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Native Americans : Prey-Gods – Fetishes in Hunting


Prey-Gods/Fetishes in Hunting

The Day of the Council of Fetishes takes place a little before or after the winter solstice or national New Year. The fetishes are taken from their places of deposit, and arranged according to species and colour in the form of a symbolic altar, quadrupeds being placed upright and birds suspended from the roof. The fetishes are prayed to, and prayer-meal is scattered over them. Chants are intoned, and a dance is performed in which the cries of the fetish beasts are imitated. A prayer with responses follows. Finally all assemble round the alter and repeat the great invocation.
The use of fetishes in hunting among the Zuni is extremely curious and involved in its nature. The hunter goes to the house of the Deer Medicine, where the vessel containing the fetish is brought out and placed before him. He sprinkles meal over the sacred vessel in the direction in which he intends to hunt, chooses a fetish from it, and presses it to his lips with an inspiration. He then places the fetish in a buckskin bag over his heart. Proceeding to the hunt, he deposits a spider-knot of yucca leaves where the animal has rested, imitates its cry, and is supposed by this means to confine its movements within a narrow circle. He then inspires deeply from the nostrils of the fetish, as though inhaling the magic breath of the god of prey, and then puffs the breath long and loudly in the direction whence the beast’s tracks trend, in the belief that the breath he has borrowed from the prey-god will stiffen the limbs of the animal he hunts. When the beast is caught and killed he inhales its suspiring breath, which he breathes into the nostrils of the fetish. He then dips the fetish in the blood of the slain quarry, that he may partake of the animal’s qualities. The fetish is then placed in the sun to dry, and lastly replaced in the buckskin pouch with a blessing, afterward being duly returned to the Keeper of the Deer Medicine.

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