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Dance of the Deer Foundation

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In this interview, we explore the history of the Dance of the Deer Foundation and the meaning behind our unique name. Brant shares the background of the organization he founded with his teacher Don José Matsuwa and offers insights into the spiritual importance of the Deer within the Huichol culture.

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Brant Secunda

Brant Secunda

Shaman & Healer

Brant Secunda is a shaman, healer, and ceremonial leader in the Huichol Indian tradition of Mexico. He completed a 12-year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa, the renowned shaman who passed away in 1990 at the age of 110. Brant Secunda is the adopted grandson of Don José and was chosen by Don José to take his place to help carry on Huichol Shamanism. He is the co-founder of the American Herbalist Guild, and the founder of the Huichol Foundation. Since 1979 Brant Secunda has been the Director of the Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies and leads seminars and pilgrimages worldwide. His work has been documented on television, radio, and in articles and books throughout the USA, Europe and Japan. He is the co-author of the award-winning book Fit Soul Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You.


  • Mark Allen

    Mark Allen


Mark Allen Your foundation is called The Deer of the Dance Foundation. How did you come up with that name?
Brant Secunda I thought what is the most important part of the Huichol tradition there in Mexico and I realized it was The Dance of the Deer. I thought, "Well then, I'll name it The Dance of the Deer Foundation." That's how we came about that name.
Mark Allen What is the importance of The Dance of the Deer to the Huichol?
Brant Secunda The Huichol are one the only tribes left to have this Dance of the Deer and it's a very sacred dance where they dance for life. They dance their prayers or their good thoughts into Mother Earth. By doing the Deer Dance they also go into trance. By doing the deer dance they try to bring unity into the whole village because they're all dancing together as one heart. It's like a pulse of life there at the village.
Mark Allen That's beautiful. The shamans are chanting as the people are dancing?
Brant Secunda Yes, that shamans chant, the people dance. Also the deer is a very, very sacred animal for the Huichols. The Huichols say that the deer is on another level, a higher self. The deer also represents intuition. The deer represents a part of us as a human being that knows everything already. The deer is a very sacred animal. According to the cosmology of the Huichols the deer had an important role. It was the first student of shamanism, and so the deer, and the eagle and different ancient ones taught the deer to become a shaman. Then they thought, "Where can we hide this knowledge?" They said, "We will put that into the hearts of a human being." Therefore, we say that we're all in a sense deer people.
Mark Allen So everybody on the planet has a deer heart?
Brant Secunda Right. As deer heart as we might say intuition, everyone on the planet has intuition, everyone on the planet has a higher self, and for the Huichols this higher self is the deer.
Mark Allen How did you learn to connect with the deer with that part of yourself that has that intuition?
Brant Secunda By living with the Huichols for so many years, I participated in the ceremonies and heard Don José singing the sacred songs and chants. In this way I became familiar with the importance of the deer. They deer we say also helps people have good dreams at night and have good feelings. The deer also in a sense helps us to be a kind human being. That's why the deer is so very important.
Mark Allen Is connecting with that part of having a deeper happiness?
Brant Secunda Yes. By connecting with the deer it brings you happiness, brings you joy, brings love to your life, and these and these are things that all human beings all over the world care about, I think. They care about happiness. They care about love. They care about joy.
Mark Allen The Huichol are like a guardian for this knowledge, I would say then?
Brant Secunda The Huichol see themselves as guardians of the earth.
Mark Allen Does that relate back to the very beginning of The Dance of the Deer? Is that part of that stewardship?
Brant Secunda I would say that it connects in the sense that the Huichols want to feel a unity with their heart and in their heart is that magical deer spirit. In our language, in English, we might refer to that as intuition and like that.
Mark Allen That's great. Thank you.
Brant Secunda You're welcome.