Huichol Girl Laughing in hut window

Journey into the Huichol Sierra

Chronicles of the Spring Ceremony by Nico Secunda We made it home! After a beautiful and empowering journey to the Huichol in Mexico, we arrived back to our home in Santa Cruz, California last night. My father and I, along with a small group of long-time students, partook in the spring ceremony to honor Tate-Urianaka (Mother Earth) as she awakens from her winter slumber. Hopefully you received my previous message about the ceremony, which I was able to send out from the road just in the nick of time before losing our link to the modern world through cellular reception. Thank you to all of you, for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Your support means a lot and could be felt throughout our journey. I always look forward to crossing that invisible boundary between the modern world and the ancient Huichol landscape. Watching the bars on the cell phone disappear brings a wonderful feeling. A weight is lifted. The obligations of modern life, which can at times steal our time and distract us from the more meaningful endeavors of the spirit, are switched off. Crossing that invisible border we enter into the Huichol territory. We continue through rolling hills of mango and papaya trees, then up the incline of switchbacks into the mountains of the Sierra Madre, eventually reaching the end of the road. Here, we must transition from roadway to waterway, in order to press on deeper into the Huichol territory. One of Don José’s sons is awaiting our arrival at the river. He greets us and along with a few other Huichol men, we load into three boats and push off to make our way upriver. The moist air kisses our cheeks as the boats head against the current. As the sun sets behind us, we reach a familiar bend in the river and finally the village comes into view. This is a sight I have seen countless times and once again I am filled with a sense of returning home. I grew up coming here time after time and have a deep gratitude for the connection to this place that is now strongly rooted within me. The boats scrape onto the banks and the young Huichol men on the bow jump onto the moist soil to tie up to large rocks half submerged in the water. One by one, we all step ashore. Now, the last leg of the journey to reach the village. In single file, we follow the steep winding trail to the uppermost plateau perched on the hillside overlooking the river and rugged peaks that reach skyward in the distance. “Keiaku!” (Hello) and “Buenas Tardes,” young children greet us as they run down the trail to help carry our mountain of bags filled with gifts. When we reach the upper village, we walk through the gate at the village entrance and see the fire in the center burning like a beacon to which we have been summoned. We make our way around […]

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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 […]

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Tahiti - photo by Mark Allen Ironman Triathlon World Champion

Tahiti – Realizing a Childhood Dream

In my early teens, I saw a group of photos from Tahiti. They showed deeply contoured lush island peaks surrounded by emerald blue ocean lagoons. It was the South Pacific, French Polynesia; the very islands that some say their Hawaiian neighbors originated from, traveling across vast expanses of ocean from one paradise to another. In those first moments lost in the pictures in the magazine in front of me, I hoped that some day I’d be able to make the journey to Tahiti to see such amazing beauty with my own eyes. But the years ticked away, one decade then another. Life has its own timeline, and although I’d had a number of opportunities to go there over the years, it just never panned out. Fortunately, the window opened this year and I boarded an Air Tahiti Nui plane bound for Papeete, the largest city in the islands and the capital of Tahiti. Unfortunately the flight landed well past sunset, forcing me to wait another night on top of the 40+ years I’d already spent dreaming of seeing the islands first hand. It was worth the wait. Sunrise was a flush pink and golden sky that met the powdery blue ocean. Moorea in the near distance had each of its sharp jungle-covered peaks capped in cottony clouds. How could it get any better! I soaked it in, way in. The experience was new. The process was familiar. You see as a young boy I had another dream, which was to find a teacher, a real teacher. Those weren’t quite the words I had for it at the time, but it was a yearning to be guided and learn from someone who knows the workings of the universe beyond the ordinary constraints of life. Someone who could help me connect with the greatness of all life in a way that only a person who had dedicated their life to knowing the Great Spirit could bring. That dream was answered twenty-five years ago when I met Brant Secunda in Mexico and began to study with him.   Over the past two and a half decades I’ve heard him emphasize again and again that shamanism is about developing a relationship with nature: with the light, the plants and rocks, the trees and flowers and all the animals, and Mother Earth. In those first moments breathing in the beauty all around me in Tahiti I realized this is what I do every day. All around me no matter where I am, there is some aspect of nature that I become aware of; that I connect with, that I can draw perspective from and be reminded of how I’m a part of nature’s greatness. It takes away isolation, stress; it resets my trust in the bigger picture of life. It’s priceless, and I realized that although I’d waited over forty years to experience the beauty of Tahiti, that I’d been experiencing beauty in a deep and profound way with Brant and through his teachings since […]

