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Zuni Bear Fetish


Traditional Zuni Artisan


In Zuni culture all beings—human, animal, and supernatural—belong to one system, but the human is the most complete being in this system.  Animals and supernatural elements are more powerful because they are mysterious and humans don’t understand their powers.  The Zuni use fetishes, such as the Bear Fetish shown below, to control and understand these powers and the supernatural world beyond.  The fetish are thought of as living things and are fed and cared for between ceremonies.  Fetishes are used for many different reasons. A popular use of fetishes is for hunting (note the arrowhead on the back of Bear Fetish below), protection from evil forces, healing, and tribal initiations.  The Bear Fetish is one of the six guardians against evil forces.  According to Zuni tradition, the bear guards the west, the mountain lion guards the north, the badger guards the south, the wolf guards the east, the eagle guards the sky (up), and mole guards the underground (down).  The fetish below was carved by a Zuni tribal member.