Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia


(from Port. feitiço, “something artificial, done or made by art; sorcery”; Lat. facticious, “factitious”). Term used variously by anthropologists, e.g., to denote rivers, springs and other objects of nature; often understood to mean belief that a spirit may dwell temporarily or permanently in some material object, making it an object of reverence or worship; connected with animism. A fetish may be any object (e.g., claws, teeth, horns, bones, or other parts of animals; shells, stones, leaves, pieces of wood or metal, rags, refuse) thought to be inhabited by a spirit or endowed with preternatural power and which its possessor therefore tries to use for his own purposes. A savage will pray to it, anoint it with oil, and sprinkle it with blood. If he has great success with it, it may become the fetish of an entire tribe and the owner its priest. If it does not serve, it may be scolded, punished, and finally discarded. Fetishes may be found by chance, or certain objects may become fetishes by incantation or by simple invitation extended to a spirit to dwell in the object. Fetishism is found around the world, esp. in W Afr.

See also Africa, A 3; Primitive Religion.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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