Huichol Indian Peyote Art


Modern art is awash with images that reflect the psychedelic and surreal and question our concept  and understanding of reality and consciousness. While a number of modern art practitioners make use of modern psychedelics to find inspiration for their art, a long time ago our ancestors made use of  traditional entheogens to connect to the spirit world and paint what they saw there. Some authors within the field of psychedelic research have put forth the idea that all art and religion is in fact a direct result of our ancestral ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic plants such as psychedelic mushrooms and cactus.

Huichol indian yarn painiting

All ancient cultures display a history of merging art and the use of psychedelics. From the Australian aborigines to the Incas and American Indians there is a long history of tribal artwork that has taken inspiration from the artist's  interactions with entities  experienced while under the influence of psychoactive substances. Something that I have found of particular interest are the similarities in artwork produced by native cultures despite vast geographical differences. It's as if these plants have a need to share a common communique with all of us.

Some of the most exciting collections of artwork I have viewed to date are the peyote art painting and sculptures of the Huichol Indians of Mexico. Their artwork is an intricate blend of symmetrical geometric patterns full of complementary colors and cascading fractal like forms. Those of you who have experienced the geometric lattice work that result from peyote cactus visions will instantly recognize the shapes and vibrant colors that typifies these brilliantly detailed creations. 

Huichol peyote visionary art

There are two main kinds of artwork produce by the Huichol - first, there are the 'paintings' created with short stands of colorful yarn that is pressed into a layer of beeswax which covers a supporting surface such as a canvas or piece of wood. The second kind is  made using objects and sculptures that are covered with an assortment of colorful beads. I especially like the  bead art work as it has more of technical, geometric, almost pixel like feel to it which is something that has always appealed to me ( probably from playing too many colorful 8 bit computer games on mas a kid ! ) . Much of the artwork produced is available for purchase through art dealers and local Mexican vendors as well as  a number of online dealers that act as agents for the artists.

Many of the Huichol yarn paintings contain creatures and spirits that the shaman meet while under the influence of the peyote cactus hallucinogenic compounds. The peyote cactus, although classified as an illegal hallucinogen in almost all western cultures is legally available to these shamans as part of their religious practices. And so it should be - a peyote trip it has been part of their culture for an immeasurable amount of time. There are a number  of good documentaries about the Huichol Indians and their peyote rituals. Check YouTube and Google online video search for more information regarding footage.

Huichol beaded frog

Looking at the Huichol artwork it reminds me of the work of Peruvian Ayahuasca artist Pablo Cesar Amaringo who I have admired for many years. Within the art there are the spirits of the local wildlife represented alongside what appears to be humanoid like spirits or half-man half-animal entities that float through the world and exchange messages of healing and growth with the shaman. The Indians have never used peyote as a means to get high or trip-out. It has always been respected as a medicine to be used for spiritual growth, healing from perceived sins and the curing of physical ailments.

The area in which the Huichol live is under increasing pressure from commercial farming and logging by Mexican businesses and government agencies. These activities have cleared away much of the once forested habitat and made peyote hunting an increasingly difficult exercise. Let's hope they will find a way to peacefully coexist so the Huichol may maintain a sufficient supply of  peyote for their rituals long into the future and continue to create inspired peyote art. It would be a sad day indeed if there were no longer any of their wonderful artistic interpretations of the peyote's tale to share with us.


Posted on 19.9.12 by PsyAmb TAG : | 0 Comments ( ADD NEW COMMENT )

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