An object, usually a West African wooden doll,
that is possessed by spirits and represents those spirits to
the fetish owner. Fetishes may also be animals’ teeth, snake
bones, beautiful stones or even the huts where witch doctors
commune with spirit guides. They are often worn as
ornamental amulets or carried on the body.
A fetish is supposed to possess magical powers and be
capable of bringing about the owner’s designs or preserving
him from injury (see magic).
Possession of a fetish by a slave in the New World was
punishable by sadistic torture and death. Not only were
the fetishes graven images of a god other than the Catholic
one, they represented tribal ways feared by white masters.
See African witchcraft.