Bears and beads seem an odd combination. But then again, maybe not.
When we first began travelling through the American Southwest I noticed small stone bears in different pieces of jewelry. It seemed an odd choice for the desert. We live in bear country and share the land with blacks and grizzlies but their habitat here is forest and stream not hot, windswept expanses of rock.
I learned that these little stones were called Zuni bears. Which begged the question: who were the Zuni and what was their connection to bears?
Festishes, usually carved from stone, were important to many early people. They believed the stones had magical powers, capturing the spirit of the animal depicted.
One of the most common fetish animals is the bear. The bear is a symbol of great strength, with the power to heal and to help a person through periods of change. To the Zuni, who live mainly in New Mexico, the bear was the Guardian of the West. They believed he also brought the cold weather that signaled the change of season and the fall harvest.
A few days go I dug around in my bead stash and came upon some Zuni bears. I wanted to make a pair of earrings for a show — why not bears?
These particular ones are carved from Tiger Eye, a stone that according to legend possesses its own special powers — the “all-seeing eye” worn by Roman soldiers, power and confidence to the wearer, protection for the traveller — all wrapped up in the silky sheen of gold and brown.
A double whammy of good luck. Don’t get much better than that ; )