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Brant Secunda blessing with macaw fan

SHAMANISM: The Healing Journey of the Heart

Shamans throughout the world, from Tibet and Mongolia to the Americas, have been involved in healing for thousands of years, dating back to Paleolithic times. An integral part of this healing tradition are its perspectives, both personal and at the same time planetary. Shamanism, perhaps as old as consciousness itself, is an ancient healing tradition that has, throughout the ages, reflected the changing cultures of the surrounding world. The shamanic tradition involves healing through personal transformation as well as healing our family, community and environment. Central to this healing tradition is the belief that we must heal and honor our mother the earth, who is viewed as a living, conscious organism. This sacred female Goddess, the earth, who nourishes our very existence, must also nourished with such prayers and ceremonies, say shamans. I have studied and practiced shamanism for over 40 years, completing a lengthy apprenticeship with Don José Rios (Matsuwa), a 110 year old Huichol shaman-healer. The Huichol of Mexico are said to be the last tribe of North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions, little disturbed by colonialization and Christianization until very recently. I feel fortunate for having been able to study with such an amazing group of people. As I was taught by the Huichol, healing is a way of life; a way of being that permeates our very existence. Healing is something to be practiced constantly, not just when we are ill. Moreover, the shamanic tradition of healing does not limit itself to healing of the physical body, but rather involves the maintenance of the harmony and balance of the universe. We must consciously make contact with all life, see our life in all things, so that life and health are embedded within our hearts that so need to be nourished and cared for. Shamanism focuses on all life as being majestically and mysteriously interrelated and sacred. Plants, rocks, two- and four-legged creatures all have personal identities with whom the shaman develop a personal relationship. When the shaman prays, he prays not only for himself but also for his sacred relatives: our mother the earth, our father the sun, our grandfather and giver of light the fire, our grandmothers the eagle and the winged ones. Don José often told me never to forget that my relatives are the earth, sky, rivers, birds, animals, stones, gems, mountains, caves, springs and lakes. Upon our first meeting Don José spoke of our mother the earth, who nourishes and speaks to our heart. The shaman learns to listen with his heart as well as his ears, and thus shamanism, as a healing art, makes a person whole and complete, a whole system integrated fully to the surrounding environment. According to various shamanic mythologies, there was a time when paradise existed and all life was one. For example, fire communicated freely with people. Now this is lost and for this reason the shaman acts as a bridge, drawing upon lost lines of communication with all life that surrounds him both visibly […]

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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. 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. IT’S OK more info

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Brant Secunda with Huichol

Journey to the Heart

“Is your heart happy?” Don José asks the children at his rancho. “Dance with all your heart. We are following the example of the gods and the way they have taught to us. This is our life.” Shamans throughout the world, from Tibet and Mongolia to the Americas, have been involved in healing for thousands of years, dating back to Paleolithic times. Perhaps as old as consciousness itself, shamanism is an ancient healing tradition that has reflected the changing cultures of the surrounding world throughout the ages. The shamanic tradition involves healing through personal transformation as well as healing our family, community and environment. Central to this healing tradition is the belief that we must heal and honor our mother the earth, who is viewed as a living, conscious organism. Shamans say this sacred female Goddess, the earth, who nourishes our very existence, must also be nourished with our prayers and ceremonies. The Huichols of Mexico are said to be the last tribe in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions, little disturbed by colonialization and Christianization until very recently. I feel fortunate for having been able to study with such an amazing group of people, as an apprentice for over a decade with Don José Matsuwa, a Huichol shaman-healer who lived to the age of 110. The Huichols taught me that healing is a way of life, a way of being that permeates our very existence. Healing is something to be practiced constantly, not just when we are ill. Moreover, the shamanic tradition of healing does not limit itself to healing of the physical body, but rather involves the maintenance of the harmony and balance of the universe. We must consciously make contact with all life, see our life in all things, so that life and health are embedded within our hearts. Upon our first meeting Don José spoke of our mother the earth, who nourishes and speaks to our heart. The shaman learns to listen with their heart as well as their ears, and thus shamanism, as a healing art, makes a person whole and complete, a whole system integrated fully to the surrounding environment. Shamanism focuses on all life as being majestically and mysteriously inter-related and sacred. Plants, rocks, two- and four- legged creatures all have personal identities with whom the shaman develops a personal relationship. When the shaman prays, he prays not only for himself but also for his sacred relatives: our mother the earth, our father the sun, our grandfather and giver of light the fire, our grandmothers the eagle and the winged ones. Don José often told me never to forget that my relatives are the earth, sky, rivers, birds, animals, stones, gems, mountains, caves, springs and lakes. According to various shamanic mythologies, there was a time when paradise existed and all life was one. For example, fire communicated freely with people. Now this is lost and for this reason the shaman acts as a bridge, drawing upon lost lines of communication with […]

