Imagination Plus Peyote… The Huichol of Puerto Vallarta

The shaman is a central figure in the Huichol culture. Capable of traveling between worlds with the aid of peyote, he brings important messages back to the members of his tribe.

Since Peggy and I first came to Puerto Vallarta years ago I have been fascinated with Huichol art and the Huichol people. Living in the Sierra Madre Mountains of the Occidental range, they have been able to combine their belief in numerous gods with art that is highly popular among tourists. For example, it’s unlikely that many Huichol have ever seen a moose, but when Peggy and I were going through shops along the Malecon, we came across this beauty featured below.

The moose is for the tourists, the designs found on the moose’s antlers and body reflect the Huichol gods. (This artwork was crammed in among hundreds of pieces so I used Photoshop to white out everything except the piece.)
A moose that Peggy and I found in Alaska.

The design on the right side of the Huichol antler is peyote, which is central to the Huichol religion. Each year, the members of the tribe undertake a 300 mile journey (usually on foot) to their sacred homeland to gather a year’s supply of the potent drug. The gatherer is expected to take a bite of the first plant he or she encounters. Maybe as a result, one of them saw a moose like the one I featured above. (grin)

Another example of an animal unlikely to be encountered by the Huichol. It looks a lot like the fellow I encountered at Busch Gardens.

The Huichol are quite familiar with the iguana…
One of the iguanas we photographed in Puerto Vallarta..
I am just as glad we didn’t encounter a jaguar. They still roam the mountains surrounding Puerto Vallarta.
The horse continues to be an important form of transportation for the Huichol, but with the coming of roads, trucks are becoming more common.
Cattle are raised by the Huichol. Here they have covered a skull with their beadwork.
Not quite sure what this animal is, I thought it was more dog-like than cat-like.
I am thinking a bit of acid-rock here, although peyote would probably work.
String paintings reflecting the gods are also quite popular among the Huichol.
A brown painting…
And a blue painting to wrap up today’s post.

NEXT POST: I’ll be back to featuring rock sculptures found on the PCT in Mokelumne Wilderness.

18 thoughts on “Imagination Plus Peyote… The Huichol of Puerto Vallarta

    • In the vision if not the actual execution, Gunta. I’ve watched the Huichol work on the art. It is very detail oriented. Not sure ‘being high’ would help. But never having tried Peyote, I don’t really know. 🙂 –Curt

  1. Colorful! Must be interesting to see the world in such vivid detail. Some things you mentioned about the shaman remind me of the shaman in Peru. I wonder if they have common roots?

    • I think the answer is yes, as in many deeply rooted human traditions, Dave. I am sure that the experience of tripping off into other worlds through drugs had a profound impact on early societies. –Curt

  2. I see that fans of the magic mushroom are trying to get legalization on the ballot in Denver. Not being informed on such things, I checked it out and found that the mushrooms and peyote have different active ingredients, and peyote’s not advised as a “starter hallucinogen” for beginners. Advice noted — but that beadwork is great.

      • I’ll see what I can do. I should have some more time to play with this blog in Las Vegas next week. That’s of course if I don’t run off and spend all my time in Death Valley. –Curt

    • Laughing. After my first encounter with Castenada way back when, I decided that peyote would be something I would avoid. What kind of a 60’s guy was I? That beadwork has to be tedious, but the results are always impressive. Plus, I like the sense of humor the Huichol show. –Curt

  3. Oh neat, when I got to the string painting photo (before I read the caption) I thought to myself it looked like a string painting I had seen in a museum in Cherokee country. Sure enough! It has such a distinctive look. And those beads too. This stuff is almost mind-blowing it’s so intricate. And oh, so beautiful.

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