The Huichol or Wixaritari are an indigenous ethnic group of western central Mexico, living in the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Huichol culture is one of the few that has remained pure to its roots since before the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It is a nation not only pure in race, but also in spirituality. The survival of the Huichol has intrigued historians and archaeologists alike. They were first contacted by the Spaniards around 1530. After several uprisings and clashes with the Spaniards, they withdrew farther into the remote Sierras in the northern part of Jalisco, touching on Zacatecas, Durango, and Jalisco, although many live near main community and religious centers, such as San Andres, Santa Catarina, and San Sebastian, most live in hundreds of small ranchos scattered throughout the Sierras. Their origin is as mystical as their art. Some say they are descendants of the Aztecs, others suggest they originally came from Asia (which would give credence to the thought that they are connected to certain coastal tribes), and others believe they are related to the Hopi Indians of Arizona.
They are best known to the larger world as the Huichol, however, they refer to themselves as Wixáritari “the people” in their native Huichol language. The Huicholes speak a language belonging to the uto-azteca linguistic family that also includes: Náhuatl, Hopi, Shoshone, Comenche and many other languages in a vast region that extends northward to the United States and southward into central Mexico. Some studies estimate that between 15 and 20 thousand Huicholes inhabit the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. Schaefer and Peter T. Furst edited People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival; discussed the history, culture and language of these fascinating people in great detail.
For centuries, hidden away from the modern world and protected by the natural barrier the mountains afforded, the Huicholes have performed ceremonial rituals they believe heal the Earth and keep nature balanced. Key to the ceremonies is the ritual love offering of the white-tailed deer to their nature-deities. The blood of the deer nourishes the earth. They say we are bringing doom and destruction to Yurianaka, Mother Earth, and that Taupa, Father Sun, is coming closer to the earth to purify it. They are concerned for the future and for the life of their children. They are holding great ceremonies calling in shamans from many areas to try and “hold up the sun.” But they know they cannot do it themselves, for they are not the ones soiling the collective nest.
In traditional Huichol culture, spiritual pursuits and visionary experience are the central tasks in life. Huicholes eat and live, and maintain tribal and planetary balance celebrating a pantheon of ancestors and holy places. Although they live in an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, the majority of Huichol are animists. This means that they believe non-human objects have spirits. The people seek to appease the gods and spirits which they believe exist in nature, such as in fire, the sun, and the rain. They believe that when a person dies, his soul embarks on a five year journey through the underworld. After the journey, the soul returns to earth and is captured by a shaman in the form of a rock crystal. The crystal is placed in the family xiriki to be anointed with blood and offered food.Their religion is expressed in many sacred songs and myths. If Huichol myths seem strange, remote, foreign to our way of thinking, it is only because they are particular cultural expressions of certain fundamental ideas common to all human beings.
There are many stories about the principal Huichol deities, such as Nakawé, the most ancient goddess, mother of the gods, creature and destroyer of all that exists, and Tatewarí, the ancient Mesoamerican god of fire. Other deities include Tamatz Kallaumari, the chief deer, lord of the animals, and his two brothers Ushikuikame and Watemukame.
For the Huichols, art is not used as an aesthetic expression but is created to honor, preserve and balance the world and the environment. The Huichol embellish their clothing, yarn paintings and beadwork with symbols and patterns that reference their cosmogony or beliefs, stories and myths. Huichol beadwork originated as an art form long before the Spaniards set foot in Mexico. Bone, clay, coral, jade, pyrite, shell, stone turquoise and seeds colored with insect and vegetable dyes were utilized instead of the glass seed beads used today.
Sources: http://www.spring.net – http://www.everyculture.com