HOW BRANT SECUNDA BECAME A SHAMAN
Brant Secunda completed a twelve-year apprenticeship with the late don Jose Matsuwa on 1978 to become a shaman and ceremonial leader in the Huichol Indian tradition. Living in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, the Huichols are considered to be one of the last tribes in North America to have preserved their pre-Columbian traditions. Don Jose was a renowned Huichol Indian tribal elder and shaman who died at the age of 110.
Brant Secunda’s initiation into the Huichol Indian tribe was a five-day vision quest, a period of isolation in the wilderness without food and water, in a sacred cave in the Huichol Sierras known to the Huichols as the Cave of Grandmother Growth.
Other rites of passage included capturing and releasing a wild rattlesnake with his bare hands to face his fear of death, enduring a fourteen month fruit fast to enhance his sensitivity to the natural world, and surviving a nine-day vision quest so that he may, according to Huichol cosmology, learn the language of the gods. The nine-day vision quest, considered lengthy by Huichol standards, along with several other five-day vision quests, helped to establish Brant as a respected initiate within the Huichol nation.
THE DANCE OF THE DEER FOUNDATION
Don Jose always emphasized that the cultural survival of the Huichol people depended upon external awareness of the Huichol way of life. In 1979, Brant Secunda established the Dance of the Deer Foundation Center for Shamanic Studies to disseminate and preserve Huichol culture, practices, and traditions, and to provide direct assistance with the goal of promoting self-sufficiency and economic independence.
Nearly four decades later, the Dance of the Deer Foundation continues to support the Huichol people. Each year, the organization donates cooking equipment, clothing, farming tools and other essential supplies, as well as complete funding for the 250-mile springtime pilgrimage into the high desert to the mountain where the sun was born. Additionally, the foundation helps the Huichol conduct their Drum and Harvest Ceremony, which is a special gathering to honor the tribe’s woman and children.