Zuni Fossil Ivory Horned Toad Fetish - Hudson Sandy (#01)

Zuni Fetishes
Horned Toad
1 1/2" wide x 2 1/8" long x 1/2" tall

This fossil ivory horned toad by master carver Hudson Sandy looks like it will scurry away at the first opportunity.  With its penetratingly blue eyes and intricately carved scales, this toad is a first rate example of Zuni fetish carving.


Horned Toad

When a point is found, the person inhales the air around it four times and asks for protection from the spirit accompanying it. Although some believe that arrowheads are made by horned toads that blow on a rock and chip it into a form with its breath, ........... Pg. 108

Sacred Land, Sacred View: Navajo Perceptions of the Four Corners Region; 1992, Robert S. McPherson.

Again the situation was such that there were none to do the reviving. "Go ahead, my granduncle, you yourself shall be used again, what else could be of use! Your pay shall be the same as before," They said to him (horned toad). "No," he said, and four times they repeated their request. After that, finally, he enumerated the things which he had seen on their persons. "Be it as you desire, but you must realize that a dark bow is my pay, and a tail feathered and zigzag lightning arrow, a flint garment, a flint hat," all of these he mentioned to them. In every possible scheming way they endeavored to push their schemes, but failed. So eventually they could do nothing but consent, they paid his hire with all of these things. In the same manner as he had done on the previous occasion he again performed the restoration (by marking away) upon four of them, and only with his herb medicine did he again spray among them, and all arose again. And when they were still partly dazed, he extended his left hand toward them and they began to place all things into his hand. "As for me, I need to do things with this! And I, this was my custom (of travel) in the past! And I, this used to move with me in the past! And I, formerly this was my song!" each in turn said as they placed them into his hand. All of this he slapped together into a small particle, which he held in his hand. Their sting alone he stuck into them. "With this only, though worthless, you may have a pastime in the future! Even so, the very effects of it will be painful," he told them. "That which you use as a sting will, form this day on, be something, at least, to be feared," he said. Then, with the rest of it, he slapped his hands four times and after inhaling its breath four times, he swallowed it. Therefore I suppose he does not fear them, he eats them. Even the zigzag lightning arrow which they had he ate, therefore he has no fear of thunder. 74 Now when he clapped his hands together four times with their former belongings which they hd lost, every knowledge of them (their property) escaped from them, they started out without knowing anything about them, they failed even to think of them. He then clothed himself in the flint garments he had obtained, he put the flint hat on his head, he held the dark bow in one hand, and with the tail feathered arrow, with the mahogany bow, the yellow tiled arrow and flint club, he changed his appearance to conform with their former appearance, he made himself so as to expose no angle of his body to a shot. Pgs. 127, 128

The Red Antway of the Navaho; 1965, Leland C. Wyman

At the end of the Night Chant myth the following explanation occurs: "And now [that which] is called Monster Chant, its blessing way had long ago been sung for [the people], they say. When the monsters had been killed, Horned Toad Boy had sung it for them, they say. 'This [blessing way] will lie on all of [the chants], as far out as the chants extend. At the tip of all of them it will lie, [on] blessing way rites also,' Horned Toad said, they say."

Before interpreting the passage, I would change the translation to read 'monster lore' for 'Monster Chant,' since the suffix -e may mean 'concerning' and not necessarily 'chant.' The last sentence I would translate: "At the conclusion [summarizing point] of all the chants this one will be. It will be the significant point of them all. It is not xojo dji, that is, it is not Blessing Way, but Monster Way." With these emendations, Blessing Way may properly be understood to belong to monster lore, which should be its opposite, so that any commemoration of the dark past may conclude with blessing.

