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Zuni Fetish Animal Meanings

Note: These concise meanings were provided by the Zuni Tribal Information Center.

Fetishes are used by the Zuni primarily for hunting, protection and to ensure fertility. The Zuni believe that a spirit lives within the fetish, giving it its unique power.

Common animal fetishes include bears, moles, badgers, wolves, mountain lions, foxes, coyotes and birds. Less common fetishes include domestic creatures such as goats, sheep, horses and cows, as well as snakes, frogs and turtles. Real and symbolic figures such as corn maidens are often carved.

Tied to the back of many fetishes are medicine bundles, tightly bound with sinew. Coral in the bundle represents ocean life, blue represents birds, black represents night creatures, brown is earth and white is winter. Some fetishes have an inlaid stone arrow. It is called a lifeline or heart line. Beginning at the mouth where breath gives life, it points to the soul where faith and inner strength preside. The arrow that is placed on the fetish is given for protection and good luck. Zuni fetishes are not manufactured nor are they produced on demand. Each carving is a handmade work of art.

  • Armadillo: Slow and sure, in no hurry. Gets things right. Keeper of the home.
  • Badger: Independent and tenacious. May be sought out for healing based upon knowledge of herbs.
  • Bat: Guardian of the night, cleaner.
  • Bear: Symbolizes strength, introspection, a spiritual journey through life.
  • Beaver: Power of working and attaining a sense of achievement, builder. Family.
  • Bobcat: Knower of secrets, clairvoyance.
  • Buffalo: Symbolizes the endurance to overcome, great emotional courage, provider to all.
  • Butterfly: The art of transformation, the ability to know or to change the mind.
  • Coyote: The master trickster who tricks himself, laughter, humor, and foolishness.
  • Corn Maiden: Honored for nurturing her people with the flesh of her body, corn. 
  • Crow: The keeper of sacred law.
  • Deer: The power of gentleness loyalty, noble, a true and loyal friend.
  • Dolphin: Trust, loyalty, spirit of friendship.
  • Duck: Embodies the spirits of those who have passed on.
  • Eagle: Creator, teacher, loyalty, great integrity, spiritual connection to the great divine.
  • Elk: Teaches that pacing yourself will increase your stamina.
  • Fish: Purifier, character, ability to hide emotions.
  • Fox: Camouflage, ability to meld into one's surroundings and be unnoticed.
  • Frog: Bringer of rain, which symbolizes abundance and fertility.
  • Hawk: Messenger of the gods, reminds us to observe the obvious in everything we do.
  • Horned Toad: Self-reliance, longevity, protects ancestral country.
  • Horse: Swiftness, strength, enlightenment, possesses healing powers.
  • Hummingbird: Messenger, stopper of time.
  • Lizard: Conversation, agility.
  • Mole: Protector of the growing crops and underworld.
  • Moose: Headstrong, unstoppable, longevity.
  • Mountain Lion: Power of leadership, ability to lead without insisting others follow.
  • Mouse: Scrutiny, paying attention to detail.
  • Otter: Associated with laughter, curiosity, mischief.
  • Owl: Can see what others can't, provides the essence of true wisdom, symbolizes deception.
  • Parrot: Symbolizes the sun, as rainbows are the product of rain and sunlight.
  • Pheasant: Confidence, attraction, flamboyance
  • Porcupine: Embodies the power of faith and trust.
  • Quail: Sacred spirit, ceremonial, holy.
  • Rabbit: Virtue, serenity, low curiosity, quiet talent, restrained passion. The special guardian of women in childbirth, also associated with safe birth and long life for children.
  • Raccoon: Bandit, shy, resourceful.
  • Ram: Sense of self-worth, assures an increase in flocks.
  • Raven: magic, the messenger of the great mystery, a change in consciousness.
  • Seal: Family oriented, possesses power in numbers.
  • Sheep: Charity, elegance, passion. Best at the art. Talents bring riches.
  • Skunk: Very conspicuous, intense.
  • Snake: Power of creation, of transmutation, life, death, and rebirth.
  • Spider: Creative patterns of life.
  • Squirrel: Natural intelligence, saver, protects reserves.
  • Turkey: Smart, elusive, festive.
  • Turtle: Oldest symbol of Mother Earth, longevity, the art of grounding.
  • Wolf: Teacher, pathfinder, sharing of your knowledge, the never-ending journey.