Drum and Harvest Ceremony

Autumn Equinox and the Harvest Ceremony

Happy Equinox! May we manifest the harmony within ourselves to help bring balance to the world around us.

We returned from the Drum and Harvest Ceremony in Mexico earlier this week. The time in the Sierra Madre was beautiful and intense as always. Don Jacinto, the leading shaman in the ceremony, exuded kupuri (life force) as he chanted for hours on end. The intricate songs summoned the spirits from the four directions and the sky realm to bless the people, along with the harvest of corn and squash. The children shook their rattles as mothers cradled the youngest babies.

Drum and Harvest Ceremony Altar

One aspect of the ceremony is to help take the spirits of the children to places of power that they are still too young to visit. While their bodies may not yet be able to make the journey, their spirits fly through the Nierika (spiritual doorway) to connect with the dreaming gods and goddesses of these sacred places. In this way, they are invigorated with the energy of the diverse landscape so that they may live a long and healthy life.

Gathering for the harvest ceremony

Huichol women and children gather for the harvest ceremony.

After starting at sunset last Friday, Don Jacinto chanted late into the night, well past 1:00 a.m. Accompanied by the sound of the drum, the ancient songs echoed up into the mountains. Even the crickets seemed to be in awe, silently listening in a state of trance. After a few hours of rest, corn stalks were cut from the fields, and the altar was built as the sun prepared to make its way over the horizon.


The rattles and God’s Eyes from each child were brought out of the temple hut, and the altar was filled with fresh fruits, corn, squash, and tamales. Nawa (a fermented corn drink) prepared by various families was poured into jugs and gourds. As the rays of sunshine flowed over the distant peaks, the drum and chants commenced once more and continued with only brief breaks until early evening.

Young Huichol girls participate in the ceremony

Young Huichol girls participate in the ceremony

As soon as the ceremony finished for the day, lightning strikes danced atop the mountains all around us. It began to rain as thunder grew closer. Eventually, a heavy downpour lulled us to sleep and kept the village dreaming until around 3 or 4 a.m. when the elders began to gather around the fire once again.

On Sunday morning, the fresh corn and squash were cooked on the fire, and then everyone lined up to take a piece of both. Before feasting, each person placed their small piece of the harvest onto the drum to be blessed by the shaman and then offered a few kernels of corn and a pinch of squash to the fire. The taste of Huichol corn is far heartier than what you find in most stores or farm stands around the world. Each bite contains an earthiness and fullness that is hard to describe. This ancient staple represents the healing of the body for the Huichol, and indeed, you can taste the difference in the food grown on the land that has been stewarded for thousands of years by such a grounded culture.


Before dispersing back to our nearby huts and distant villages, everyone gathered around the ceremonial fire to offer one last prayer. Together, the entire village called out to Tatewari (Grandfather Fire), to give thanks for a successful ceremony and for all those near and far who supported this sacred gathering.


Thank you for being a part of the ceremony from afar. Even if all you did was read this message, you are connected within the concentric circles of community. 

Hopefully the positive effects of the ceremony will continue to ripple out into the world.

We wish you a bountiful and balanced autumn season!

With Love & Gratitude,

Brant Secunda + Nico Secunda

Autumn in the Huichol Sierra

Autumn in the Huichol Sierra

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Huichol Woman Cooking Tortilla

The Best Tortillas in the World!

When asked what the Huichols eat, Brant will reply, “ beans and tortillas, tortillas and beans, and a little hot sauce.”

I have been lucky to have been down to the Huichol village in Mexico with Brant for ceremony with many times. We usually arrive around sunset. Soon after settling in, we are called over to eat by Virginia, one of Don José’s and Doña Josefa’s daughters and a very good friend of Brant’s, as well as a friend to all of us “gringos” who come down to visit. She feeds us several times a day and makes sure we have what we need. Waiting for us by the outdoor kitchen fire when we arrive is a big bowl of fresh, hot, thick papayari (corn tortillas), bowls of beans, and maybe some fideo, soup made with very tiny noodles, and, of course, a dish of kukuri (spicy salsa). Muy chiloso! Too hot for me to have more than a tiny taste, but I can’t help going back for more.

