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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians.

Myerhoff, Barbara G. (1974).
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

ISBN: 0-8014-0817-2

Description: First edition, 285 pages. Symbol, Myth and Ritual Series.

Contents: Foreword by Victor Turner, 6 chapters, illustrations, preface, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): "My main goal," writes the author, "is to help fulfill Ramon's most cherished wish-that of presenting and preserving something of the power and beauty of his customs, his symbols, his stories, so that one can see why despite all the physical hardships and privations of his people, he maintains the conviction that `it is not a bad thing being a Huichol.'" Attractively illustrated, and filled with information about Huichol culture, this book conveys the complex meaning and richness of the Huichols' religion and world view. (cover)

These losses require a moral explanation, an answer which realigns the "ought" and the "is." A religion can provide such an answer by postulating some sin because of which man forfeited a privileged past, thus granting assurance that life as it is deserved; whether good or bad, it is understandable. Or an afterlife may be conceived of as compensating for the sufferings of the present transient and inconsequential reality. A third alternative is that manifested in Huichol religion-denying the gratuitous and cruel losses by refusing to relinquish the past. Their most precious religious heritage-their beginnings-is idealized and recovered. Even if only for a little while, by means of the peyote hunt, Paradise may be regained. Through the deer-maize-peyote complex, the deer and a life dedicated to hunting the deer is still a fact of present-day life rather than a fading, shabby memory chewed over by old men at the end of the day.

The Huichols are aware that they are destitute while outsiders prosper, and their religion also manages this moral paradox. In spite of great privation, they do not see themselves as victims of blind chance or of the inexorable forces of history. With rare confidence the Huichols move through the world, acknowledging no one as better or master, and this although it is hard to imagine a people with less actual control over their fate or more at the mercy of forces beyond their power and comprehension. Yet they pity those who live a life different from their own, so sure are they that their present life is beautiful and significant, just as their past life was perfect. A great part of this conviction may be attributed to the deer-maize-peyote symbol complex. The deer as the past life of perfection, the maize as the mundane, human dimension, and the peyote as the spiritual, private, and free part of life merge-the mundane is elevated and refined by its association with the divine, and the gods themselves become accessible, knowable, and even mundane. Thus the realm of the senses is refined while the spiritual is made tangible. Because of the contact between these realms the dichotomy between them disappears. (pages 262-263)

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