Brant Secunda with Don José Matsuwa and Doña Josefa Medrano

Journey into Healing

In 1970 at 18 years old, intrigued by a book of Carlos Castenada. I left my hometown in New Jersey and set out on a journey to Ixtlan as a spiritual tourist in search of Don Juan. En route, I met a Huichol schoolteacher, who gave me the name of his family’s village – a five day walk away. Soon, I found myself hiking through the Sierra Madre Mountains, in search of the mysterious Huichol natives. With the sun blazing down on me, I followed a narrow deer trail hoping I was still heading in the right direction. The Mexican towns, along with the rest of the modern world quickly faded behind me. The Brazil Trees and the thick underbrush enveloped me, as I continued deeper into the Sierra. After three days and no sign of any village, I found myself hopelessly lost. I had drunk my last sip of water and tried to calm the panic rising inside of me. Pressing on in hope of finding the village, dehydration and sun exposure overtook me. The trees around me began spinning. I collapsed, sinking into unconsciousness, as feelings of disgust, anger and finally fear overtook me. As I lay dying on the parched earth, I dreamt of circles full of light spinning in front of me. Visions of deer and an old indigenous man appeared. Suddenly, cold water hit my face. Startled into consciousness, my beautiful dreams and visions faded. Slowly opening my eyes, above me loomed the dark faces of three natives. They told me in Spanish of an old shaman in their Huichol village who had dreamt I was dying at this spot and sent them to save me two days earlier. Still weak, I was led through the mountains to a clearing with mud and stick huts, the smell of tortillas cooking and sounds of children playing. Amazed at this scene and that I was alive; I was taken to their shaman Don Juan (of the same name, but not the one of Castenada fame). I remained there for two weeks. The people told me of another shaman, Don José Matsuwa, in a nearby village who had also dreamt of me: He summoned me to his rancho. The same three natives who had originally saved me led me to his hut. Shortly after meeting Don José I was put in a cave for five days and five nights with no food or water. I was told this was my initiation. If I lived, I would continue as an apprentice to this renowned shaman and healer. 12 years later I completed my apprenticeship. I had been adopted as Don José’s grandson. He had taught me the ancient wisdom of healing and ceremony and we had become close companions on the path of the shaman. Following my training, I was sent back to the modern world, to help share the secrets of the Huichol, to heal those in need and to conduct ceremonies to bring balance to the Earth. […]

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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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Patiently walking over a fallen log over a river.

Letting Go of the Now

It seems to me that, as Americans, we want everything NOW. Shamanism, however, has taught me patience and the investment in learning is paying off with big returns. True, I knew that from the start my path in Shamanism would be that of slow and steady growth. I had to get accustomed to the gradual process of learning but I genuinely appreciate both the grounding and visionary aspects of the steady growth. Brant has taught me to go up with my energy; to the upper world. The steady process of growth — with my heart guiding me upwards — has made me a happier and wiser man. I don’t think wisdom comes easily, no doubt, there is work involved. It has occurred to me that it would be nice and lazy-like to simply enjoy the comforts of material wealth and the fruits of modern society without seeking higher learning. Sure, I wouldn’t need to make an effort… but I’m not sure if I would feel fulfilled as an individual. More than that, sheer intellectual curiosity drives me towards the answers to questions about the nature of this world and the upper world. Maybe one of the greatest rewards of Shamanism is clarity. Modern life allows us financial, practical, psychological, physiological, theological, phenomenological, epistemological, and other philosophical perspectives on our lives. Yet, Shamanism provides its own way of viewing and living reality — one that I find is the most primordial and presuppositionless of any that I have found. The old Shaman in the Huichol villages have such incredible depth and mental clarity…. the nonverbal communication is incredible. Brant has shown me this world and opened the doors to levels of understanding I would not have otherwise had access to. 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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Coming together at Mount Shasta to build a long lasting powerful spiritual community.

