fetish

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fetish

(fĕt`ĭsh), inanimate object believed to possess some magical power. The fetish may be a natural thing, such as a stone, a feather, a shell, or the claw of an animal, or it may be artificial, such as carvings in wood. The power of the fetish is thought to derive its efficacy from one of two sources. In some cases the object is said to have a will of its own; in others the source of power comes from the belief that a god dwells within the object and has transformed it into an instrument of his desires. Closely related to the idea of the power of a fetish is the notion of tabootaboo
or tabu
, prohibition of an act or the use of an object or word under pain of punishment. Originally a Polynesian word, taboo can apply to the sacred or consecrated or to the dangerous, unclean, and forbidden.
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. Here the power within the fetish is thought to be so strong that it is extremely dangerous and may be handled only by special individuals, if at all. Any object of irrational or superstitious devotion may be called a fetish.
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fetish

  1. (in religious belief or magic) any object in which a spirit is seen as embodied; the worship of such an object being fetishism (see also ANIMISM).
  2. (more generally, especially in psychology PSYCHOANALYSIS) any object of obsessive devotion or interest, especially objects or parts of the body other than those usually regarded as erogenous, e.g. articles of clothing, feet. see also COMMODITY FETISHISM.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000

Fetish

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

From the Portuguese feitiço, "a thing made." The term was originally applied by the Portuguese in the latter half of the fifteenth century to talismans, charms, and figures produced in West Africa and believed to house spirits. Fetish should properly be applied only to magical items such as charms and talismans, and not to carved representations of deities.

The words fetish and fetishism are today little used in modern anthropology, although they may be found in psychiatry, with fetishism seen as a mental condition wherein a nongenital object is used to achieve sexual gratification.

Many of the West African fetishes incorporate a mirror as a token of the "white man's magic." Fetishes are thought to retain the protective powers of the spirit world. They were brought to America by slaves and today are often found in the Ozark region. There they are known as "conjures," "goofers," and other local names, and they are dispensed by root doctors, goomer doctors, and conjure folk.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

fetish

, fetich
Anthropology something, esp an inanimate object, that is believed in certain cultures to be the embodiment or habitation of a spirit or magical powers
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005