The Huichol of the Sierra Madre

The Huichol are a small tribe of approximately 35,000 living in central western Mexico near Ixtlan in the Sierra Madre Mountains. They are said to be the last tribe in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. Their shamans and healers practice today as they have for generations. In part, their survival is due to the focus of their traditions, as well as their remote mountainous territory.

The Dance of the Deer Foundation is dedicated to the continued survival of the ancient indigenous way of the Huichol. Brant Secunda and Don José Matsuwa founded our organization with this vision and today, we continue to support the Huichol people and their culture.

How do you pronounce Huichol?

It’s pronounced wē-ˈchōl, like “we chill” except with an ‘o’ instead of ‘i’.

What does Huichol mean?

Huichol is a term given by the Spanish. In their own language, they refer to themselves as VIRARICA, which translates as “The Healing People.”

What is Huichol Shamanism?

Huichol Shamanism is an ancient form of spirituality practiced for thousands of years. It is a way of living in harmony with nature and all of life.

Huichol Shamanism

Shamanism is a way of life for the Huichol. It is something inherent to life itself, as it is the way of living in harmony with nature and all of creation.

A Nation of Shamans

The Huichol were once considered a Nation of Shamans. Today, there are still many shamans who continue to perform ceremonies and heal the people.

Sierra Madre Mountains

The Huichol live in a remote region of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Their rugged environment has protected them from cultural intrusion for hundreds of years.

Ancient Heritage

The Huichol way of life continues today much as it has for thousands of years. Still without electricity or running water, the Huichol people rely on their relationship with nature to sustain their communities.

Don José Matsuwa

Shaman  •  Teacher  •  Visionary

Don José Matsuwa is the renowned shaman from Mexico who passed away in 1990 at the age of 110. He was a farmer, healer, master ceremonial leader, and a revered and respected elder throughout the Sierras.

He dedicated his whole life to completing the sacred path of the shaman and it is his life and vision that are the inspirations for the Dance of the Deer Foundation. Before he died he left Brant Secunda this message: “I leave you in my place. Tell your people to pray and follow the deer all the way to their hearts.”

Don José Matsuwa

A portion of all of our proceeds go directly to support the Huichol people

We also founded the Huichol Foundation to manifest sustainable support for this ancient culture

Ceremonial Traditions

The Huichol way of life is rich with ceremonial practices. There are specific ceremonies for the four seasons, which are intended to bring balance and harmony to each individual, the community and all of life. The ceremonies are a time for the people to come together and focus on the spirit world, this normally hidden universe that runs parallel to our world. The shamans work to bridge these two worlds in order to bring “kupuri” or life force into the bodies and souls of the people. They say that this, in turn, imparts good health and good luck to all.

One of the most important of the ceremonies is the “Dance of the Deer.” This ceremony offers the chance for people to dance their prayers into the altar of Mother Earth. It is also a way to connect with the Deer Spirit, probably the most important of the Huichol animal powers. The deer is seen as an elder brother, a guide, which the shamans use to navigate the spirit realm and also for healing. In their mythology, the gods and goddesses taught the deer in ancient times. He was the first student of shamanism, the first to learn the secrets of the original shaman, Grandfather Fire. It is because of this that the deer is so revered and such an integral part of Huichol ceremonial practice.

Indigenous Huichol Culture

Simplistic yet profound.

Spiritual Life

Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition and moreover, a way of life. Huichol shamanism honors all of creation, especially the spirit of nature- the power of the animals, the winged ones, the minerals, and plants. This shamanic tradition involves healing and empowerment through personal transformation and direct experience as well as the healing of our families, communities and our environment. By following the shaman’s path, we can truly learn to inhabit the earth and our being with gentleness and respect.

The Huichol say we are created from the elements of the natural world- fire, air, water and earth. Because of this, each of us is a miniature universe, a mirror of both the natural and the spiritual worlds. All the knowledge and secrets of these two worlds are inside of us and everything is perfectly arranged. Shamanism teaches us to tap into that arrangement, to understand and to live in harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds.

Ceremony, sacred dance, and pilgrimages to places of power in nature are all essential aspects of shamanism. Through these techniques, the shamanic circle embraces us unifying our lives with strength, healing, and love.


Women gather water together from mountain springs, while men gather firewood used by the women to prepare the cooked meals. Together, the men work the fields and fish the streams, while the women create the sacred artwork, jewelry, bags, and clothing. Every aspect of daily life in intertwined with community. Never does a Huichol act alone; instead, every struggle and every prosperity is shared. No one is alone; all are together in their way of life. One with Nature.

As individuals, as a family and together as a tribe they focus on the simple and yet very intricate task of keeping the balance of nature. They strive to be a part of all of life, not to be disconnected from or distracted from the ancient energies of the earth, but to be a part of this flowing force and in this way to be at peace.


The Huichol culture has an extremely rich cosmology that has been passed on from generation to generation. It is an oral tradition in which the stories of creation are told over and over again. These stories, believed by the Huichols to be as true as any scientific text, incorporate many elemental gods and goddesses, animal sprits, and spiritual practices. As in many divergent ethoses, many of the stories focus on the victory of good over evil, positive energy over negative energy. These “cosmological” stories help to teach the youth human ideals and right action. The multiplicities of narratives offer both meaning and understanding to the surrounding world and our human existence within it.

There are such a great number of these stories that no one single person knows them all. However, together as a community, the tribe holds the knowledge of their past and of the creation of the world they live in. As we read history texts, the Huichols listen to their ancient history and in this way the continuation of an ancient culture is assured one generation at a time.

The Dance of the Deer Foundation and Brant Secunda are working on continued efforts to document many of the stories of Huichol cosmology in the hopes of preserving this ancient tradition.

Ritual & Ceremony

The ceremonies and ancient ways of planting and harvesting are not simply undertaken for spiritual reasons; they are a necessity of life. Without a successful crop, the people will go hungry. This is one of the reasons why the Huichol shamans are so revered, for without them to call the rain and in this way ensure food for the people, the entire tribe is at risk of facing hard times.

Huichol Language

Although the Huichol Indians live in the midst of a Spanish speaking country, there are few (if any) Mexicans who can understand them. Their language is in the Uto-Aztecan family of indigenous languages. It is related to the language of many tribes from as far south as the Maya to as far north as the Hopi.

Sacred Objects

The Huichol use many sacred objects both for ceremonial practices, as well as in their everyday life. Most of these objects are woven into their intricate mythology. Objects often provide both a practical and spiritual use. This is an example of how Huichol culture combines the sacred and the functional.

Much of Huichol art requires patience unknown to the modern world. For instance, the large beaded figures, such as the deer, jaguars, and eagles, are made one bead at a time. Making the art is much like a meditative practice, involving a great deal of focus and concentration.

Huichol Boy
Huichol Foundation

Giving Back to Support the Future

Brant Secunda and his son, Nico Secunda, founded the Huichol Foundation, an international organization (501c3 non-profit) dedicated to the cultural, environmental, and economic survival of the indigenous Huichol people.

The foundation is committed to preserving and promoting the Huichol people (VIRARICA) and their indigenous lifestyle, culture, and traditions.  Its mission is to supportsustain and inspire the Huichol culture, within their villages and around the globe.

The Foundation and its members are working on numerous large-scale and long-term projects. Learn more by visiting

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience. If you continue using this website, we'll assume that you are happy about that.