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.

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 fat

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 the fire, greeting our Huichol family and the elder shaman who, at over ninety years old, will be leading the ceremony. People from numerous villages have come to take part. The firewood has been gathered. The food offerings are prepared. Candles in the temple are lit, and the altar in front of the fire laid out. Chairs are placed for the shamans, and now we are ready for the ceremony to begin… (end of part 1 – check back soon for the second installment of this chronicle)

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 Indians. 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 Indians. 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 Indians 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.

Since that time I have been traveling the world, striving to fulfill the vision of my teacher. Thousands of people have come to me for healing. From every corner of the globe and from all walks of life. Many of them have tried everything western medicine has to offer before finally resorting to shamanic healing. It seems to me that people today are more in need of healing than ever before.

Personal Stories of Healing • from Marilyn Del Duca

I was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, and antibiotics were not helping.
I went to Brant to ask for help.  He did a series of healings for me that
healed the Lyme’s with no residual effects.  Years later when I suffered a
bad fall and tore my MCL, his healings made it possible for me to avoid
surgery.  These are just two of the ways his healings have  helped me over
the years.

Another time, my niece was trying to get pregnant.  I told her not to worry – if she wasn’t pregnant by the following June, I would take her to meet Brant at the Summer Solstice, as I knew he had good luck with women’s issues.  He did a fertility healing for her, and she was pregnant within a month.  Her first baby was born the following April, and she had a second baby 20 months later, blessing me with two beautiful great-nieces.

Shamanic healing searches out the root of illness. Often a person’s ailment stems from something much deeper than what is felt on the surface. This is common with psychological and spiritual trauma, but also with physical ailments. The shaman strives to find the source of the illness and to extract it from the individual.

For many, shamanic healing may seem far-fetched or simply archaic; however, I have witnessed time and again its relevance for those very people who don’t even believe in it. I have had numerous people come to me after trying “everything else” and searching desperately for healing. One such man came to my office in Santa Cruz, California for a healing over 15 years ago. As soon as I met him, he asked if he needed to believe in the shamanic healing I was about to conduct. I said “no” and he replied, “Good, because I don’t.” His doctors had given him two weeks to live with his pancreatic cancer. He ended up in remission and lived another ten years.

I am so grateful for my journey to the Huichol. I am thankful for the countless healings I witnessed while studying with Don José, which allowed me to believe. I remember one of the first things he told me. He said, “Until you learn to believe, you will never really learn.”

You can be told the earth is sacred or that shamans can dream of the future or heal terrible diseases, but until you experience it yourself, you can never fully believe. Experience is one of our greatest teachers.

A journey into a Huichol Indian village

The Huichol Sierra

The Huichol Indian 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 Indian territory.  We have crossed the river that separates the Cowboys from the Indians.  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 a welcomed relief to the heat of the day and as day turns to dusk, the wafting air carries heavy clouds swiftly inland toward to the surrounding mountains.  No sooner than I get comfortable and begin to drift to sleep under the starry sky, the clouds begin to test the land.  I awaken to beads of water running down my face.  And just as I find refuge in one of the small thatched roofed huts, the clouds release their torrential cargo onto the land.  And whereas in many places around the world, people would be complaining of the “nasty” weather, here in this “disconnected” land, everyone is grateful for the blessings of this rain.  The people are content and rejoice at the prospect of the fertility, which the precipitation brings to the land.

As the rain subsides, the primordial cycle begins once again.  Darkness gives way to light and the rising sun leaves less and less place for the shadows to hide.  Now I must leave one home for another and begin my journey back the place that I left and shall leave again.

It is this village that is usually so far from me, which stays close to my heart.  The village is a home and the villagers are family.  Having known the place and it’s people since I was born, I have grown to cherish the importance of it’s meaning.  It is the symbolic place of both power and peace in my soul – the reflection, the mirror, the guiding light.

I have traveled to this Huichol village many times and each and every time I go there, my view is from a slightly different perspective.  People reveal a new side of themselves and the landscape offers a new fruit with which to quench my thirst for understanding.  It is impossible for me to imagine my life without my deeply rooted connection to this place.  My life revolves around this very connection and to sever those binding roots would be like stealing the rain from fertile land.

Many people hunt for such a place all their life and others are haunted by the mere thought of such an isolated setting.  In reality, in a Huichol village it is near impossible to find isolation.  There is no privacy.  Every aspect of life revolves around community.  A family of five or ten sleeps in one overly modest hut and the teenagers watch over the ten years olds, who take care of the three year olds.  It is partially this deep sense of kinship, which resonates in me.  When I look around in the modern world, I often see that this communal support system is missing.  I hope that as the ancient cultures of the past inevitably learn from us, that we also can find the humbleness to learn from them.