Zuni Fetiches
by Frank Hamilton Cushing
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a-thle-a-k'ia. Hom ta te-k'o-ha-na an[']-ik-tchi-a-nap-tu. O-ne (have) all To me thou light grant (meet) do. Trail addressed.

yaethl k'ok-shi hom ta tchaw' il-lue[']p o-na ya-k'ia-nap-tu. over good to me thou children together with, finish, do. trail


Si! This day, game animal, even though, for a day and a night, thy trail above (the earth) circled about—this day it has come to pass that I have embraced thee upward (from it). To thee here I address good fortune. To thee here I address the (sacred) pollen. To thee here I address treasure. By thy (magic) knowledge dressing thyself with this good fortune, with this yellow, with this treasure, do thou, in becoming a new being, converse with (or, of) my prayer as you wander to and fro.

That I may become unfailing toward the Game animals all, I have here addressed unto thee good fortune, the yellow and treasure.

Grant unto me the light of thy favor.

Grant unto me a good (journey) over the trail of life, and, together with children, make the road of my existence, do.

During the performance of these ceremonials the fetich is usually placed in a convenient spot to dry, and at their conclusion, with a blessing, it is replaced in the pouch. The hunter either seeks further for game, or making a pack of his game in its own skin by tying the legs together and crossing them over his forehead like a burden strap, returns home and deposits it either at the door or just within. The women then come, and, breathing from the nostrils, take the dead animal to the center of the room, where, placing its head toward the East, they lay on either side of its body next to the heart an ear of corn (significant of renewed life), and say prayers, which, though short, are not less interesting and illustrative of the subject than those already given, but which, unfortunately, I cannot produce word for word.

The fetich is returned to the Keeper of the Deer Medicine with thanksgiving and a prayer, not unlike that uttered on taking it forth, but which also I am unable to reproduce. It contains a sentence consigning the fetich to its house with its relatives, speaking of its quenched thirst, satisfied hunger, and the prospects of future conquests, etc.


It is believed that without recourse to these fetiches or to prayers and other inducements toward the game animals, especially the deer tribe, it would be useless to attempt the chase. Untrammeled by the Medicine of the Deer, the powers of the fetiches, or the animals of prey represented, the larger game is unconquerable; and no man, however great his endurance, is accounted able to overtake or to weary them. It thus happens that few hunters venture forth without a fetich, even though they belong to none of the memberships heretofore mentioned. Indeed, the wearing of these fetiches becomes almost as universal as is the wearing of amulets and "Medicines" among other nations and Indian tribes; since they are supposed to bring to their rightful possessors or holders, not only success in the chase and in war (in the case of the Warriors or Priests of the Bow), but also good fortune in other matters.

The successful hunter is typical of possession, since the products of his chase yield him food, apparel, ornament, and distinction. It is therefore argued with strange logic that, even though one may not be a hunter, there must exist a connection between the possessions of the hunter and the possessions of that one, and that principally through the fetiches. A man therefore counts it the greatest of good fortune when he happens to find either a natural or artificial object resembling one of the animals of prey. He presents it to a proper member of the Prey Brotherhood, together with the appropriate flint arrow-point and the desirable amount of ornaments (thla-a) for dressing (thle-a-k'ia-na) and finishing (i-ya-k'ia-na), as soon as possible.



The Priesthood of the Bow possesses three fetiches, two of which are of the We-ma-a-ha-i, (Plate X, Fig. 2, and Plate XI, Fig. 2.) The other is sometimes classed with these, sometimes with the higher beings, and may be safely said to form a connecting link between the idolatry proper of the Zunis and their fetichism. These three beings are, the Mountain Lion (Plate X, Pig. 2), the great White Bear (Plate XI, Fig. 2), (Aiņ-shi k'o-ha-na—the god of the scalp-taking ceremonials), and the Knife-feathered Monster (A-tchi-a lae-to-pa), (Plate X, Fig. 1).

This curious god is the hero of hundreds of folklore tales, and the tutelar deity of several of the societies of Zuni. He is represented as possessing a human form, furnished with flint knife-feathered pinions, and tail. His dress consists of the conventional terraced cap(representative of his dwelling-place among the clouds), and the ornaments, badge, and garments of the Ka[']-ka. His weapons are the Great Flint-Knife of War, the Bow of the Skies (the Rain-bow), and the Arrow of Lightning, and his guardians or warriors are the Great Mountain Lion of the North and that of the Upper regions.

