The Zuni people incorporate six
theories in their religious beliefs, including
animism, totemism, causilty, ancestor veneration, fear and fetishism.
Often tribal societies will adopt two or three of these theories
them into a central belief; the Zuni adopted all six and, for
successfully incorporated them into one practice. Though strictly
fetishism is the worship of the spirits which reside within
it also involves elements of causality in defining the hierarchy of
This hierarchy is based on ones degree of dependency on other life
and mysterious behavior. Under this criteria, man, the most
least mysterious, is the lowest form and the most removed from the
For man to communicate with the deities he must use those above him
a conduit. Animals are close to man because of their mortality but
closer to the deities than man because they are more mysterious and
possess powers which man does not. Additionally, the
better understood an animal is by man, the lower his
standing in the animal hierarchy for example, domestic pets
would be lower in status than their wild relatives.
Fetishes serve many purposes and come in
many different forms. The fetishes of prey are
probably the best known. According to Zuni legend,
Po'-shai-an K'ia, father of the sacred bands, was surrounded
by six warriors for protection. He appointed his warriors to
be the guardians of the six regions of the earth and all
other residents within their region fell under their
The Mountain Lion (Long Tail) was
appointed as Master of the gods of prey and guardian of the
North. Stout-hearted and strong-willed. Po'-shai-an K'ia
designated that he would become the Maker of Paths(of men's
lives) and his color would be yellow, the color of his coat.
The Black Bear (Clumsy Foot) became the
Master of the West for his coat was the color of the night.
The Bear's color is the Blue of the Pacific and he is
revered for his strong Healing powers and abilities to
protect and provide for his charges.
The Badger (Black Marked Face) was
appointed Guardian of the South and his color is the Red of
the distant mountains. He is highly regarded for his
perseverance in the face of adversity.
The East was assigned to the Wolf (Hang
Tail) and his color the white of the daylight. The
Wolf is extremely loyal and possesses the cunning to fend
off one's enemies.
The Mole, Master of the lower region,
exhibits flexibility and fidelity. His color is black. The
mole's burrowing ability illustrates why he is
revered. He has the flexibility to change direction at
a moment's notice to avoid danger and his burrows often
become traps for his predators.
The Eagle (White Cap) guards the Upper
region. The Eagle represents all colors and is said to
be indefatigable. He tirelessly flies around his
domain preserving its openness. He symbolizes free
The Zuni believe that their carved
effigies of these animals embody the same traits and powers
as their living forms and can provide their possessors with
similar traits if their likenesses are well cared for by
those bearing them.