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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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