Native Indian Tribe

Definition of Fetishism: What is Fetishism? Fetishism is a subsidiary branch of the belief in Animism that encompasses the doctrine that spirits or supernatural power embody, attach or convey influence through, certain animals or material objects. Some animals are believed to empower a person or group with the associated trait of an animal.

Certain animals are believed to empower a person or group with the associated trait of an animal. Fetishes were commonly used in Native American Religion and practices. In the belief of Fetishism the beaver represented the builder and keeper for family unity, the raven was the healer, the mountain lion was the warrior, and the wolf was the pathfinder. All Southwestern Native American tribes make, and use, fetishes and adhere to the belief in Fetishism .

Fetishism and Animism - Animal Totems and their Meanings
Many Native American Indian tribes hold the belief that their people have animal totems that are spirit guides who might appear in dreams, or Vision Quests, in the form of an animal. These Animal Totems, or spirit guides, walk through life with the people, teaching and guiding them, and in some instances protecting them. The Animal Totems adopted by many Native American tribes are detailed in Tribal Totems. Animal Totems also included supernatural creatures of mythology and legend, such as the Thunderbird, all of which had a special meanings, characteristics and significance.

Fetishism - Animal Fetish Meanings and Significance
Each animal fetish had a special meaning, characteristics and significance. The following chart details many of the Animal fetishes used by Southwest Native Indian Tribes. The meanings of each of the Animal fetishes are also detailed, although there might be some regional and tribal variations to their symbolism and meanings.

  • Armadillo: Keeper of the Home: Methodical, accurate, slow and steady
  • Badger : Guardian of the South: Bold, out-going, good communicator
  • Bat : Guardian of the Night: Death and Rebirth
  • Beaver: Guardian of the Family: Creative and Artistic ability, builder, resourcefulness and determination
  • Bear: Guardian of the West: Strength, Solitude, Motherhood, Teaching
  • Butterfly: Guardian of Change: Represents transformation and the ability to accept change
  • Coyote: Hunter of the West: Helps you recognize your own mistakes, Stealth, Clowning and Humor
  • Crow: Keeper of the Sacred Law: Find balance living in present, release past beliefs, Skill and Cunning
  • Deer: Custodian of Gratitude: Healing, Gentleness, kindness & compassion
  • Dog: Guardian of Loyalty: Guidance, Loyalty and trust
  • Eagle: Guardian of the Skies: Great Strength, courage Leadership and Prestige
  • Elk: Guardian of Bravery: Bravery, agility and independence
  • Falcon: Keeper of Harmony: Soul Healing, Speed and Movement
  • Frog: Bringer of News: Spring & New Life, Sensitivity, Communicator, Stability
  • Hawk: Messenger of the gods: Guardianship, Strength, Far Sighted
  • Horse: Keeper of Partnerships: Energy, Power, Message carrier, communicates with other realms
  • Hummingbird: Guardian of Time: Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger and Stopper of Time
  • Lizard: Guardian of Hope: Awareness, Conservation, subconscious hopes and fears
  • Moose: Bringer of Long Life: Headstrong, Balance and Longevity
  • Mouse: Guardian of Diligence: Observant qualities and diligence
  • Otter: Keeper of Laughter: Feminine Power, Playful, Trusting, Inquisitive, Bright, Loyal and speedy
  • Owl: Protector of the Home: Wisdom, silent and swift, ability to see things normally, a creature of the night
  • Raven: The Healer: Creation & Knowledge - Bringer of the Light
  • Porcupine: Power of Faith: Safety and Protection
  • Snake: Power of Transformation: Rebirth, Resurrection, Initiation and Transformation

  • Turtle: Guardian of Mother Earth: Self-Reliance, Tenacity, Slow Progress
  • Wolf: The Pathfinder: Intelligence & Leadership

Fetishism - Animal Fetish Meanings and Significance
Representations of fetishes are made into small amulets or charms used for protection and healing and made from various materials by many different Native American Tribes. These objects serve a ceremonial purpose and depict animals and icons integral to the culture of tribe of the artisan. The fetish objects are believed to have supernatural energies that can help their owners. The Zuni Southwest Indian tribe is particularly associated with the belief of Fetishism and for their stone fetishes. The Zuni believed that the fetishes were real animals that had been turned to stone by the sons of the Sun Father and that their life force was still inside the stone making fetishes extremely powerful. The following items provide a list of materials used to represent animals and create fetishes:

  • Various stones and crystals including turquoise, limestone and alabaster
  • Wood
  • Clay
  • Feathers
  • Sea shells
  • Fur
  • Leather

Fetishism is encompassed in a range of Native American Beliefs
Fetishism is not a religion as such but is mixed with other beliefs such as Animism, that, taken as a whole have strong religious connotations. The idea and concept behind Fetishism, and the belief of Animists, is that people have a spiritual connection or kinship with animals and some supernatural creatures. Fetishism was part of a range of beliefs of the Native American Indians especially the Southwest Indian tribes that also included:

  • Ritualism & Ceremonialism the use of ancient practises, rituals and ceremonies to further existing beliefs - refer to Animal Totems and Power Animals
  • Totemism - Totemism was practiced by Northwest Indian tribes and centered around the belief of having a natural object or animate being, such as as a bird or animal, as the emblem of a family, clan, or tribe. Totemism encompassed a system of tribal organization according to their totems
  • Animism - Animism is a belief based on the spiritual idea that the universe, and all natural objects within the universe, have souls or spirits. It is believed that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, trees, rocks etc.
  • Shamanism - A range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world in which a religious leader, like a Shaman, enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community including sickness - refer to Spiritual Healing

The concepts of Fetishism, Totemism, Ritualism, Animism and Shamanism should all be considered to gain a full understanding of the religious beliefs of the Native American tribes who practised Fetishism.

Native American Culture
Native Indian Tribes Index

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