Huichol Symbols

n the Huichol culture, there can be no art without religion or religion without art. Religion is not a part of life. It is life. The gods are everywhere including the trees, hills and lakes. Even the lowly stone has a soul. These intensely religious people immerse themselves throughout their lives in this awareness through ritual and the execution of sacred symbols.

Art is the people's means of direct communication with the deities. It is meant to ensure prosperity, health and fertility, and bountiful crops. Its application promotes the general welfare of the community and is always functional as well as beautiful.

"Jicuri", the peyote plant is prominent in Huichol art. It is the plant of life that promotes harmonious relations with the gods. Sometime it's represented as the original ear of corn because both carry the colors of white, yellowish green, red and blue. Sometimes it's represented as antlers, which is a symbol of the first jicuri. All three representations hold the same meaning in Huichol myth and are interchangeable in symbolic meaning.

Another prominent symbol in Huichol art is the serpent. Because it protects corn and peyote, it is one of the most powerful animals in the Huichol cosmogony. Four female deities are represented by the serpent: Rapabiyema, the blue serpent, who lives in the south. Kapuri, the white serpent, who lives in the north. Sakaymura, the black serpent, who lives in the west. And Vaaliwa'me, the earth mother and red serpent, who lives in the east.

Takutzi Nakahue, mother of all gods and of corn, with her symbols of the sacred tree, the armadillo, the bear, the water serpent and rain is also well represented. As is Tamat's Kauyumari, the older brother who shaped the world. He can appear in the guises of deer, coyote, pine tree, or whirlwind.

Tatewari is the spirit of fire, who lives on earth and is the god of life and health. He is often represented by a reddish-brown color. Tatewari is the chief ally of shamans and accompanies the pilgrims on their journey to Wirikuta.

All of these symbols and many more are produced in the highly decorative art form of which the Huichol are masters. Every item, from carved musical instruments to masks and votive gourds, carries heavily symbolic, esoteric, and beautifully rendered symbols.

The Series
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