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About Zuni Fetish Carvings

Zuni Fetish carving bear by Bennie Bacy  Zuni fetishes usually depict animals, especially their eyes, claws, teeth, heightened senses and connection with elemental forces. These carvings are meant to evoke animal spirits who are the messengers of the Creator. Zuni fetishes and their power/protection animals also appear in jewelry, for example, the Zuni fetish necklace.

At Sunshine Studio, you’ll discover a wondrous collection of Zuni fetish carvings that will delight your eyes and move your spirit. Our art is primarily organized by artist, but you can also browse by animal, carving material or price.

When collecting, the cardinal rule is to purchase what speaks to you at some level. Collect carvings that move you and that you love. Discover the animals that make your heart sing. Investigate the many fantastic materials out of which Zuni fetishes are made. Find out about the artists who create your favorite pieces.

Zuni Fetish History and Use

The use of fetishes by the Zuni dates to before Columbus landed in the Americas. All Southwestern tribes use fetishes, but the Zuni have always had the reputation for being the most skillful at carving them. For this reason, all other tribes have always looked to authentic Zuni fetishes as their source for personal charms, talismans and amulets.

Some Zuni fetish carvings are extremely old tribal possessions and may have been handed down in a family for generations. The Zuni believe that these carvings were at one time live animals, which were turned to stone by a lightning bolt. These treasures are not carved, but were created by nature and are said to have a sacred power bestowed to them during the creation of the earth. Objects of cultural patrimony (religious significance) may not be sold under Native American Graves Protection Act Regulations (NAGPRA) and other related laws.

Zuni fetishes that are sold to the public are "cleansed," that is, have been approved for sale by the Zuni Pueblo. The Zuni Pueblo is the only tribe that actively pursues as a tribal matter the duality of market fetishes and (unsalable) religious objects.

Materials Used in Zuni Fetish Carvings

The materials used to carve fetishes include such traditional stones as turquoise, Picasso marble, sandstone, jasper, serpentine, alabaster and jet. Other materials include abalone, coral, mother-of-pearl and various shells. Artists even use more exotic stones such as labradorite, opal, chalcedony and fluorite. Turquoise carvings are typically rendered from a stabilized material, as natural turquoise is very difficult to carve, and fetishes of natural turquoise are easily broken.