Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ojo de dios

The new issue, no. 65, of Shaman's Drum reprints a portion of Visions of a Huichol Shaman by the anthropologist Peter Furst.

Furst has spent much time among the Huicholes, who live in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental and who are sometimes considered one of the least-Christianized tribes. Their religious use of peyote gives us an idea of how it might have been used in pre-Conquest times. You can see historic film footage of Huichol peyoteros in Phil Cousineau's documentary on the Native American Church, The Peyote Road (Kifaru Productions, 1994).

An exhibit of Huichol yarn paintings with shamanic themes is now touring. If you live near Charlotte, North Carolina, go see it while you can.

Huichol people had been making art for a long time by pressing colored yarn onto a beeswax backing, usually on gourds. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Mexican curators and anthropologists encouraged the making of rectangular yarn paintings on wooden panels that could be framed and sold. Some artists developed narrative pictures based on shamanic journeys.

Another Huichol artifact was the yarn-wrapped cross, called a "god's eye" by the early anthropologist Carl Lumholtz--Peter Furst considers that to be a misnomer and calls it a "four-directional protective prayer object." A fancy example is shown here.

Separated from the Huichol context, god's-eyes became an icon of Southwestern-hippie decor in the mid-1960s. As I was starting high school, my stepfather was offered a high-level job in the New Mexico state education department, and I was all set to move to Santa Fe and decorate my white-walled bedroom with god's-eyes. But he took a job in Jamaica instead, and we went there. Later, for many years a small god's-eye, matchsticks wrapped with thread, hung from the rearview mirror of my faithful Ford F-100 pickup truck. I called it my "spiritual compass."

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Anonymous Dorothy said...

El peyote, los vestido y las chaquiras son solo el principio superficial de todo el misticismo que envuelve el pertenecer a una cultura como la Huichol.
Dorothy --

1:49 PM  

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