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Meeting the Huichol People

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From New York City to the wilds of Mexico’s Sierra Made Mountains, Brant tells of his amazing life-changing journey in which he first encountered the Huichol tribe.

He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but when he was rescued by the Huichol and eventually brought to the village of Don José Matsuwa, he knew has had come home.


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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.


  • Adam White, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

    Adam White, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.


Adam White Brant, could you share a little bit about how you met the Huichol People with us?
Brant Secunda Sure. I grew up in New York and New Jersey in Brooklyn and in New Jersey. The day after my 18th birthday I left for Mexico, and I journeyed. I went to the West Coast, and then I journeyed down and I wound up in Ixtlan which has been made famous by Carlos Castaneda's book about the Yaqui journey to Ixtlan which had not yet been written. He had his first books out, but not that one. I met a young Huichol Indian school teacher who gave me the name of his family's village. He said, "You will love it there, very traditional. It's great." I said, "All right." He said, "But there's 1 catch." He said, "You have to walk for 5 days to arrive there." I thought if I had survived New York and New Jersey growing up, I could survive walking for 5 days in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

After a while, it was time to go to the village there, and I guess you could say I chickened out. I was not quite ready to go, so I went to Guatemala and Southern Mexico, and had some incredible experiences but never really found what I was wishing for, what my heart was yearning for. I decided, "Okay, I'll go back to Ixtlan and go up to the Huichols in the Sierra." I went back and when I got to Ixtlan, it was the middle of the siesta time, so there was no one there meeting me at the bus station. They told me after a while that if I went out to the airport, someone out there might know. I arrived at the airport, I walked out there, and there was a little plane ready to take off. It wasn't what we would call an airport. It was a very rural and rustic kind of an airport, but there was a 4-seater airplane there.

I went up to where the pilot was, and I was shouting up, "Do you know where this village is?" He points. He just goes like that. They love to point in Mexico. I started to walk away from the plane, and he called me over. He said, "We'll fly you in 1 day's worth of your hike." I thought, "Great." I ran around, I put the stairs down, and I clamored up the stairs, and I looked. There were 4 seats, but they were all taken. They pointed to the back, and they go, "You know, climb in on top of the corn," and that's what I did. We take off, and everyone starts praying and crossing themselves, and I thought, "Hey, hey, hey, what's going on here?" They said, "Well, even before you got on the plane, we were overweight, and now," they said, "pray."

I had never prayed like this out loud, and I never had crossed myself before. Somehow we arrived at the village where they were taking me to. It was like a Mexican commune that the government had given to Mexicans to grow their own food, to grow corn and so forth. It was right on the border of Huichol territory because it's forbidden to go into Huichol land unless you have a guide or an introduction. I walked off, and on the 3rd day of my journey, I became completely disoriented. I had had a little fruit, which of course I devoured immediately. I had a little water, which I drank immediately, and unless you know where the water is, you won't find it during the season.
Adam White It's the dry season in Mexico at that time.
Brant Secunda Yes. I was a little, you might say, angry, and I was a little sarcastic being from the East Coast, New York and New Jersey, and I thought, "What happened? Why haven't these Indians saved me?" Here, I thought that I would have a welcoming party, you might say. Then, I thought, "Maybe I should have gone to the university like all my other friends who went to university from high school." A lot of things went through my mind, and then I became very afraid. I was terrified. I didn't want to die out in the wilderness. I eventually passed out from dehydration, sun exposure. Maybe I even had heat exhaustion, but I passed out, and I began to have wild dreams, or now I would call them visions. I was suddenly awakened by Indians standing over me sprinkling water onto my face and kicking me, they say, with love.

They told me why was I laying there like a drunk? They said, "Wake up. The old Shaman of our village has had a dream about you. He had a dream 2 days earlier and sent us out to rescue you and bring you back to the village." From that moment on, no one could ever tell me dreams were not very important in an indigenous cultural setting and any setting really. They took me back and then soon after I was taken to the village of Don Jose Matsuwa, and he looked so familiar when I met him even though I really had never met him physically, his physical body, but he looked very familiar to me. He said that he had had a dream about me also and that he adopted me as his grandson and put me through a 12-year apprenticeship.
Adam White When you came to the Huichol village and you saw Don Jose, was this a feeling of being home or coming home again?
Brant Secunda Yes, totally. It just felt like I've arrived home.
Adam White This is what you were referring to.
Brant Secunda His face just was so familiar to me, this old, old, old man, and he was in his 90s already when I met him. Then, he put me through a 12-year apprenticeship, and it just felt so right for me.
Adam White Right from the start.
Brant Secunda Right from the start there was never any doubt, and we became very close companions, and he was my grandfather. That's how I met the Huichols, and from there it just went on.
Adam White Thank you for sharing that with us. I really appreciate learning a little bit about how you met the Huichol People.
Brant Secunda Thank you.