One Huge Zuni Animal Fetish

1 comment Apr 4, 2017
I was inspired to share this story with you after a trail ride to Eagle Rock in California.
This is a natural rock formation that looks just like an eagle. 
You can read about my horseback ride to Eagle Rock HERE.
Years ago I knew an Indian man named Ernie. This man was Apache, Zuni and Navajo. He had an upholstery shop and in the very back of this shop he sold Indian art and turquoise. He always had sage burning in his shop, which of course made all of the upholstery fabric smell like smoke. I always wondered about that. 
One day I went to see him to buy turquoise. Sometimes, if he was in a good mood, he would let me buy from his personal stash that was kept out of sight in another room. He had the best stuff! I got my first Mark Chee bracelet from him and better than that, I learned a lot from him. 
On this particular day I was wearing my latest find the I kept for my personal collection. That would be the necklace pictured below.  It has huge turquoise nuggets and hand made black pottery bird beads. The pendant is a natural found stone in the shape of a bird. That stone happens to be a meteorite. 
When Ernie saw my necklace he was stunned. He knew that the stone was a meteorite and told me that it was a very powerful totem.  In fact he immediately pulled a small simple shaped meteorite from his pocket. He told me that he had found his in AZ not far from the meteor crater when he was young that the he has always carried it with him. He said that it was powerful medicine. 
He told me that before the Zuni people started to actually carve animal fetishes, they had to be a found by chance and had to be made a particular shape by nature. If a natural animal totem came to you in this way, that animal totem or spirit had a lesson or a message for you. Ernie felt that my meteorite totem was the crow. Crow represents:  Magic, shape shifting, change, creativity, spiritual strength, intelligence, energy and higher perspective. Ok, cool. I like that. 
He then went on to tell me about the black bird beads. I had assumed that they were of a clay called barro negro, a black clay found in Oaxaca, Mexico. He told me that they indeed were not, they were Zuni and made of powder. I asked him to describe this "powder". After a bit of a communication struggle I understood, but was very surprised. He said that meteorites were collected from all around the crater and the black fusion layer from the outside of these stones was carefully scraped into a powder.  (In the world of meteor collection this is a big no-no.) This powdered fusion layer was collected and added to clay which turned it black. He said that he remembered doing this when he was a kid with his family. Of course I wondered about this story so soon as I got home, I grabbed a magnet and I'll be darned! They were magnetic! Perhaps this was from the iron that was scraped into the powder. 
So when I saw this huge natural rock shaped like an eagle, I thought of Ernie and my lesson on fetishes. 
Now regarding fetishes, you can find them as a free standing figure or as a piece of jewelry with the necklaces being the most popular. As with most things, I prefer the vintage as there are so many fakes on the market today. 
I am not going to go into great depth with this here in this post because it's easy to google most of this information. 
I will share that there is much symbolism with Zuni fetish animals. They represent the 6 sacred directions. North, South, East, West, Up and Down.  Each direction has a color. North is Yellow, West Is Blue, South is red, East is white, the sky is multi-colored and earth color is black. 
Each direction also has a totem animal. 
North Is the mountain lion, West is the bear, South is the badger, east is the wolf, The sky is the eagle and the earth is the mole.
So how cool was it that we climbed the hills to a beautiful place with a big blue sky and a natural eagle fetish?
I also learned from Ernie that when there is an arrowhead tied to the top of an animal fetish it has to do with the success in hunting that particular animal. This is because there are "prey gods" and "gods of the hunt". This is quite involved and precise. One can google this or research this on wikipedia if one desires to go into great depth on the subject. 
Notice that the large mole below on the left is missing an animal. Can you guess which one? 
You were right, the Eagle!
Carved Zuni fetishes are very highly collected. Some collectors are very particular about which animals and what colors those animals are when purchasing pieces. I think that it would be kind of cool to learn one's own totem animals and wear a necklace with one of each of those totem animals represented. The pieces shown here are from my private collection, but I do offer good pieces as I find them on my website. I sometimes find Santo Domingo and other pueblo tribe fetish pieces as well. 
By the way, this is the Meteor Crater in Az. I was there many years ago and hiked all the way around it. I never found one meteorite. But, I did take a magnet and the sand there is filled with magnetic particles. I highly recommend visiting this magic place, just not in the heat of the summer like I did. 
Photo courtesy of
That's all for now. Thanks for sharing my new discovery of the giant eagle fetish and my fond memories of lessons with Ernie. 
❤️  Linda

1 comment

  • Bonnie J. Panzer April 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I love your story about Ernie. Learned so much!

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