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(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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  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


(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.


, 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
References in periodicals archive ?
Facing such absence and loss, the fetishist's attempt to resurrect his mother's penis encounters particular problems.
This final point is especially important, for one of the extraordinary things about a fetish is that it tends at once to protect against castration and to threaten the fetishist with it.
A shoe fetishist who mugged a string of women for their footwear is facing a possible retrial after a jury failed to decide if he groped one of his victims.
A SELF-CONFESSED footwear fetishist who robbed women of their shoes told a court today he did not realise the "monster" he had become until he learned of his victims' suffering.
A self-confessed footwear fetishist who robbed women of their shoes told a court yesterday he did not realise the "monster" he had become until he learned of his victims' suffering.
'You don't even see that at the darkest fetishist balls.
(all 2004), serial photographs show the artist's disembodied hand making hilariously inappropriate contact with various items on store shelves--groping a basketball, probing some sort of pink nozzle on a children's toy, diddling the underside of what appears to be a stuffed animal--or poking and caressing assorted orifices in walls and floors, like a horny architectural fetishist. In one particularly memorable image, Beshty spreads the flaps along the zipper on a piece of tarpaulin to reveal a padlock glistening like something from a Suze Randall centerfold.
QMY husband is a shoe fetishist. He adores shoes and likes to make love to me while I'm wearing my latest pair.
He could be someone on vacation from The International Style--a pipe-sporting fetishist with a plastic doll of himself who "dreams of science and how it will save mankind." All the "normal" people have vacated for higher ground with the closing of the nut factory, and the remaining men become babbling fools at the sight of a beautiful woman.
A sound fetishist's dream, Ray of Light sonically resonates with the singer's ever-present risk-taking instincts while proving once again her good taste in collaborators--electronica pioneer William Orbit, Massive Attack henchman Marius De Vries, songsmith Rick Nowels, and longtime associate Patrick Leonard.
The sick fetishist, 62, stayed with friends in Nebraska until they realised the enormity of his crimes.
A RADIO DJ has kicked up a stink after a foot fetishist asked her to send him a pair of her smelliest shoes.