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Our Relationship with Food

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As living beings, we all rely on food for sustenance. We each have an innate relationship with our food, but this relationship is also affected by our culture and personal experiences, in turn informing the way we understand, enjoy and respect the food we eat.

How do you honor your food? This and other questions are addressed in this interview. Brant Secunda describes the indigenous perspective of food, as experienced within the Huichol culture. He recounts the way the Huichol manifest a deep relationship with the food they grow and gather from their environment and methods they utilize to honor these harvests.

The sacred crops of the Huichol, including corn, squash, and beans have their unique mythology, informing the way in which the Huichol honor these foods and integrate them not only physically into their bodies, but also into their spiritual rituals and ceremonies. Brant explains the spiritual heritage of some of these foods, including URARI (Chocolate – the Food of the Gods).
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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.

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  • Mark Allen

    Mark Allen

Transcript

Mark Allen The Huichols have a very simple diet. What is their relationship to food?
Brant Secunda Well, they say food is for eating. Food is nutrition for the physical body, but also it's nutrition for the heart and nutrition for our heart's relationship to everything that lives. They eat, basically, beans and corn, corn and beans, beans and corn, tortillas, and beans. They call beans MUME and they call the tortillas papa. They believe that this gives power to the body, physically. They believe that it gives physical power to the human body. Corn is their main source of food. Corn is seen as food for the body, where corn is seen as healing the body.

They really love their corn and they grow their corn. They grow beans and in this way, they say that they are eating good food.
Mark Allen They have a direct relationship of what they're eating because they're growing it.
Brant Secunda Right. Also, so many foods of the modern world come from Mexico and come from the Huichols. There's tomatoes, for example, and chili, these are traditional Shaman foods from Mexico. The Huichols believe in their tradition of Shamanism, that these foods are very good for the body, good for the soul. They are constantly trying to give nutrition to their body with the corn, with the beans, with the tomatoes, with the chili, and then, of course, they grow a lot of squash as well. Squash is native to Mexico. They pick a lot of wild fruits and vegetables. It's like a family day out, like, "Lets go pick a wild vegetable. Lets go pick wild fruits that are growing," but it's very seasonal. In this way, they keep their bodies strong.
Mark Allen It really sounds like the Huichols do not take their food for granted.
Brant Secunda No, they don't. They are aware that food is about life. They are aware of their food. They are aware of what it does for the body. They just see it as a very natural way to live on the earth. Just to be aware of the food, to let the food give them strength, and to be thankful for the food. Another food, which they use in their ceremonies, is chocolate. Chocolate is sacred for the Huichols. They have a word "Urabi", which translates as "food of the gods". When they go on a pilgrimage, when they go on a journey to a sacred place of power or beauty, they will leave the chocolate there as a gift for the place of power, as do many cultures around the world.

They might leave rice, or saffron, or different things. We chose we'll leave chocolate and corn.
Mark Allen They're connected with the energy of the food that's connecting them to the gods that's connecting them to good health, is that ...
Brant Secunda Right. They're very aware of this connection.
Mark Allen Is that something that we can do as well?
Brant Secunda Yeah, we should be aware of the food that we eat and everything that we take into our bodies. Let it nurture you, let it nourish, let it empower you, let it give you life, in a natural way.
Mark Allen Do the Weichel people give thanks before they eat? How do ... Is there a process with that?
Brant Secunda It's a quick thanks, we're hungry normally. We usually go, "Huh," and then eat.
Mark Allen That's great, thank you.
Brant Secunda You're welcome.