Essay on Fetishism

A leaf, a feather, a horn, a stone or any such thing with unusual shape is adored in the same manner as a carved figure. “Most fetishes are inanimate objects whose alleged powers are based on the naive belief, or superstition, that events that happen together or sequentially, are causally related and will continue to happen together”. [Leslie, Larson and Gorman] Further, one of the two ele­ments, cause or effect, is believed to have special power.

The mysterious power that is attributed to inanimate objects has been called by some primi­tives “mana “. The Melanesians and Maoris, for example, employed the term ‘mana’ to signify such a power. The term ‘mana’ was first used by the anthropologist R.H. Codrington. The belief in ‘mana’ has been referred to by R.R. Marett as ‘animatism’.

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Hence this theory is also known as “Animatistic theory”. The belief in ‘mana’ or some fetish is found to be universal among primitive people. An­thropologist Lowie described the mysterious power as kind of “electric fluid that could charge per­sons and things and be diverted from one to another”.

Fetishism or animatism is a very personal form of religion compared to most other belief systems that are group forms. Fetishism locates power in inanimate objects whereas most other religions locate it in animate ones. (The Americans who attach special power to a rabbit’s foot which is believed to bring good luck, is an example of fetishism).


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