The Zuni Guardians And Their Meanings

Zuni Bear Fetish with inlay details

The Zuni people of the Pueblo are famous for their intricate carvings of animals called Fetishes. They are used for protection, healing, and blessing. The more care a Fetish is given by the owner, the more powerful it is thought to become.

Fetishes sold today are more correctly referred to as carvings, as they have not been blessed by a medicine man. True fetishes are not commercially sold (source).

The Zuni people believe that there are guardians for each of the six directions. There are two sets of guardians: one for hunting and one for healing. Below, we take a quick look at the meaning of each guardian.

North: Mountain Lion

In both the healing and the hunting sets, the powerful Mountain Lion guards the Northern direction. The most powerful hunter amongst the guardians, it also represents perseverance, intuition, and resourcefulness.

Fetishes depicting the Mountain Lion are often used by hunters to ensure a successful hunt or by travelers seeking protection on their journey.

East: Wolf

The Wolf represents loyalty and strong family bonds. For this reason, they are often given as a blessing to young families and newlyweds. It exists both as a hunter and as a healer.

The Wolf is also a teacher to its pack and a pathfinder when traveling.

South: Badger and Bobcat

The fierce Badger is the Southern guardian of the healing set. This Fetish is often given to new husbands to bless them in their duties, or its kept to bless crops during their season. Their close relationship to their earth allows them to have deep knowledge of roots and herbs.

The clever Bobcat guards the Southern direction in the hunting set. It doesn’t have the size or power advantage of the Mountain Lion, so the Bobcat relies on its wits to hunt its prey. It represents clairvoyance while hunting and is often carried when hunting antelope.

West: Bear and Coyote

The healing set has the Bear as its guardian. The Bear represents self-knowledge and strength. It is given as a powerful healing fetish to those with illness or injury. The White Bear is said to be the most powerful healer of the fetishes.

The Coyote guards the West in the hunting set. The Coyote teaches self-control; specifically, how impulsive nature and self-centered behavior can stop grow or harm others. The master trickster also teaches that its okay to laugh at mistakes one makes.

Lower Region: Mole

The Mole protects the harvest each season by destroying poisoned roots and eating mice. The Lower Region guardian is represented by the color black, as it also guards the underworld. The mole represents inner reflection and awareness.

Upper Region: Eagle

The Eagle guards the Upper Region as the messenger of the gods. Intuition, creativity, dignity, grace, and power are all associated with the Eagle. It is said that the Eagle’s spirit is able to become one with the Greater Spirit, which is something that is highly strived towards.

There are many other highly revered Fetishes for the Zuni people. Some are traditional to their culture, others have been added later due to collector demand. If you ever receive a true Fetish, make sure to treat it with ultimate care so that it may bring the most blessings to your life!

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