The Huichol way is the way of the Heart. Of utmost importance to the awakening and development of the heart is the sacred Peyote. Peyote looks like a cactus and grows wild in the desert. It has been used for medicinal purposes as well as for spiritual visions and experiences for thousands of years. Guadalupe told us about the sacredness of Peyote as we sat with her around a fire:”Peyote opens our hearts so that we can see with our hearts.” She was saddened by the fact that it is now illegal and thought of as a “drug” by those who have never experienced it. There is ritual, discipline, and tradition associated with the usage of Peyote. These are as important for the spiritual process as the actual visions and insight experienced.
A very important part of the Peyote experience is to go on a journey to look for the plant. The journey is done on foot, in the desert, where it is hot and dry during the day, and cold at night. There are also snakes and painful weeds that can be stepped on. These journeys are taken yearly by groups of people which often include a shaman. The search can last for days or even weeks. Sometimes they take Peyote while on their search. They are often led to the Peyote by instructions given to them while in the Peyote state. It is believed that the deer spirit also leads the people to the Peyote. Some people carry bows and arrows to symbolize the hunting of the deer. Sometimes a deer may be killed so that its spirit can lead the people to the Peyote. The journey can be difficult. There is some fasting involved and people don’t get much sleep at night because it is everyone’s responsibility to keep the fire going.
The fire is a god named Tatewary. Tatewary is referred to as “He”. He is part of the trinity which also includes Peyote and the deer. When the Huichol people put wood in the fire they refer to this action as “feeding the fire”. Tatewary must be fed. When they eat, they often give some of their food to Tatewary. Guadalupe encouraged us to do that as we sat, listening to her. There is also a ritual of giving Tatewary chocolate and crackers to give thanks and show respect to God. The feeding of Tatewary also entails giving him wood and branches to keep him and his energy with us. Before sitting down, we all circled the fire in a counter-clockwise direction and in turn “fed” Tatewary with branches. The Huichol do things in a counter-clockwise direction and that is the way that one moves around Tatewary. As we sat around the fire with Guadalupe, she often referred to Tatewary and encouraged our connection with him.
As in many other cultures, the Huichols speak of the life force. They call this life force Kupuri. When a ceremony is held for one reason or another (as for example to give thanks), very often an animal is sacrificed and there is a feast with dancing. The life force, kupuri, is said to become activated at that time. After an all night ceremony, sick people who may have come from other villages are worked on by the shamans and medicine people. The power of these healers are increased by the life force which is intensified by the ceremony. Many cultures have learned to recognize and harness this life force. For example, it is known as “chi” by the Chinese, “ki” by the Japanese, “prana” by the Hindus, and “num” by the Kung of the Kalahari desert.
I caught myself looking at Guadalupe’s feet and can still remember them well now. They were framed by sandals and white cotton which brought out their dark color. They were strong, yet curved and gentle. It seemed I could detect some desert sand lingering on her toes. Those feet that walked on many Peyote and ocean journeys, accompanied by her lone walking stick. Feet that say:”I haven’t left you Mother Earth.” Feet that are so misunderstood by the cement tortured high-heeled ones.
By Anne Paule Picker and adapted here from her Site with her kind permission.