He was doubtless the original War God of the Zunis, although now secondary, in the order of war, to the two children of the Sun mentioned at the outset.

Anciently he was inimical to man, stealing and carrying away to his city in the skies the women of all nations, until subdued by other gods and men of magic powers. At present he is friendly to them, rather in the sense of an animal whose food temporarily satisfies him than in the beneficent character of most of the gods of Zuni.

Both the Great White Bear and the Mountain Lion of the War Priesthood are, as well as the Knife-feathered Demon, beings of the skies. For this reason the fetich of the Mountain Lion of the skies (of aragonite) is preferred by a Priest of the Bow above all other kinds or colors. Unfortunately, none of the fetiches of this priesthood are to be found in the collections of the Bureau, and but one, with its pouch, has been reproduced from the original, which is in my possession. It was not presented to me with my other paraphernalia on the night of the final ceremonials of my initiation into the Priesthood of the Bow, but some months afterward when I was about to start on a dangerous expedition. At this time I was charged with carefully preserving it during life as my special fetich, and instructed in the various usages connected with it. The other was drawn from a sketch made by myself of a fetich in Zuni.

These fetiches—more usually of the Mountain Lion than of the others; very rarely of the Knife-feathered Demon—are constantly carried by the warriors when abroad in pouches like those of the Hunters, and in a similar manner. They are, however, not returned to the headquarters of the society when not in use; but, being regarded, with the other paraphernalia of their possessor, as parts of his Sa-wa-ni-k'ia, are always kept near him.


The perfect fetich of this order differs but little from those of the Hunters, save that it is more elaborate and is sometimes supplied with a minute heart of turkois bound to the side of the figure with sinew of the Mountain Lion, with which, also, the arrow-point is invariably attached, usually to the back or belly. The precious beads of shell, turkois, coral, or black stone, varied occasionally with small univalves from the ocean, are bound over all with a cotton cord. These univalves, theoliva (tsu-i-ke-i-nan-ne=heartshell), are, above all other shells, sacred; and each is emblematic of a god of the order. The wrist badges of the members are also made of these shells, strung on a thong of buckskin taken from the enemy. The arrow-point, when placed on the back of the fetich, is emblematic of the Knife of War (Sa-wa-ni-k'ia ae[']-tchi-en-ne), and is supposed, through the power of Sa-wa-ni-k'ia or the "magic medicine of war" (?) to protect the wearer from the enemy from behind or from other unexpected quarters. When placed "under the feet" or belly, it is, through the same power, considered capable of effacing the tracks of the wearer, that his trail may not be followed by the enemy.


The ceremonial observed by a Priest of the Bow, when traveling alone in a country where danger is to be apprehended from the enemy, may be taken as most illustrative of the regard in which the fetiches of his order are held.

Under such circumstances the warrior takes out his fetich from the pouch, and, scattering a pinch or two of sacred flour toward each of the four quarters with his right hand, holds it in his left hand over his breast, and kneels or squats on the ground while uttering the accompanying prayer:

Si! Lu-k'ia yaet-ton-ne, hom a-tae-tchu K'ia-pin-a-ha-i le-we Si! This day, my Fathers, Animal Beings, (all) thus much

i-na-kwe po-ti-tap-te hom ton te-hi-a-na-we. Ethl (by) enemies filled through me ye precious render Not (all do).

tel-i-kwen-te thlothl tchu-a i-na-kwe hom kwa'-hothl a-k'ia that (in any)way soever whom (of the) enemy my whatsoever with unexpected

a-tsu-ma-na-wam-i-k'ia-na. Lu-k'ia yaet-ton-ne hom to le'-na daring (existence) (pl.) shall. This day to me ye thus

[At this point, while-still continuing the prayer, he scratches or cuts in the earth or sands with the edge of the arrow-point, which is lashed to the back or feet of the fetich, a line about five or six inches in length].

ai[']-yael-la-na-wa. Ethl thlothl-tchu-a i-na-kwe shelter(pl.)shall give. Not that whomsoever (of the) enemy shield

i-pi-kwai-nam-tun a-k'ia hom ton ai-yael-la-na-wa. pass themselves through to hence to me ye shelter shield (pl.) shall (give),

[Here he scratches a second line.] Hak-ti-tae[']sh-a-na, Tail-long (Mountain Lion),

[scratches a third line.] Ae-tchi-a-lae[']-to-pa, [scratches a fourth Knife-feathered,

line] hom ton i-ke-i-nan ai-yael-la-na-wa. my ye heart shelter shield(pl.) shall give.

