High in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, the Huichol people make their home. They are a small tribe of approximately 15,000 Indians living in sacred villages- some nearly inaccessible- throughout the mountain terrain.
Protected by the forest, and their belief in the ‘ancient ones’- the gods and goddesses of their cosmology- they have resisted acculturation. They are said to be the last tribe in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions- tribal structure, ceremonial tradition, complex mythology, and visionary artwork.
The Huichol call themselves Virarika- the Healing People. They make ceremonies in order to reinforce reality becuase they take nothing for granted. To them, all of life is sacred, all of life is transition.
The Huichols are a tribe of many shamans. In earlier times, they say there was at least one shaman in every in every Huichol family. That’s not so true now, but there are still some shamans throughout the Huichol Sierra. In this tradition, both men and woman may become shamans, and their training is virtually the same. They both can learn to heal people of sickness, and they both can learn to sing the ceremonial songs which help to heal their communities.
Huichol shamanic ceremonies are used to achieve a life of balance and empowerment through personal transformation and direct experience. There are three levels of this experience: One must work to heal the self, the immediate circle of family and community, and also the earth herself.