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What is a Shaman?

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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.

Supporting

  • Adam White, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

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

Transcript

Adam White Can you explain what is a shaman?
Brant Secunda A shaman is a ceremonial leader, a shaman is a healer, a shaman is something like a doctor for the Huichol people. A shaman performs weddings, a shaman takes people on outings or to sacred places of power. A shaman will bless the people at places of power, will bless the people at ceremonies, like for the harvesting of the crops or for planting the crops. This is the role of a shaman.

In the Huichol language their word is MARA-AKAME, which means 'deer spirit person', becoming connected to your higher self. Becoming connected to your intuition, so a shaman is one who is very revered in the Huichol society because he helps keep the culture together.
Adam White Now, can both men and women become a shaman in Huichol society?
Brant Secunda Yes, that's a good point. Men and women are definitely shamans among the Huichol, which is fairly unusual.
Adam White Has it always been that way?
Brant Secunda Yes, it's always been. Men and women can become shamans, their roles are the same, their apprenticeship is the same, you know the way they learn to become a shaman is the same.
Adam White Well, you mentioned apprenticeship, so how does one study to become a shaman? How long does that take?
Brant Secunda Well, the initial apprenticeship is five years and during that time you go to the places of power with your teacher, you go to different places, you go through different spiritual endeavors, and you learn the way of the Huichol people. Normally, it's more than five years. Normally it's a 12-year apprenticeship.
Adam White There's a short version or ... ?
Brant Secunda Yeah.
Adam White A beginner ...
Brant Secunda Could be.
Adam White Phase to that.
Brant Secunda Beginner ... First phase would be five years and then goes on from there.
Adam White Now you mentioned that in that initial phase, people go to places of power, so they travel a lot to these places? What are these places?
Brant Secunda Yeah, they walk to most of the places, to the different caves, rivers, mountains, there in the Huichol Sierra. A travel to, by the Huichol people, normally with a shaman leading them but not always, you can go on your own. Then there's one sacred place that you have to ... It's either a two week walk or you can, once you get out of the Huichol Sierra, you drive to the place and that's the mountain where the sun was born, and that's also a sacred place.
Adam White To become a shaman, one visits these sacred areas?
Brant Secunda Sacred places. The ocean would also be considered a sacred place.
Adam White Then you said the role of a shaman is both in healing, like a doctor, but also leading ceremonies.
Brant Secunda Right. Right.
Adam White How does ...
Brant Secunda And leading pilgrimages.
Adam White Oh, so okay, so going to the places of power ...
Brant Secunda Right.
Adam White Is another aspect.
Brant Secunda Right, and the shaman gives the transmission of power to the people who are there with him or her at these places, like the ocean, or a lake, or a mountain. This transmission of power ceremony is given by a shaman, so that's part of the role of shamans in the Huichol culture.
Adam White The transmission of power is so when I visit a mountain or an ocean, the shaman brings me some goodness or some sacredness from the area?
Brant Secunda Right. Power.
Adam White Power.
Brant Secunda What's called KUPURI in the Huichol language, which means energy, life force is the way we would translate it. With this life force that people get, they can then learn to feel well, they can be happy, they can learn to feel a connection with nature, with the great spirit, or with the creator just by getting a life force or energy at these sacred places, like the ocean, or a mountain, or a lake, et cetera.
Adam White The role of a shaman then is to help people share in that energy when they go to a river, or a lake, or a beautiful place of some kind.
Brant Secunda Right. Right. It's the shaman's job to take people to sacred places so that they can feel a connection to that place, like the ocean. Here in the modern world for example, many people live by the ocean but they might not feel connected to that ocean and in Huichol shamanism, the shaman takes people to places like this so that they do feel a connection to nature, or to this place like the ocean.
Adam White When someone goes with a shaman on a pilgrimage or a journey to a place of power like the ocean, that means that I can personally ... That we can somehow connect better to the ocean ...
Brant Secunda Definitely.
Adam White In a way that we bring that ...
Brant Secunda Right.
Adam White Into our lives and are stronger centered.
Brant Secunda Then when the shaman isn't there, you have your whole life to be at the ocean and be connected, feel happy that you feel the ocean's energy, or you hear the sound of the ocean, or the sound of a river. You're able to integrate that into your everyday life of being connected to nature by feeling the energy, the power, or again, as I said, the KUPURI. You feel connected and you are connected to the KUPURI of that place because the ocean definitely has a lot of energy and we know that here in the modern world, as well as the Huichols have known that for thousands of years.
Adam White Well, I want to thank you for sharing a little bit about what is a shaman and the role of a shaman.
Brant Secunda Mm-hmm (affirmative).