word "fetish" can be broadly applied to a number of
Native American ceremonial artifacts, including peace pipes, prayer
sticks, medicine bags, and so on. But today the word is most often
used to mean an animal carving, usually in stone, which houses
the spirit or supernatural qualities of that animal. Native
Americans have great reverence for the unseen world, believing
everything contains spirit. Fetishes, amulets and talismans are
related; all may be used to invoke protection, luck, fertility,
abundance and healing. The use of fetishes by Native Americans
dates to pre-Columbian times. Fetish use is as prevalent today
fetish carving is unique and distinctive in color, markings and
shape. The great variability in the matrix of the natural material
combines with the artistry of the carver to create a special personality.
Fetishes are sometimes embellished. Arrows, with beads of shell,
turquoise and coral, or bundles of parrot feathers are often used.
Certain animals may be carved with a heartline, a lightening bolt
of inlaid stone or shell, which runs from the mouth of the fetish
to the heart center, representing the spirit essence.
Americans consider those things that are the least understood
and most mysterious as the most sacred and powerful. Because their
ways can never truly be understood by humans, animals represent
unknown powers. As man tries to grasp forces which are beyond
his immediate control, he looks to animal spirits as a bridge
to the greater powers.