Zuni beliefs credit certain animals with guarding each of the geographic directions, as well as the skies and the underground.
Individual animals are often carved to share their particular qualities, and less frequently, all six of the Guardians are carved together in a set.
This carver, Fabian Tsethlikai, is related to some of the most notable carving families of Zuni, including the Lunasee, Quam, and Chavez. He created this charming set on a base, so the individual animals can’t get lost.
The Guardians of the four directions stand on a handsome piece of dolomite, scalloped into four rounds. A tawny dolomite mountain lion guards the North, a blue turquoise bear guards the west, a red pipestone badger is Guardian of the South, and a white alabaster wolf watches over the West.
These are carved from stones that match the traditional colors attributed to each animal. The sky, or the heavens are patrolled by the eagle, who flies so high he carries prayers up to the spirits. This eagle is composed of layers of dolomite, alabaster, turquoise, and jet.
A mole, appropriately enough, guards the underground, in black jet. Each Guardian is supposed to be protective, and have some healing powers, as well.
Don’t worry, no need to memorize; the animals, their colors and positions are all etched on the back of the base!