In the summer 2002 I began preparing for my first visit to the Huichol sacred site known as the Wind Tree in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. I began memorizing two sets of prayers and songs as I would also be leaving offerings for Grandmother Ocean. These pilgrimage sites are two of many that have been used by the Huichol people for many generations. I was one of a growing group of non-Huichol people who have recently accepted a calling to dedicate themselves to practice the Huichol healing tradition.
As the time of my pilgrimage approached I began the required fasting that would serve to quiet my mind and purify my body. I learned that pilgrimage sites were best approached with respect and humility. I would be carrying my sacred offerings to present to the deity of each site along with my songs and prayers. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with these spiritual beings that resided in the natural land forms of the Huichol homelands. For thousands of years the Huicholes have travelled to their sites requesting an ability to serve their community as a mara’akame, a healer and ritual leader. The answer to my request would be uncertain for many years until I had successfully completed my final ritual of initiation.
So much of this journey was completely new to me. I was especially not prepared for the level of commitment and sacrifice needed to fully engage this spiritual tradition. As I observed and studied the Huichol culture over the years of my being a pilgrim I saw how their spirituality was central to their lives. It is reflected in their colorful clothing, in their art, and in their ceremonial building, the tuki. Their lives are filled with a progression of ceremonies throughout the year. They live for their relationships with the Gods, through their connection with their own hearts, with each other, and with the natural world.
I successfully completed my apprenticeship and initiation through the guidance of Grandfather Fire, the experience of my elders, and the support of my fellow pilgrims. The challenging experience of pilgrimage taught me to quiet my mind and listen to my heart. These lessons continue to serve me as I begin to offer the gifts of my sites to my community. I see the Huichol world view as an antidote to the dominant world view we live in which is less about quieting the mind and listening to the heart.
I am grateful to the fierce yet loving Huichol people who have been able to resist European cultures and religions and who through their dedication and sacrifice have kept their traditions alive. Their wisdom and generosity has led them to invite outsiders to share their traditions for they recognize the illness and conflict that afflicts the outsiders particularly their neighbors to the north who some of them have visited. I am grateful for the gift of this work that I have to offer.