[These lines, although made immediately in front of the speaker, relate to the four points of the compass, the other two regions not being taken into account, since it is impossible for the enemy to bring harm from either above or below the plane on which the subject moves. It may be well to add, also, that four (the number of the true fingers) is the sacred numeral of the Zunis, as with most all Indian tribes and many other lower races.]


Si! This day, my fathers, ye animal gods, although this country be filled with enemies, render me precious. That my existence may not be in any way so ever unexpectedly dared by the enemy, thus, O! shelter give ye to me (from them). (In order) that none of the enemy may pass through (this line) hence, O! shelter give ye to me (from them). Long Tail [Mountain Lion], Knife-feathered [God of the Knife Wings], O! give ye shelter of my heart from them.

On the conclusion of this prayer the fetich is breathed upon and replaced, or sometimes withheld until after the completion of the war-song and other chants in which the three gods mentioned above are, with others, named and exhorted, thereby, in the native belief, rendering protection doubly certain. I am of course thoroughly familiar with these war chants, rituals, etc. They abound in archaic terms and are fraught with great interest, but belong more properly to another department of Zuni worship than that of the mere fetichism; as, indeed, do most other recitations, chants, etc., of the War society, in any way connected with this worship.

Before following the trail of an enemy, on rinding his camp, or on overtaking and destroying him, many ceremonials are performed, many prayers are uttered, much the same as those described relative to the chase, save that they are more elaborate and more irrelevant to the subject in hand. As with the Hunter, so with the Warrior, the fetich is fed on the life-blood of the slain.




Among other specimens in the collection to which these notes relate are several pieces representing the horse and domesticated sheep, of which Plate IX, Figs. 3 and 4, are the best examples. Both are of Navajo importation, by which tribe they are much prized and used. The original of Fig. 3 represents a saddled pony, and has been carefully carved from a small block of compact white limestone veined like Italian marble. This kind of fetich, according to the Zunis, is manufactured at will by privileged members of the Navajo nation, and carried about during hunting and war excursions in "medicine bags," to insure the strength, safety, and endurance of the animals they represent.


Plate IX, Fig. 4, represents a superb large sheep fetich of purplish-pink fluorspar, the eyes being inlaid with small turkoises. Such are either carried about by the shepherds or kept in their huts, and, together with certain ceremonials, are supposed not only to secure fecundity of the flocks, but also to guard them against disease, the animals of prey, or death by accident.


In addition to the animal fetiches heretofore described, many others are found among the Zunis as implements of their worship, and as amulets or charms for a variety of purposes. The painted and plumed prayer-sticks are of this character.

The amulets proper may be roughly divided into three classes:

1. Concretions and other strange rock formations, which, on account of their forms, are thought to have been portions of the gods, of their weapons, implements, and ornaments, their te-ap-ku-na-we (the wherewithals of Being).

2. The sacred relics of the gods, which are supposed to have been given to man directly by their possessors, in the "days of the new," and include the "Gifts of the Gods" (yel-le-te-li-we).

3. The magic "medicines" which are used as protective, curative, and productive agencies, and are known as the e ta-we and a-kwa-we (the "contained" and the "medicines").

One object, a mere concretion, will have something about it suggesting an organ of the human body. (See, for example, Fig. 1.) It will then be regarded as the genital organ of some ancient being, and will be highly prized, not only as a means of approaching the spirit of the god to whom it is supposed to have once belonged, but also as a valuable aid to the young man in his conquests with the women, to the young woman in her hope to bear male children.

Again, certain minerals (Fig. 2), or fossils, etc. (Fig. 3), will be regarded as belonging to, or parts of, the gods, yet will be used as medicines of war or the chase, or by means of which water may be produced or crops stimulated, to say nothing of their efficacy as cures, or sources of strength, etc. For instance, Fig. 2 is of aragonite, hence referred to the Upper regions, and therefore valuable to give efficacy to the paint with which plume-sticks of rain prayers are decorated; while Fig. 3, from its shape, is supposed to represent the relic of the weapon or tooth of a god, and therefore endowed with the power of Sa-wa-ni-k'ia, and hence is preserved for generations—with an interminable variety of other things—in the Order of the Warriors, as the "protective medicine of war" (Shom-i-ta-k'ia). A little of it, rubbed on a stone and mixed with much water, is a powerful medicine for protection, with which the warrior fails not to anoint his whole body before entering battle.

These amulets and implements of worship are well illustrated in the National Museum, and the subject merits extensive treatment. The facts connected with them will throw much light upon the mental characteristics and beliefs of the Zunis. At some future time I hope to set this matter forth more fully.

