Marc and I were rather surprised when we were initially looking at purchasing Kelly Place, to find that they were selling fetishes. We were from San Diego—What did we know….?
For those of you (like us) who are unfamiliar with Native American fetishes, here is the scoop:
The Zuni people (northern New Mexico) have, in their tradition, picked up stones which remind them of particular types of animals. Over time, they began to modify the stones, shaping them to more closely resemble the animals. Now, there is an entire generation of artists who carve, inlay and shape a wide variety of rock types to represent many different kinds of animals and also corn maidens. These are not objects of worship, but objects meant to convey a particular trait such as strength or wisdom in honor of or to assist the owner in this characteristic. It brings the characteristics associated with the animal to the owner. Others are meant to remind the owner of or bring some connection to a particular aspect of life such as the energy of the earth or the web of life.
This bear is carved from turquoise by Farlan and Paulette Quam. The bear is a popular fetish animal. It is the protector and symbolizes physical strength, leadership, and the wild, untamable side of humanity.
We at Kelly Place are proud to offer a variety of unique Zuni fetishes in our gift shop. They grow on you. Sometime I have a hard time parting with certain ones (like this bear!). I have resolved to keep aside my personal favorites and let the others go to good homes. They are ideal gifts when traveling because they are small and most will not break easily. Furthermore, even if you have a collection, you can always find different interesting animals, made from different types of beautiful stone, and carved uniquely by an artist.
Each artist has his or her own recognizable style. Jayne Quam does the most beautiful and intricate inlaid pieces. Herbert Halate’s smooth organic style is unmistakable in black jet. I often suggest that a buyer search the web for the artist who carved their fetish. It is interesting to see the faces of the artists and the other pieces they have created.
Corn maidens are different from the animal fetishes. They usually have two sides—one a younger side and the other a more mature. Often, the corn with which they are associated is also shown as younger and more mature. Most of them are made from turquoise and the carving is exquisite. The legend is that the corn maidens brought the corn and saved the Zuni people from starvation.
Other Native American tribes are carving fetishes too, but they are not held in as high a regard as the Zuni fetishes. The Zunis are the best carvers of fetishes.
For more information, you can refer to these historic articles by Frank Cushing:
or these articles and books about Zuni: