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Huichol Pitek, Emily


The Huichol are native inhabitants of what are now the Mexican States of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Durango. In 1722 the Huichol were conquered by the Spanish, after which Franciscan Missionaries arrived and nominally converted the Huichol to Christianity before leaving the area in the mid 1800’s (Lumholtz, 1973:22). Missionaries left a varying degree of Christian influence across Huichol communities, but at the time this entry focuses on (around 1890) native beliefs were still held and traditional customs and ceremonies were still practiced; the Huichol religion would become more syncretic with Christianity in the 20th century. To the Huichol, religion does not constitute a separate sphere of life; there is no distinction between sacred and everyday life. As such, this entry considers the Huichol religious group to be coterminous with the society itself. Religious practitioners known as shamans are trained in healing, divining, and priestly activities, and communicate with the supernatural. In addition to the spirits of the dead, the Huichol pantheon contains a variety of deities representing personified natural phenomenon such as fire, air, earth, and water. Fire (also known as Grandfather) is said to be the greatest and oldest, existing before the sun (Father). Fire is associated with deer and peyote. The Huichol “petition the deities for sun and rain for the crops, successful deer hunts, fertility, good health, and protection from the dangers of the natural and supernatural worlds” (Schaefer, 2016). The Huichol have an annual cycle of feasts and ceremonies associated with the propitiation of gods, and connected to the agricultural cycle and environmental phenomenon such as rain. Most importantly is the annual journey to sacred (known to the Huichol as híkul͂i), peyote land, where the plant is harvested and later utilized in rituals and to communicate with the gods.

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