I wish I could accurately describe those tortillas.The Huichols grow 5 colors of corn – white, yellow, red, blue/black, and mixed (representing the 5 colors of people). The tortillas we get are usually white or yellow, occasionally the blue. The Huichol women soak and grind the corn, roll and pat them by hand, then flatten them in a well used tortilla press. They use the top of an old metal barrel to cook them over the fire.

Ohhh! That first bite of the first tortilla of the visit! So deeply satisfying; so deeply nourishing. From a pure nutritional perspective, their corn has a massively higher percentage of protein from ours so that is part of the satisfaction. As a cook, I know that using such fresh ingredients is part of the satisfaction. What I also know is that they are made with deep love, lots of laughter, and great care.

From the beginning to the  end, the corn is treated delicately and sacredly. It is blessed and prayed over every step of the way from seed to tortillas. The whole village prays and dances in the Spring ceremony for the blessing of the seeds and the coming crop. The seeds are stored in a special way in the community temple. Prayers are said for a good corn crop, and the men are honored and blessed before the planting. The seeds are planted and the crops are tended in centuries old traditions. When the corn is ready to be harvested, again the whole village prays and makes ceremony. The first corn is blessed and shared. When dried and ready, the crop carefully picked. Nothing is wasted. The women share the tradition of soaking and grinding the corn, teaching their daughters the way they themselves were taught. They make tortillas together, sharing them with love. Everyone participates and everyone gets fed. These are the things that make these tortillas so good!

You can taste the love. You can taste the tradition and the history. You can taste the Gods.

In the course of eating, Virginia asks several times, “ Quien quiere mas?” Who wants more? Because of how nourishing the tortillas are, it might only take a few bites to fill me up or I might want to keep eating just because they taste so good and we all need that deep Soul nourishment that comes from those bites. Who wants more? I do. I wait throughout  the year until the next visit for that beautiful gift from Mother Earth, from the Corn Goddess, from Virginia and the rest of my Huichol family. It’s a good way to learn the power of food – the nutrition, the nourishment, the love and the joy of community and family. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking that feeling home. We can honor our food and ourselves in similar ways – blessing the food’s journey from seed to belly and back to the earth. We can let our souls be nourished by food created with love and thoughtful care. We can make sure we all have enough.

Quien quiere mas?

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Rose Petal Jam

Getting Back to the Basics

In this modern world of instant gratification, immediate messages, fast food, faster internet, etc., I find myself taking a step back. It seems to me that we try to find ways of cheating for a brighter bright, a whiter white, an oxy clean, a new chemical to treat wrinkles, depression, weight loss, impotence, lack of good digestion… …the list goes on for what seems an eternity. We want a quick fix. We want “more time”.

More time for what?

To pursue our spiritual endeavors? Are instant mashed potatoes really going to help me have the time to be a better person? Or, taking the time to work the land in prayer, feel the earth, dig the hole, plant the potato, nurture the plant, watch it grow patiently, give thanks as you harvest and clean, cook, serve, and feel the kupuri (life-force) and love from the gods as you take in the potato is going to serve me better? Knowing that the process was a shamanic experience and being aware of it, is a choice I have made.

People ask me why do I make my own laundry soap and bread from scratch and cook everything from scratch? Well, the answer is for the journey.

Last year I made rose petal jam. The easy recipe I found called for harvesting the rose petals and placing them in the food processor to grind them down in about three seconds. Another recipe was in a traditional style that called for rolling the rose petals between your hand to crush each one and release it’s flavor. I chose the longer version, which took about an hour. That hour was wonderful! There was something very meditative about it and I could feel the love and had time to give thanks for each rose petal as I worked. This is my therapy.

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