In most native cultures, there is a belief in the healing power of the fetish. These carved figures of animals, birds and reptiles usually take a stylised form which best represents the energy associated with that animal spirit.
Symbolically, from a Western perspective, they represent a particular archetype. By working with the fetish, it is believed that the spirit of the animal will accompany the individual as teacher and guide.
In the Zuni tradition, there are two sets of totem animals which are generally worked with: the hunting set, and the healing set. Initial workings are always carried out with the healing set, which consists of six animals: each associated with a different sacred direction (North, East, South, West, Up, Down).
Working with a fetish is a process of self discovery. Beginning at one location (direction), work progresses in a counter-clockwise direction, through each fetish as it is traditionally placed on the medicine wheel. The Up and Down directions are always explored only after the other four directions have been completed.
Other fetishes, not associated with the standard sets, offer important learning opportunities, at various psychological and emotional levels. Each fetish worked with introduces additional animal guides and new layers of self-knowledge.