Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Huichol are an Uto-Aztecan speaking Mexican Indian group located in the southern Sierra Madre Occidental (northern Jalisco and eastern Nayarit, and adjacent areas of Zacatecas and Durango states). The extended family, commonly living in dispersed compounds called [i]ranchos[/i], is the basis of Huichol social structure, with lineages organized into temple communities. A council of male elders, usually shamans, provides community leadership. Religion permeates all aspects of life, with peyote playing a central role, vividly expressed in the visual arts. Slash-and-burn agriculture along with hunting, gathering and fishing, was the traditional basis of the economy. Seasonal migratory wage labor, craft production for external sale, and animal husbandry have become increasingly important in recent times.


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Middle America and the Caribbean --Northern Mexico



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Culture and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The eHRAF Huichol collection is concerned with Huichol Indians primarily living in northern Jalisco and adjacent parts of Zacatecas, Durango and Nayarit states, Mexico. Time coverage of the documents ranges from first significant contact with Spanish conquerors in the 1720s to the early 2000s. Much of the data were collected through ethnographic fieldwork conducted at different times: the last decade of the nineteenth century and first of the twentieth; the early 1930s; the mid 1950s; the late 1960s; and, most recently, from 1980 into the early 1990s.

The earliest ethnographic information in the collection was compiled by a Norwegian anthropologist who visited the Huichol at different times in 1894-1897 as part of a larger project by the American Museum of Natural History to investigate the native peoples of Mexico (Lumholtz 1898, and 1973 [1902]). Together, these documents provide a systematic description of Huichol culture and society with particular emphasis on settlement pattern, physical attributes of the people, religious life and organized ceremonies, diet, clothing, sacred objects, economic activities, and folklore. This is supplemented in the translated observations of (Preuss 1996 [1907-1908]; references in Sheafer and Furst (1996) "Bibliography" ).

The most fundamental and comprehensive source in the collection is Zingg (1938). Drawing on original research conducted in 1934 and relevant data from the works of Lumholtz, this book describes Huichol culture as a system of thought, belief, and behavior. Specific themes covered include the place of religion in household relations and community life, mythology, organized ceremonies, sacred arts and symbolic representation, spirituality, acculturation, and economic life. The discussion is partly aimed at testing the relevance of major anthropological theories of the time, notably diffusionist and functionalist theories, for reconstructing Huichol religiosity and community life. Klineberg (1934) provides some notes on emotional expression and related behaviors of Huichol men, women and children observed by the author in a 1933 field trip.

Myerhoff (1974) discusses the significance of myths, rituals, and symbols, particularly those pertaining to the sacred unity of deer, maize, and peyote in Huichol culture and society. The discussion includes intimate accounts of her own participation in an organized "peyote pilgrimage," organized by a famous shaman and his followers, to a high desert believed to be the original homeland of Huichol deities and founding ancestors. By visiting this sacred land, Huichol pilgrims mystically join the ancient world where divisions between sexes, ages, leaders and led, humans and animals, plants and animals, humans and demigods dissolve. The author credits this ritual complex for the continuity of Huichol natural and cultural orders.

The collection includes other documents that expand upon theme of continuity in traditional Huichol religion. Furst (1967) provides analysis of burial practices and healing rituals in which guardian spirits and ancestral souls are personified and appealed to. As a consequence, Huichol families continue to recognize the importance of the mara'akáme (shaman) in mediating the powers of these supernatural beings. Schaefer (1989) and MacLean (2000) discuss Huichol mythologies related to the origins of weaving technology, embroidery and paintings. Their arguments draw on Huichol concepts of visual arts as inspired by religious dreams and visions. Liffman (2000) examines concepts of the sacred, with particular focus on genealogical and social bonds constructed during pilgrimage along divine ancestral migration paths. Weigand (1981) outlines some of the major historical trends that have affected and continue to affect Huichol acculturation.

Ten chapters from the volume People of the Peyote (Schaefer and Furst, eds.,1996), addressing the challenges and dynamism of contemporary Huichol culture and identity politics, are by researchers active during the latter half of the twentieth century: Casillas Romo and Chávez; Franz; Furst; Lamaistre; Schaefer ("The cosmos contained" and "The crossing of the souls"); Shaefer and Furst ("Introduction"); Silva; Valadez; and Yasumoto (the volume also includes the translation of Preuss—see above). A separate glossary (Shaefer, "Glossary") and bibliography (Schaefer and Furst, "Bibliography") are provided. Topics covered in the chapters include gender, religion, healing and ceremonial practices, peyotism and meaning, culture change, and relations with the Mexican state.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Cargo counterparts – ritually bound temple districts – use CONGREGATIONS (794) with ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796) and with INTER-COMMUNITY RELATIONS (628) – see also Temple group and Temple groups

Chichiwime – mottled Maize Girl – use MYTHOLOGY (773)

Chinamekuta – sacred place – use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)

Híkuri Néixa – Dance of the Peyote – use CONGREGATIONS (794) with ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)

Icú – maize – use CEREAL AGRICULTURE (243) with DIET (262) – see also MYTHOLOGY (773)

I'ikewári – sorcery – use SORCERY (754)

iku – see Icú

Kawiteros – council of wise elder men who are usually shamans – use COMMUNITY COUNCILS (623)

Mara'akáme (pl. mara'akáte ) – shaman – use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756) with REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)

Mowarixi – rain ceremony – use PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782) with ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)

Rancho – fundamental unit of settlement; extended family compound – use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361) with HOUSEHOLD (592)

Tatei Neixra – harvest ceremony – use PRAYERS AND SACRIFICES (782) with ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796) and with CEREAL AGRICULTURE 243

Tauka – soul that remains in the earth at birth – use ANIMISM (774)

Temple group – use CONGREGATIONS (794) with COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621) – see also Cargo counterparts and Temple district

Temple district – use CONGREGATIONS (794) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY (631) and with INTER-COMMUNITY RELATIONS (628) – see also Cargo counterparts and Temple group

Tevi – the people –term Huichol use for themselves when making distinctions between Huichol and non-Huichol individuals – use IDENTIFICATION (101) with CULTURAL IDENTITY AND PRIDE (186)

Tuki – circular community temple – use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778) with CONGREGATIONS (794)

Urukáte Wa'xiriki – see Xiriki

Uki'raatsi – ancestors – use CULT OF THE DEAD (769)

Wirikúta – Virikuta – – sacred land of the peyote (San Luis Potosí plateau, in the vicinity of Real de Catorce) – use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778) with MYTHOLOGY (773)

Xiriki – ancestor shrine, usually a structure in the compound ( rancho ) of the family elder – use RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346) with CULT OF THE DEAD (769)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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