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Shamanic Apprenticeship

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Today, the term shaman has become widely appropriated around the globe and it can be difficult to discern what a “shaman” actually is. Within indigenous cultures, shamans where the healers and ceremonial/spiritual leaders. They traditionally underwent extensive training, consisting of many years of even decades of apprenticing with an elder shaman.

The shamanic apprenticeship includes countless trials and tribulations and many arduous experiences, such as fasting, pilgrimage, and vision quest.

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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 your apprenticeship with Don José and the Huichol Village?
Brant Secunda Sure. I went through a twelve year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa. Matsuwa means pulse of life. He was so filled with life himself and I feel so lucky and blessed to have been through a twelve year apprenticeship with him. My apprenticeship involved working with him in the cornfield, gathering firewood. We were very close companions. Very close. Close friends also. He was always my teacher and he was my grandfather. He adopted me as his grandson. We spent so much time together. It was such a blessing.

My apprenticeship involved working with him, living with him, laughing with him, but it also involved going on many, many pilgrimages, for example, to the Pacific Ocean. It's one of the sacred places for the Huichols. I went to many caves with Don José. Sometimes there were other Huichols as well. I went to rivers, sacred rivers. I went to special rock formations. All of these places were places of power, what the Huichols call Kapuyati. That was a lot of my apprenticeship. Going to these places to receive energy, to receive what the Huichols call KUPURI. Receive this power in order to empower my heart, my IYARI, my soul, to empower my life. Also, it involved also going to many, many, many ceremonies year after year after year.
Adam White The ceremonies were in Don José's village?
Brant Secunda Yeah. They were in Don José's village, but then also he would go to other villages. He was very revered and respected as an elder, as a shaman. Sometimes we would do a three day ceremony and I would think "Ah, finally now, I get to sleep." Someone would come ... It's the tradition. You go and bring the medicine man, or shaman, or the medicine women. You bring that person to your village, so someone would show up and ask him "Can you come and lead our ceremony in three days?" I went with him many, many times. That's when I say close companion, that was it as well. He would take me to the other village that might be a days walk away.
Adam White You would travel throughout the Huichol Sierra Mountains with him?
Brant Secunda With Don José.
Adam White Over the mountains?
Brant Secunda Yes. In the mountains to go to another village.
Adam White There's no roads in this whole area?
Brant Secunda No roads. Now, there's a few roads on the outskirts, but not really. To get to these villages that we went to, you walked.
Adam White That sounds like serious business just to get there, to arrive.
Brant Secunda Just to get there. It was a serious business.
Adam White Your apprenticeship focused on traveling to places of natural beauty, places of natural power. What are some of the things you learned from those places?
Brant Secunda I learned a little bit to dream at these places. When you go to a sacred place, the wishes, you have a beautiful dream or a beautiful vision at that place. Sometimes your fasting, sometimes your just giving up salt as a way to fast. What you learn from them is you learn to see the power of the place, if you can understand that. You see the energy of the place. That's a lot to learn. By going year after year, you learn more and more and more at a place of power.
Adam White Is that one of the main goals of an apprenticeship, to learn how to see?
Brant Secunda Yes.
Adam White A visionary experience?
Brant Secunda Definitely. You learn how to see life.
Adam White That's fantastic. I also want to thank you for sharing a little bit about your apprenticeship with Done José.
Brant Secunda Sure. My pleasure.