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Huichol shamanic art

Dr. Thomas Pinkson

The Huichol People of central Mexico still follow the age-old shamanic ways of their ancestors, an unbroken wisdom-bridge stretching back into the Paleolithic. The mara'akame, the shaman, still leads pilgrims on a yearly journey retracing the path of the Gods and Goddesses when they first appeared in this middle world and traveled on sacred pilgrimage to find its center.

The Pilgrimage culminates in a night-long ceremony around "Tatewari," Grandfather Fire, a meditative retreat during which shamanic ceremony induces a visionary state by which the Huichol People find their lives and the power, the kupuri, to follow their heart path to completion. Their distinctive visionary art, in the form of yarn paintings, embroided clothing, bags, beaded gourds, masks, jewelry, and sculpture, all derives from their shamanic visions whose symbols form the basis of their work and their lives.

The work is all handmade by individual artists who are taught by their elders, and who then pass on the artistic techniques to their children. And so it goes, from generation to generation. Originally all the art work was made as ofrendas, prayer offerings to the Spirits left at places of power along the Pilgrimage route. This practice is still continued, but now some of the art is made to sell to interested parties who value the Huichol Path.

The Huichols are struggling to maintain their ancestral ways and they are under tremendous pressures of acculturation. Their knowledge of the transpersonal realm and of how to live in harmony with the forces of nature are treasures that we can not afford to lose. You can help the Huichol People stay connected with their shamanic roots by purchasing productions of their art.

This way they receive a means of dealing with a competitive, capitalistic system that has been imposed on them, but which they are ill-prepared to deal with, since their indigenous society is based on agriculture, cooperation and mutual support. Buying their art through Nierica brings the money directly to the artist who made the piece, and it supports them by providing a means of livelihood that encourages maintaining their cultural and spiritual identity. You can look through the pictures on Nierica and get an idea of the beauty and creativity of their work.

This way they receive a means of dealing with a competitive, capitalistic system that has been imposed on them, but which they are ill-prepared to deal with, since their indigenous society is based on agriculture, cooperation and mutual support. Most of our buying is done when a small group of us travels to Mexico, usually in winter during the time of Pilgrimage. Then we purchase art right from the people we know, people with whom we have just come back from Pilgrimage. It is always a joyous time, for we are all filled with the good "kupuri" from our time together in the Holy Land of Wiricuta. Many times what is portrayed in the art is what we have seen in our visions as well.

The Huichol believe that making beautiful art for their clothing and as "offrendas" , as gifts, is prayer made visible. We of Nierica, who have been given so much of value for our lives from our Huichol teachers and friends, ask your help in helping promote the continued existence and sustainability of a wise and wonderful people — the Huichol. We need what they still know--how to live in right relationship with all of Creation. Help us, help them, help us.

By Dr. Thomas Pinkson and adapted here from his Nierica Site with his kind permission.

© Dr. Thomas Pinkson, 1995

Published or Updated on: May 1, 1997 by Dr. Thomas Pinkson © 1995
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