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Brant Secunda

Natural Balance

Regaining your balance in the modern world I’ve been a part of the Huichol culture now for almost forty years, and one of the most amazing traits they have is an ability to let go of negative emotions that can arise in stressful situations and refocus their thoughts on positive feelings. Yes, even very traditional people living in partial isolation from the modern world have to deal with stress and challenges! For just about everyone in our society today, it is less a question of whether or not we are under stress, but more a discussion about how much stress we are experiencing. Short intermittent bouts of stress are what can make us stronger and help us develop as individuals. But long-term constant stress is something that must be coped with. A look at some of the simple time-proven tools the Huichols use can be potent skills to help you immediately in this moment make those positive shifts in your own life. [divider]   Reconnect With Nature Shamanism by definition is to develop a relationship with nature: to go out and experience the wind on your cheeks, the beauty and sound of a stream or the ocean, to draw in the incredible colors of a sunrise or a sunset. These are ancient tools of transformation that are available to each and every one of us still today. Even if you live in the middle of a city, the earth is beneath your feet emanating her power of love. A simple exercise that enables you to shift stress and bring positive thoughts and feelings is to walk slowly outside, and with each step visualize love coming into your body from Mother Earth. The Huichol do this. You can to! Draw In Light In addition to accessing the love of the earth, a second power of nature is light. The sun has light, a candle or fire has light, the stars have light, and we as human beings are made up of light. But sometimes the light that is in each cell of our bodies can feel overshadowed by negative emotions like fear, anger or jealousy. If you find yourself feeling like that inner light needs to brighten up a bit, go outside and visualize the light of the sun streaming into your body through the top of your head. Sit in front of a candle or fire and breathe that light in through your heart. Simple but powerful, this effective tool that comes from ancient times will quickly bring a positive focus and sense of well-being to your soul. Develop Community Isolation fosters negative emotions, whereas being part of a community tends to help diffuse stress, reduce feelings of needing immediate solutions to challenges we are facing and most importantly provides a human being with a renewed sense that life is a wondrous, positive experience. This is ancient shamanic wisdom that can so simply be utilized in the modern world. Laugh This goes hand in hand with developing community. Laughter is […]

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Sunrise Shamanic Practice

Shamanism by 6:30am

I have been studying Huichol Shamanism with Brant Secunda for 25 years and each year has given me a deeper understanding about how to infuse my daily life with shamanism. As I wake before dawn each day I think of my dreams and tell them to Grandfather Fire. Speaking with the fire settles my spirit, and sets my intentions for the coming day, reminding me to keep connected to kauyumari (the deer spirit), my heart, to stay connected to the gods, my family, my community and to remember that my daily work is for the wellbeing of the earth and all her creatures. As I leave my house and drive to San Jose, I often see the rising sun. Again an opportunity to connect with the beauty of life, the power of tauwarika (the spirit of the rising sun), to breath in the sacred colors and honor the energy of a new day. It is a chance to begin anew, to find myself in the circle of life, and to start the day filled with the wonder of the sacred colors of life. Throughout the day I call on the fire and the sunrise; the memory of the images fill me with life force, peace and calmness. Outside of my classroom there is a beautiful vegetable garden. As I look at the plants, I give thanks for the beauty, the earth, the water, the sun, Takutsi Nakewei (Grandmother Growth). I am grateful for the fantastic miracle that the vegetables grow deep in the city, that they grow as a flower, that they create the air that we breathe, that when I look into their centers I see a green blossom expanding out with vibrant life force. It is now nearly 6:30 am and I am remembering, feeling, experiencing shamanism all around me. Brant has always taught us that the life force is always there to experience, to see, feel, hear and know. We just have to become aware, to open our hearts to the nierica of life. To let our spirit float through the passageway into the miracle of creation, into the heart of life, into the blessing and the energy that reminds us that we are one with all. This is how shamanism touches me each day. 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. IT’S OK more info

