Illuminating Dispatches Newsletter

Illuminating Dispatches Newsletter - July 27: The Heartline

Exploring the Heartline: The Origin.
One of the many delightful details that some Zuni fetishes may have is the heartline. This feature is often inlaid in turquoise or coral, and its meaning goes back to the creation of the first fetishes.

The Zuni People (A:shiwi) say that their human ancestors emerged onto Earth after passing through the Levels of Emergence, which were a series of four
wet and chaotic underworlds. When they finally surfaced on this dry earth there were already powerful animals living here. These animals preyed upon the People, since they were naked and defenseless in this new world, and the People cried out to Great Spirit, the Creator of all, for help. Hearing these cries, Great Spirit dispatched the heroic War Twins armed with lighting bolts. The War Twins struck the animals with these lighting bolts and turned turned them to stone, save their hearts, which were left beating in their ossified bodies. These creatures were entrusted with the mission of assisting humans on their evolutionary journey, charged with being allies and intermediaries between this earthly world and the Spirit world. The living spirit of these animals can be represented by the heartline feature, visualizing their heart and breath through the arrow extending down from the mouth towards the heart.

Heartlines are not always inlaid stone, but can be natural striations in the piece, which reminds us of this creation story and how the original fetishes were natural stones that resembled the animals. Heartlines can also be represented by carving into the stone and not relying on a contrasting color. Some fetishes may even have multiple heartlines. And some fetishes may not have this feature at all, but all fetishes embody that living spirit.