The Huichol people are a native tribe in Mexico, located primarily in the western states such as Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Durango, whose art is one of the most profound and colorful in the world. Huichol art is dedicated to depicting the sacred visions of shaman and initiated members of their communities, using techniques such as beadwork, embroidery, jewelry making and carving. Huichol ceremonies are an integral part of Huichol art as they become the source of inspiration by providing direct connection with the divine.
Each year, Huichol communities take pilgrimages to the sacred land of the Wirikuta Desert to “hunt the blue deer;” that is, go in search of peyote, a desert cactus that is sacred to the Huichol people that provokes hallucinogenic altered states of consciousness, or divine experiences. The Huichol pilgrimages, which unite individuals or even whole families of all ages, are steeped in profound ritual and sacred practices, and each pilgrim brings offerings such as pictures, candles and masks in return for the gift of creativity. The artwork offered in these Huichol ceremonies become their prayers and thanksgiving.
According to Huichol traditions, their divine ancestors once lived in the Wirikuta Desert and were forced to leave the desert for the Sierra Madre Mountains to live a mortal existence. The Huichol pilgrimage is in tended to cleanse the route back to the desert, traveling 600 miles there and back in order to return to their sacred land.
The Huichol ceremonies and rituals that are performed on the sacred journey involve the pilgrims transforming themselves into the divine entities of their sacred stories. At different stages on the pilgrimage, they will try to become like each of their gods, simulating the thoughts and sentiments of their ancestors. Once the transformation is successful, the peyote or blue deer will be “captured” and shot with a bow and arrow. Each of the pilgrims will then be offered a slice of the cactus, which will lead them to experience their own individual visions. These visions provide the “peyotero” with the chance to converse with God and to receive instruction about their vocation in life, which will be to either sing, heal or create, returning to their communities as mortals once again.
From Huichol Ceremonies to Art
It is after such an expansive experience that Huichol art is created. These Huichol ceremonies are the inspiration and the palette from which all art in the community is created. Being an artist is an instruction from God, and the vivid experiences are recorded in art to guide and inspire the rest of the community.