AskDefine | Define fetishes

Extensive Definition

This article concerns the concept of fetishism in anthropology. For other uses see Fetish (disambiguation).
A fetish (from French fétiche; from Portuguese feitiço; from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular a man-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the attribution of inherent value or powers to an object.


The concept was coined by Charles de Brosses in 1757, while comparing West African religion to the magical aspects of Ancient Egyptian religion. Later, Auguste Comte used the concept to apply an evolution theory to religion. In Compte's theory of the evolution of religion, he proposed that fetishism is the earliest (most primitive) stage, followed by the stages of polytheism and monotheism.
In the end, some artifacts certain monotheist religions (Holy Cross, Consecrated Hosts, etc.) use for their rites are other incarnation of fetishism. However, this vision is denied by monotheist practitioners. In the 19th century, Tylor and McLennan held that the concept of fetishism allowed historians of religion to shift attention from the relationship between people and God to the relationship between people and material objects. They also held that it established models of causal explanations of natural events which they considered false as a central problem in history and sociology.


Theoretically, fetishism is present in all religions, but its use in the study of religion is derived from studies of traditional West African religious beliefs, as well as Voodoo, which is derived from those beliefs.
Blood is often considered a particularly powerful fetish or ingredient in fetishes. In addition to blood, other objects and substances, such as bones, fur, claws, feathers, water from certain places, certain types of plants and wood are common fetishes in the traditions of cultures worldwide.

Other uses of the term "fetishism"

  • In the 19th century Karl Marx appropriated the term to describe commodity fetishism as an important component of capitalism. Nowadays, (commodity and capital) fetishism is a central concept of marxism
  • Later Sigmund Freud appropriated the concept to describe a form of paraphilia where the object of affection is an inanimate object or a specific part of a person; see sexual fetish.

See also

External links

fetishes in Arabic: ماسوشية
fetishes in Catalan: Fetitxisme
fetishes in Czech: Náboženský fetišismus
fetishes in Danish: Fetich
fetishes in German: Fetischismus
fetishes in Modern Greek (1453-): Φετιχισμός
fetishes in Spanish: Fetichismo
fetishes in Persian: شیء‌پرستی
fetishes in Finnish: Fetisismi
fetishes in French: Fétichisme
fetishes in Western Frisian: Fetisj
fetishes in Croatian: Fetišizam
fetishes in Italian: Feticismo
fetishes in Hebrew: פטישיזם
fetishes in Dutch: Fetisjisme
fetishes in Norwegian: Fetisj (religion)
fetishes in Japanese: 呪物崇拝
fetishes in Polish: Religie pierwotne
fetishes in Portuguese: Fetiche
fetishes in Ukrainian: Фетишизм
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