A legendary culture lives on today. Its people walk ceaselessly, their steps weaving a network of paths of light dictating the order of the days and nights.

They are epic, vanquishing giants in mythical times. Their world was born from a gourd; it was also woven from the hair of the most ancient woman. Fire is their grandfather; the sun, their father. Rain, the earth and the sea are their mothers; deer and peyote, their elder brothers.

They are heirs to he who wed the five corn goddesses, the lone survivor of a devastating flood. Those who emerged from the sea, in the land of wolves, are also their ancestors; they crossed their territories on foot in search of the first dawn.

All of these universes are interwoven into a unique and eternally dynamic vision of the world: the Wixarika, known to us today as Huichol culture.

Huichol culture
The Eternal Return to Mythical Times
The Huichol universes begin here, the place of Our Mother Tatei Haramara, the sea, the westernmost space in their territory.

In mythical times the coast was the land of monsters and giants, ruled by Our Grandmother Takutsi, the most ancient goddess. All was water and darkness, until the ancestors emerged and followed the deer who led them east, where the sun was born.

The great white rock in the sea and the whole landscape are gods that the Huichols venerate with offerings and they introduce them to their newborns. This is the world “below,” the female realm of the fertility of the primordial waters. It is also where some souls go to join the unbridled fiesta that is the underworld.

Geographic, Mythical and Sacred Landscape
The five cardinal directions of Huichol territory form a rhombus with a center that as a whole houses the geography of mythical, sacred, and community spaces that form its universes.

To the north at the border with Durango and Zacatecas is the sanctuary of Hauramanaka, “place of floating wood.” There, from the high forest on Cerro Gordo one contemplates the Sierra Madre Occidental that crosses the territory from north to south to Lake Chapala in Jalisco.

From the west, in Nayarit, the coast is transformed until it reaches the peaks of the Sierra, at the heart of which the oldest communities live around the Chapalagana River canyon. Eastward is the sacred desert of Wirikuta in San Luis Potosí, at the eastern end of which rises the Hill of Dawn.

The Preservation of Customs
To survive the mythical flood, with the advice of Our Grandmother Takutsi, a man named Watakame made a small boat and climbed into it with a little black dog and five kernels of corn. When the boat ran aground at Chapala, the sacred site of Xapawiyeme “place of Our Mother, the rain fig tree,” the little dog turned into a woman, he married her and planted the corn to create the first cornfield or coamil. And so, he became the first cultivator.

From that time on, the wixaritari or Huichols weave their community ties, building houses and shrines, embroidering cotton or wool, cultivating their ties with maize.

Since the time they are children, Huichols learn and live their customs. So they venerate the mother goddesses of the earth, rain, and corn, who feed them and shelter them.

The Order of the mara'akame
At Te’akata, the “place of the oven” before the sun came into being, the Young Morning Star shot rocks with an arrow that set them on fire. And so Tatewari, Our Grandfather the fire god, the first shaman or mara’akame was born.

His shrine is the model of all ceremonial centers, the home of the gods wherever a Huichol community may be. Its faithful caretakers are the jicareros (gourd bearers). They carry out and defend customs, go on pilgrimage to sacred sites, and join the people to create the world anew time and again with offerings and rituals.

A select few become mara’akame possessing the gift to cure people, granting favors, occupying ceremonial chairs, and giving the gods voice through their songs.

An Eternally New Universe
The first deer emerged from the sea and went to the desert of Wirikuta, place of light. He surrendered himself transformed into the sacred peyote cactus to the five mythical hunters, just as the sun rose for the first time. Dawn came thanks to the sacrifice of a crippled one-eyed boy who threw himself into the fire and was reborn as Father Sun at the summit of Paritekia Hill, “place of dawn.” There, a turkey named him Tayau.

That is why the Huichols make a pilgrimage to Wirikuta, world of “above.” They purify themselves in its springs and hunt deer and peyote. At dawn they cover their hats with turkey feathers, paint their faces yellow, and sing until they reach nierika, the vision of the gods, to return to share peyote or hikuri with their community and together do the rain dance.

The tale of the first dawn
The Huichol yarn painting: Nierika Art
Yarn painting
General reading
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