Building a Spiritual Community

Brant takes people to Mount Shasta annually to do ceremony, learn the traditions of the Huichols, and to go on pilgrimage to the sacred and magnificent mountain, Mount Shasta.  All the participants build a spiritual community for the duration of our visit at the base of the mountain.  We sit in circle in a pristine meadow, we learn the ancient exercises and practices that help us feel the powers of the four directions, experience the truth in the fire, water, earth and air, we celebrate life in the circle when we dance the Huichol Deer Dance and pray for our lives and the lives of all living things.  What is unique about Brant Secunda’s seminars is that you are in nature experiencing genuine Huichol native traditions as they have existed for thousands of years.  I feel deeply grateful that I am able to bring my children to the Dance of the Deer’s spiritual retreats, and they can learn and feel and see and dance in the circle of the Huichol traditions.  There is nothing more fulfilling for them to connect with nature and learn how to honor life in this way.  I look forward to sharing this beautiful path with my family for many years to come. 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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Impacts of Shamanism - Mark Allen at Zion

Impacts of Shamanism

A short while ago I was asked about my life since I first met Brant about twenty years ago. The question was something innocent like “Has your life changed much because of your studies with Brant?” It took about a half second of thought for the answer. “Studying with Brant has touched every single area of my life!” This is a question I think about nearly every day and am grateful for the answer. I met Brant at a 10-day workshop he lead in Mexico in 1990. From the first moments, from the first chant that he sang, I felt like I had found something that I had been searching for since I was a young boy. I was always drawn to those images that we have all seen in movies where the wise elders from an ancient tradition cut through the clutter of modern life and come up with a simple nugget of wisdom that puts everything in perspective. I had been trying to find someone or something in the real world that would connect me to that type of knowledge and clarity since I can remember. Going to college was partly an attempt to gain that deeper understanding about life. The things I did for work were also a search for an experience of doing something that was good for the world beyond just my life. The vacations, travels, trips to places on the earth that were different were again my way of seeking something that I could experience and take into my being to fill my life up with joy and purpose. Yet no matter how hard I tried to experience this ideal of how I felt life should be lived and to feel something that deeply touched my soul, I always fell just a little short. Life had been a search that led me close but not completely to peace and inner happiness…that is until I heard Brant’s chant! For ten days I had the good fortune to experience what life had been alluding to through all my previous wanderings. I felt a connection to that magical indefinable world of nature that connects one’s soul to all of life and to the part of time that is timeless. I experienced a joy from life that came not from achieving results but that I could feel already inside of me and that then became my jumping off point to go out into the world. I was in the presence of a real human being, not a character in a movie, who had done what it takes to possess that enduring knowledge about all things seen and unseen that we have lost in the modern world, and that remains hidden until we do take the time to step away and allow our hearts to finally open and remember why we are truly here on earth…to live a sacred life connected to all life. This may sound pretty ethereal, but the practice and tools that create these incredible feelings are […]

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Stephanie's family on a Dance of the Deer pilgrimage retreat in Zion.

The Path of Life

Huichol shamanism has opened my life, and my children’s life, to the world of nature in a manner that I could never have imagined.  I always wanted to find a path that gave me an ancient indigenous method to honor nature and the elemental powers, to teach me how to live as a human being on Mother Earth.  The Huichol way resonates with me because it is a path of the heart.  The Huichols never had a warrior class, so all their energy went towards spiritual development, and all their spiritual journeying is through the heart.  Brant Secunda has taught me and my family how to open our hearts and learn to listen to the world of nature, to listen to, and internalize the forces of life that keeps us connected to the happiness, health and balance of life.  One of the most incredible aspects about learning Huichol Shamanism with Brant Secunda is that he takes us on pilgrimages to sacred places of power in nature.  We walk as the Huichol natives walk on pilgrimage and learn how to leave offerings to sacred places in nature, and in exchange Brant blesses us with the power that is brought forth during the pilgrimage. 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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Don José Matsuwa with Brant Secunda during a Huichol ceremony.