* * * * *

NOTE.—It is to be regretted that the haste in which this paper was prepared by the author, before his departure for New Mexico, to resume his researches among the Zunis, made it impossible for him to discuss further this interesting subject. The abundant material in his possession, gained from actual membership in the order or society under discussion, would have rendered this comparatively easy under other circumstances.—Ed.


Amulets of the Zunis, 44 Animal carvings, worship, Zuni, 11 A[']shi-wa-ni or priests of Zuni, 12 A[']shi-wa or Zuni, 9 Bear fetich, White, Zuni, 40 Ceremonials of the hunt, Zuni, 33 Charmes of the Zunis, 44 Coyote fetich, Zuni, 26 Distribution of the animals; Zuni myth, 21 Drying of the world; Zuni myth, 13 Eagle fetich, Zuni, 29 Falcon fetich, Zuni, 30 Fetich ceremonies connected with hunting, Zuni, 33 , Coyote; Zuni hunter god of the west, 26 , Eagle; Zuni hunter god of the upper regions, 29 , Mole; Zuni hunter god of the lower regions, 30 , Mountain lion; Zuni hunter god of the north, 25, 40 , Navajo pony, 44 sheep, 44 , Wild cat; Zuni hunter god of the south, 27 , Wolf; Zuni hunter god of the east, 28 , Zuni falcon and ground owl, 30 ground owl and falcon, 30 knife feathered monster, 40 white bear, 40 Fetiches, Material used by Zunis in making, 25, 40 , Material used by Zunis in ornamenting, 25, 40 of Navajo origin, 44 , Zuni, 12 , Council of the, 32 , Custodianship of the, 30 of the prey gods of the hunt, 20 of the prey gods of the priesthood of the bow, 40 Fetiches, Zuni, of the prey gods of the six regions, 19 , Place of deposit of, 31 , Power of the, 15, 33 , Relative value of the, 30 Fetichism, Origin of Zuni, 12 God, Zuni hunter, of the east, 28 lower regions, 30 north, 25 south, 29 upper regions, 29 west, 26 Gods, Zuni prey, of the hunt, 20 priesthood of the bow, 40 six regions, 16 Hunting, Zuni ceremonials preceding, 33 Iliad, the Zuni, 12 Knife-feathered monster fetich, Zuni, 40 Lucas, J. D., Shell gorget collected by, 29 Medicine, Iroquois myth giving origin of, 18 Mi-tsi, Zuni myth of, 18 Mole fetich, Zuni, 30 Mountain lion fetich, Zuni, 25, 40 Myth, Zuni, of distribution of the animals, 21 drying of the world, 13 Mi-tsi, 18 Po-shai-an-kia; prey god, 16 Navajo fetiches, 44 Owl fetich, Zuni, 30 Philosophy, Zuni, 9 Pony fetich, Navajo, 44 Po[']-shai-an-k'ia; Prey god; Zuni myth, 16 Power of the Zuni fetiches, 15, 33 prey gods, 18 Prayers of the Zuni priesthood of the bow, 42 , Zuni, preparatory to the hunt, 33 Prey gods, Zuni, Ceremony attending worship of, 32 of the hunt, Number of the, 25 , Origin of the, 20 , Relation of, to others, 20 resemble prey gods of priesthood of the bow, 41 , Worship of the, 33 Prey godsof the six regions, Zuni, Number of the, 16 , Origin of the, 16 , Power of the, as mediators, 18 , Varieties of the, 24 , Worship of the, 19 priesthood of the bow, Zuni, 40 , Number of the, 40 , Resemble prey god of the hunt, 41 , Worship of the, 41, 43 Priesthood of the bow, Prey gods of the Zuni, 40 ; Zuni Prey Brother, 19 Priests of Zuni or A[']-shi-wa-ni, 12 Sheep fetich, Navajo, 44 We-ma-we, Zuni name for all fetiches, 12 White bear fetich, Zuni, 40 Wolf fetich, Zuni, 28 World, Zuni myth of drying of the, 12 Worship of animals, Zuni, 11 Zuni prey gods, Ceremony attending, 32 of priesthood of the bow, 41, 43 the six regions, 19 Zuni animal worship, 11 fetiches, by F. H. Cushing, 1 fetichism, Origin of, 12 Iliad, 12 mythology, 11 or A-shi-wi, 9 philosophy, 9 priest or A-shi-wi-ni, 12


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