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Spring Blossoms of the Soul

The Power of Springtime

In the springtime, the Earth is waking up from her dream and everything bursts forth to grow. Think about the flowers and trees, how they awaken and come back to life in the spring. The rains fertilize Mother Earth and help the process of spring evolve. Water also fertilizes the hearts of humans causing the flower of the heart, the “tutu” to open, so we can become wiser and more beautiful. Our heart is dormant during the winter like everything in nature – resting. This is a good thing. It is being charged up to awaken and arise in the spring; as the earth is waking up, we too, wake up. Spring brings back the power of light. Light, the relationship of the sun to the earth, is what helps define the seasons. Light has the effect of awakening both the Earth and people. The sun gives light to the earth. Light activates chemicals that promote love. Love is the power of springtime, and as Mother Earth wakes up, she exudes that love. The energy of love is thus reborn in the spring. It is the same way with humans. The seasons affect us and we go through a major shift with the change of seasons. We are introspective in winter; energy goes inside. In the spring, we experience a rebirth – physically, spiritually, and emotionally – we gain new life. Springtime affects your spirit; you are affected by Nature and the evolutionary processes that occur. Every spring you have a chance to be regenerated again, reborn from the stillness and quietness of winter. You have a chance to open up, just like everything around us. You can be reborn right here, on this Earth, by opening your heart to the process of regeneration. Feel the aliveness that comes into your own personal spirit, which is rooted in the spirit of nature. We become part of the process of re-creation occurring during the springtime. We wake up, become more alert, our hearts are more open. It is a time of new beginnings; everything is fresh, clean and striving to grow upward toward the sun. In spring we transition from an introverted state to a state of physical and spiritual blossoming. The light transforms us. It is a time of fertilizing, watering our spirits, and unfolding the pedals of our hearts. Honor the return of the light. Bring the light into your heart, your being. Look at the light in nature; become attuned to your environment. As we approach the Equinox, it is a time of balance between light and dark. By taking in the light we can achieve greater balance and harmony. Walking on the earth is a good way to awaken your connection to the natural world. Feel Mother Earth waking up. Tune into nature and feel yourself becoming aware and alert during this season. Be aware of what’s happening around you and realize that same transition within yourself. Approach spring as though it is the first time you […]

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A journey into a Huichol Indian village

The Huichol Sierra

The Huichol Sierra is a window into the past.  This place is a mirror of the modern world.  It is a peaceful and harmonious reflection of the stressful world in which I often find myself.  And when I become overwhelmed by life, I look to this reflection in search of tranquility and a sense of serenity.  It is this place that puts everything else into perspective. To come to this place, I must journey into the past.  Leaving the modern world behind, I cross over into the depths of an ancient region filled with a hidden culture.  Each time I journey to the Huichol land it is mirroring my father’s first 5-day trek into this uncharted territory.  It is only because of his arduous journey, almost 40 years ago, that I find myself there. Canoes sloshing onto the shore under the cover of night marks ones arrival into Huichol native territory.  We have crossed the river that separates the Cowboys from the natives.  Hiking up the steep slopes towards the guiding light quiets the mind and creates a sense of intense awareness.  Soon enough we arrive at the burning fire, the blood red heart of the village.  Greeting faces lit dimly by the jumping flames with eyes shining brightly with the reflection of this central light creates a mysterious sensation.  Keiyaku (hello), we say to one another. Then the ceremony begins and carries everyone through the night and into the sunrise.  As the darkness fades and slowly the surrounding mountains appear to the chorus of cock-a-doodle-do-ing roosters and chirping songbirds, the sun is pulled higher in to the now glowing sky.  And as the bright ball of fire rolls over the distant peaks, the corn silk lining the vivacious green hillsides sparkles and the stalks stretch as they welcome a new day. Throughout the day everything else I may do in the village is interspersed with people watching.  Watching the archaic lifestyle unfold in front of me is incredibly impressive and impacting.  From the children playing with dragonflies to the elders sitting in the dirt, with the sound of a completely foreign tongue echoing from their lips.  Each one of these simple, everyday occurrences gives birth to complex thoughts of human nature within the depths of my mind.  The men climb the nearby slopes in search of firewood, while the women gather water from life-giving springs.  Another day passes. In this place, this day could have been yesterday, a year ago, a decade ago or even a lifetime ago.  The fast paced changes that so drastically alter my life in the modern world have little affect on this distant land.  Many would jump to the conclusion to call such a lifestyle “disconnected.”  I, however; see it as far more “connected.”  Connected to the life sustaining land, both spiritually, as well as physically. As the day continues, the western mountains above the village reach into the sky and thus shade the villagers from the sweltering heat.  The slow gentle breeze is […]

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