Jeronimo Bonales, shaman, 1981.
On January 14, 1981, my compadre and I walked a few miles from his rancho to his grandfather’s rancho. After tape-recording his grandfather (who was then the chief cahuitero at Santa Catarina) reciting the myth that explains how their ancestor, Huatácame, first obtained maize (see Fikes 1993: 225-32 for a longer version of this saga) and a portion of his funeral ritual song, he invited me and his grandson inside his god-house (xiriqui in Huichol). He took out a candle, which I lighted for him and then slowly opened his tacuatzi (an oblong palm fiber basket containing a shaman’s sacred paraphernalia). He removed several sacred objects from it, the last of which was a talisman made of wolf hair. Then from a larger tacuatzi, he picked up his nierica, a small round mirror for seeing spirits. He told me to gaze into it. I immediately saw sparks of light streaming out of my eyes. He put that nierica down and began brushing me with the wolf hairs and a prayer-stick with bird feathers, called a mohuieri. He then brushed my compadre and began praying, asking for a blessing for me. All this time the candle was burning. I was not surprised when I dreamed of a white wolf one night within a few weeks of receiving the cahuitero’s blessing (Fikes 2011) [See note 1].
On July 6, 1981, my compadre translated into Spanish the cahuitero’s summary of how he had gained shamanic power. At the end of his narrative, as a postscript, the cahuitero declared without me asking: “While I am still alive I am helping you, my friend, to learn how to become a shaman. After I die, my study will end. I blessed you the other day with the wolf tail so that you would become a shaman. How do you feel today? Who knows what you have dreamed? You have your mother, Tatei Huerica Huimari, and your father, our Sun Father. They will give you instructions on how to have a good heart [iyari]. They are the ones who guided me from the beginning. You will be thinking a lot about my study. Even though you are not Huichol, you have always had a good heart. You are asking me how I became a shaman. I have explained everything about my life. Here is where it ends. I have already made it easier for you to learn how to become a shaman.” It was right after my compadre finished translating this that I told the cahuitero about my dream of the white wolf (Fikes 2011: 31).
After my studies with Bonales and the cahuitero ended (because of his death in 1983) two shamans, first Fernando Serratos and later Jesús González, supervised my pilgrimages to contact spirits Huichol venerate at specific sacred sites. In 1986 Serratos introduced me to the divine spirit in Kieri during an all-night vigil, an astonishing encounter I have only partially described (Fikes 2003: 6-7). Jesús González, whose principal spirit helper was the Kieri, led me and my wife on five consecutive annual pilgrimages to a well-known pan-Huichol shrine at the Pacific Ocean (Fikes 2011).
These four shaman-mentors facilitated my journey beyond the boundaries of orthodox anthropology. Their support changed me forever. They empowered me to recognize messages from spirits I met at sacred sites, in rituals, and in dreams. I remain grateful to each of them and to their tutelary spirits.
Note 1. In addition to his grandson, Felipe, several men residing in the rancho of Bonales identified the cahuitero of Toapori (known as Santa Catarina in Spanish) as the ”shaman” best qualified to recite myths and sacred songs central to aboriginal Huichol temple rituals. This cahuitero’s spiritual bond with wolves was also essential to his grandfather and great-grandfather (Fikes 1985, 2011: 29).
LINKS TO MY BOOKS ABOUT THE HUICHOL
After completing research with these four Huichol “shamans” over a period of 34 years I wrote my book, Unknown Huichol: Shamans and Immortals, Allies against Chaos, combining my participatory research--to discover how & what Huichol shamans know by eating peyote with them & making pilgrimages to contact their “ancestor-deities”--with my observations of their rituals & interpretation of myths & sacred songs recited in such rituals. To purchase Unknown Huichol please click on this link or dial 1 800 462-6420 https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759120266
Included in Unknown Huichol is a revised version of an essay on death & mourning among the Huichol, written by Professor Phil C. Weigand and his wife, Acelia Garcia de Weigand. The Weigands worked with me to publish anthropologist Robert Zingg's (1934) collection of Huichol myths. In 2004 the University of Arizona Press published our book, Huichol Mythology. Click on this link to buy it in paperback: https://uapress.arizona.edu/book/huichol-mythology
Although reading Carlos Castaneda’s first four books had helped inspire me to journey to Santa Catarina in 1976, after my first ten days of living among the Huichol I had learned enough to realize his books were a “transparent fraud”. I felt it was unethical to remain silent while Dr. Castaneda & three of his U.C.L.A. colleagues were busy defaming Huichol religion & attracting irresponsible outsiders to their homeland. To purchase my book click here: https://www.amazon.com/Carlos-Castaneda-Academic-Opportunism-Psychedelic/dp/0969696000/ref=sr_1_2?qid=1552172307&refinements=p_27%3AJay+Courtney+Fikes&s=books&sr=1-2&text=Jay+Courtney+Fikes
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Kawitero of Santa Catarina, 1981.
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