal Zina Bennett, Ph.D., is a lecturer, consultant, and the author or co-author of twenty-seven books, including The Lens of Perception, The Well Body Book (with Mike Samuels, M.D.), The Holotropic Mind (with Stanislav Grof, M.D.), and Follow Your Bliss (with Susan J. Sparrow). He is also a contributing editor to Shaman's Drum magazine

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Council Of Humans,Fetishes, And Gods

To find the center and live in balance, you've got to jump out of your skin.Look at the world through the clear eyes of the soaring Eagleand the blind eyes of burrowing Mole.
— Awahakeewah

It Was 4:00 A.M. The light of the new day was only now reaching the edge of the desert, so the morning was still cool. The old woman, Red Deer, sat under the piñon tree at the side of her tiny house. On the ground in front of her, she bad made a little circle of rock figures. There were six figures in all, none much bigger than a baby fist. Each one was crudely carved. Long ago, maybe as long as a hundred years before, someone had taken rocks whose natural shapes had suggested the bodies or heads of animals. The fetish maker had then used a blade of flint to scrape notches in the stone to suggest a leg or a mouth or the crook of a neck. Time had polished the rock figures so that now they were smooth and shiny, the way they might be if the waters of a swift mountain stream had washed over them for many years.

Two of the rock figures, Mountain Lion and Wolf, had eagle feathers and heads of turquoise and coral tied to their backs with rawhide that was brittle with age. These two had belonged to Red Deer's grandfather and perhaps to her great-grandfather before that, and Red Deer could not look upon them without thinking of her many ancestors and how she stood in a wide stream of ancient wisdom that flowed through the middle of all life.

Red Deer sat facing north. Now she looked down and spoke thenames of each fetish as if to get its attention. "Yellow Lion, listen to me, " she said. Then, "Listen, Black Bear! Listen, Badger! Listen, White Wolf! Listen, Crowned Eagle! Listen, Earth Digger!"

The old woman addressed each of her six rock figures in turn, greeting them as one might greet a respected teacher. Then she took the one she called Black Bear into her hand, pressed it close to her lips, breathed on it for a moment, and then sucked, drawing spiritual sustenance from it. She set Black Bear back in the circle and reached into a small bowl that she had brought with her from the kitchen. She withdrew a handful of corn kernels. She placed two or three kernels in front of each animal as an offering, then looked up at the sky. She closed her eyes and sang. The words to her song were simple: "We walk with the ancients. Yes, yes, most certainly the ancients listen."

She hummed to herself, eyes closed, smiling. As she did, she felt the presence of Marie, her eldest daughter, whom she called White Running Wolf because as a child she had run so beautifully and so fast. In races with the other children at school, she had always won. She ran faster than the boys in her class, which had made many of the boys angry but which had made Red Deer very proud.

White Running Wolf lived a long way away now, in New York City, where Red Deer had never been and was afraid to go. White Running Wolf, who was called by her white name, Marie Sanchez, was a nurse in the surgery department of a large hospital in the middle of the city. Last night Red Deer had a troubling dream about her daughter. She had dreamed that White Running Wolf was grieving the loss of a friend whom she had loved deeply. Her daughter's grief tore at Red Deer's own heart, and she wanted to bring peace and healing to both of them.

Red Deer spoke with the fetish she called Crowned Eagle, who told her he would fly to White Running Wolf's home and comfort her in her grief. He would remind her that her grief would pass, and she would soon be free to return to her work of helping people at the hospital.

Red Deer then spoke with Yellow Lion. He told Red Deer that she had taught her daughter well and that White Running Wolf did not need her to be her guardian anymore. Although Red Deer's prayers would help, her daughter was strong and would know the medicine for healing the pain she felt in her heart.

Black Bear offered Red Deer comfort for her own heart, reminding her that when winter came it marked a time to be silent within, to wait for the new life that would come after Mother Earth's long sleep. The darkness and cold in her daughter's heart would soon pass, and by spring her mourning period would be over Red Deer should not be concerned but should remember that her own strength would go to White Running Wolf, carried by Crowned Eagle, if she simply trusted in her daughter to heal the wound of the great loss she had suffered.

When she had finished talking with her fetishes, Red Deer wrapped them in a buckskin cloth worn smooth by the years and tied up the bundle with a leather thong. Then she put her bundle in a clay pot, the fetish jar that had been shaped by her great-grandmother's hands long ago, and placed it carefully under her bed.

"When Red Deer's children were growing up and living at home with her, they had made fun of her when she spoke to "her rocks, " as they called the fetishes. But talking with them always brought Red Deer comfort and gave her strength. She let her children tease her, but she also told them that speaking with the fetishes helped her to remember the wisdom of the ancients.

Zuni Fetishes. Copyright © by Hal Zina Bennett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    For New Zuni Fetish Collectors

    Very good detail descriptions on the Zuni Animal Fetishes and their lore. A 'must read' for beginner collectors and a good read for established collectors to renew their knowledge on the subject.

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