Monday, May 23, 2011

Charms and Fetishes

by Laura Bickle

From an anthropological standpoint, a fetish is any tangible object that has been imbued with religious or mystical significance. It can be an idol, a charm, a talisman...any of these things in which one believes power or the Great Mystery resides. didn't think that we were going *there* with this weeks' theme, did you?

I suppose that I have a tendency to gather things that I think are interesting. I have a lovely collection of stones and crystals that grows slowly. A couple of weeks ago, I found a raven feather that had been mangled in a lawnmower. I have a couple of shells that I gathered on a long-ago trip to the ocean, and I can still hear it in them.

But these are nature-made things. Of course, it would follow that something of nature still remains in them. But fetishes are specifically considered to be man-made. Humans make vessels to hold something outside of themselves. A fetish is more than a found object: it's something carved and created, painted or drawn. It's art. A home for something powerful.

I have a lovely bracelet that a friend brought back for me from Turkey. It's a little gold bracelet that has an enameled Evil Eye charm dangling from it. It's called a Nazar, there, worn by everyone from babies to elderly people to ward off bad luck and send it back to where it originates. It's really beautifully made, and I can see how much effort went into creating it for its intended purpose of deflecting misfortune.

Much art, I think, is sacred in its way. I often think of the process of writing as being a conduit, a temporary vessel for a story. I think that we provide hands and ink and let something else move thorough us onto the page. I often feel this way when I'm working through a project and make that connection to an old archetype that I didn't know well before. And sometimes that old power gets released to speak to a reader.

I guess, in that sense, a story is a fetish. It's a man-made work of art that holds power. And some mystery.

Image: Lavoview /


  1. "I guess, in that sense, a story is a fetish. It's a man-made work of art that holds power. And some mystery."

    Love, love, love that notion. This also makes me think of Pullman's His Dark Materials, where Dust is drawn to things that have been touched and shaped by humans.

  2. Oooo, I love your case for books as a fetish.

  3. I love the sacred archetypes, too. Lovely post!

  4. Thanks, Jillian! I have not read His Dark Materials, but now I am inspired to pick it up.

    Thanks, KAK! I think that there is a good deal of mystical significance to a story. :-)

  5. Thanks, Jeffe! I learn more about archetypes all the time, it seems - and often through others' work. ;-)

  6. I'd always felt that writing was magic in some way or other. Your post gives me a basis for what, to this point, has been little more than a feeling with no ground beneath it.

  7. You're absolutely right, Marcella...conjuring up something from the nothing of a blank page is magic if I've ever seen it!

  8. Not at all what I was expecting from this topic, no - which makes your post so much more wonderful. A surprising idea that totally makes sense. Words hold power - it only makes sense that when you weave them together you're creating something even more powerful.