Dreamers of the sun: Huichol Shamanism

In 1970 at 18 years old, intrigued by the books of Carlos Castaneda , I set out an overland trip to Ixtlan as a tourist in search of Don Juan. Enroute, I met a Huichol school teacher, who gave me the name of his family village – a 5 day walk away. Early the next morning, with the sun blazing down on me in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Central Mexico, I set out on a narrow deer trail leading toward the village. My night’s lodging quickly disappeared from view, my feet tracing deer footprints up the steep path. The oak and brazil trees and the thick underbrush soon closed in behind me, no human habitation in sight as I hurried along. After a 3 day trek, I found myself hopelessly lost. I had drank my last sip of water and tried to calm the panic rising inside of me. Pressing on in hope of finding the village, dehydration and sun exposure overtook me. The trees around me began spinning. I collapsed, sinking into unconsciousness, miles from my start. As I lay dying on the parched earth, I dreamt of circles full of light spinning in front of me. Visions of deer and an old native man appeared. Suddenly, cold water hit my face. Startled into consciousness my beautiful dreams and visions faded. Slowly opening my eyes, above me loomed the dark faces of three natives. They told me in Spanish of an old shaman in their Huichol village who had dreamt I was dying at this spot and sent them to save me. Still weak, I was led down a narrow path to a clearing with mud and stick huts, the smell of tortillas cooking and sounds of children playing. Amazed at this scene and that I was alive, I was taken to their shaman Don José, in a nearby village who had also dreamt of me. He summoned me to his hacienda. The same three natives who had originally saved me led me through the thick woods to his hut. I became Don José’s apprentice, eventually completing a 12-year apprenticeship and being adopted as his grandson. Over these amazing years, he trained me in the mysteries of the world of Huichol shamanism. “The dream world brings together the past, present and future. It helps us to remember who we are now, who we were, and who we will always be. This is the power of dreams.” – Don Jose Matsuwa One of the aspects of this cosmology is their belief in “dreaming reality into existence”. In ancient times, the gods dreamed themselves into existence at the birthplace of Grandmother Ocean. Form emerged from formlessness as they dreamed, spinning visions into physical matter. The gods dreamed they should make a pilgrimage to the east to Mt. Raunasha, “The Lord of Dreams”. The Magical Deer Spirit dreamed the gods in their way to the sacred mountain. When they arrived at the ancient volcano, the Magical Deer Spirit dreamt they should […]

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Huichol Indian Boy with Rattle. Learning shamanic traditions from childhood.

Shamanism: The Healing Way of the Heart

For those who are concerned about the growing rift between the human race and the natural world, and the tragedy that results from that rift, shamanism may provide an answer. Throughout the world, from Tibet to the Southwestern United States, shamans have been involved in healing since the 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,” according to Brant Secunda, shaman, healer and director of the Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies in Santa Cruz, California. “The shamanic tradition involves healing through personal transformation as well as healing our family, community and environment, he says. “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.” Secunda is a shaman and ceremonial leader in the Huichol tradition of Mexico. He completed a 12-year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa, a renowned shaman who passed away in 1990 at the age of 110. Secunda is the adopted grandson of Don José, and was chosen by his grandfather to take his place in helping to carry on Huichol Shamanism. “The Huichols of Mexico are said to be the last tribe of North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions, little disturbed by colonization and Christianization until very recently,” Secunda says. “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,” he says. “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 constantly make contact with all life; see our life in all things, so that life and health are embedded within our hearts. According to the shamanic tradition, all life is interrelated and sacred. Plants, animals, and even rocks have personal identities with whom the shaman develops a personal relationship. “When a 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,” Secunda says. “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 that reason the shaman acts as a bridge, drawing upon lost lines of communication with all life that surrounds him both visibly and invisibly. In this way, shamans act as intermediaries between people […]

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