Navajo Religion, Vol I; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950

Then there was a day when Coyote was very hungry indeed and stole some young green corn out of the patch which belonged to Horned Toad. Horned Toad saw him doing this, and he told Coyote he liked people to ask him for his corn and not to steal it. Coyote just laughed at the little toad, and said he'd like some more corn. Horned Toad cooked some for him three times, but when Coyote asked for corn the fourth time Horned Toad was tired of his begging and refused. Coyote just swallowed Horned Toad, and then walked all around the cornfield telling the birds he met that it was his cornfield. After a while he went to the shelter of Horned Toad and went to sleep. Soon after this Horned Toad got his strength back and began to stir about in Coyote's stomach. Coyote thought the young green corn was giving him a stomach ache. But when Horned Toad mad a loud hissing noise inside Coyote he waked up and was frightened. He thought that this was the noise spirits made when someone was going to die. But Horned Toad began to laugh and laugh and to call out to Coyote. "Where am I, where am I? It is very dark in here," he said.
"Ouch, that's my stomach. Stop hurting me," Coyote called back.
"Now I know you are sorry you ate my young green corn. Where am I now?" sang out Horned Toad, giving Coyote another kick.
"Stop hurting me and come out. The place where you are now is in my bowels,"said Coyote.
"Where am I now?" yelled Horned Toad as he kept crawling along.
"Get out of there. That's my windpipe," said Coyote, feeling almost choked.
But by this time Horned Toad was in Coyote's heart, and he just cut a cross on it, and Coyote jumped four times into the air and fell back dead. Then Horned Toad crawled out of the anus of Coyote and went back to his work in the field. Pg. 48, 49.

The Pollen Path, Margaret Schevill Link, 1998

Zuni Fetishes

Jish is best described as the Navajo medicine practitioner’s equivalent to a Western doctor’s “little black bag”.  Everything needed for numerous ceremonies is painstakingly gathered over many years.  Even though all the individual elements of a jish are not used in every ceremony, the complete contents are required to be present at every ceremony.  Showing up with only partial contents of a jish is akin to arriving with half an ambulance.  In other words, the patient is short-changed by not having the full power of the contents of a complete jish.  For clarification, jish refers not only to the complete bundle, but also everything contained within that medicine bundle.

In her definitive book, Navajo Medicine Bundles or Jish, Acquisition, Transmission, and Disposition in the Past and Present, author Charlotte Frisbie writes about fetishes as a part of Changing Woman’s sacred jish:

“This bundle represents Changing Woman's bundle which was brought to the Earth's surface by First Man and which was the source of all surface life. The mountain earth bundle contains earth collected from the four (or six) sacred mountains. Pollen is applied to the earth from each mountain and each is wrapped separately in unwounded buckskin and tied with buckskin thongs. A precious jewel is attached to each of the resulting pouches to indicate its directional association. Between these pouches are placed stick-like cylinders of mirage stone (aragonite), agate, and quartz. Stone figures of horses, game, and other things are also added. Then everything is covered with pollen and all of the individual pouches are wrapped in unwounded buckskin to form the bundle”.

As are most fetish collectors, I was initially more familiar with Zuni fetishes and their representations.  As my studies proceeded deeper into Navajo culture, the use of personal fetish pouches by Navajo people as well as their presence in jish came to my attention.  Navajo people take great pride in their livestock whether they be horses, cattle, sheep or goats.  Again, Charlotte Frisbie explains the “little medicine bags”.

“The tiny bags for pollen are made of buckskin and usually also contain small fetishes or other items. These pollen bags, like the personal pollen sacks carried by lay Navajos, reportedly are more likely to have beadwork or other decorations than are the other small medicine sacks”.

The Navajo people often call on their neighbors, the Zuni, to carve small horses, cattle, or sheep which they may carry in a little medicine bag as an added protection for their herds and flocks.  While it is true that a great number of Navajo people are called upon to carve a myriad of animals for a demanding fetish market, some also follow in the tradition of providing these special protection animals for personal use.

Harold Davidson and Lee Bedonie are two of the finest Navajo fetish carvers working today.  Harold likes to follow in the tradition of creating the protecting livestock figures such as sheep, goats and horses as well as the more exotic bears and bison.  Lee tends toward the livestock animals, preferring donkeys, horses, goats and for fun, throws in the occasional chicken.  Their carvings are beautifully executed with distinctive details wrought in their favorite pipestone and alabaster materials.

---Georgiana Kennedy Simpson