The rugged mountains and remote villages of the Sierra Madre, North Central Mexico, are the homeland to roughly ten to fourteen thousand Huichol Indians. ‘Huichol’, however is a term given by the Spanish. In their own language, they refer to themselves as Virarrica, which translates as “The Healing People”. Their tribe was among the last to come under Spanish rule, and their religion still is essentially pagan, revolving around several important agricultural deities and elements of nature. For them, Deer is the most sacred of all animals, Corn is the source of all life and Peyote (a type of cactus) is a means of communication with the gods. The consumption of peyote by the Huichol people is a deeply religious experience. The unity of these three elements — deer, corn and peyote — is the absolute core of their beliefs.
Religion and magic permeates all of life of the Huichol tribe. For them, their religion is not a part of life, it is life itself. And their art is a form of prayer and means of direct communication with the sacred realm, it is an extension of their religion. It is created not to decorate, but to give a profound expression to their deep spiritual beliefs. This makes traditional Huichol art, whether it be meticulous beadwork, yarn paintings, wooden masks, or striking embroidered and woven personal adornments, not only aesthetically beautiful but also with an indepth meaning attached to it.
As for their intricate bead art alone, each work of art is made by first spreading a thin layer of beeswax over the entire surface be it a wooden form or hollowed gourd. Small glass beads are then meticulously pushed into the wax to create complex patterns and symbols. The beaded Beetle in the image above for example, was decorated by indigenous craftsmen from the Huichol communities using more than 2 million glass beads and fabric for the National Museum of American Indian Art in Washington DC. You can learn more about this project, one that put Huichol on the world map, through this Smithsonian video. You can also find awe striking images of this car Vochol’s Flickr page.
Each color and symbol used by the Huichol Indians in their artwork has a specific significance. Let’s take a brief look at what some of these colors and symbols actually mean.
Significance of various Colors
Red: The East | Black: Pacific Ocean | Green: Heaven | Blue: The South, Water, Rain | White: Clouds | Yellow, Orange: The Sun
Significance of various Symbols
Deer, Flower, Cornstalk – Peyote | Rabbit – Fertility | Dog – Ancestral Mother | Eagle – Divine Guardian | Butterfly – Good Fortune | Sun – Father, Master of Heavens and so on…
The consumption of Huichol Art by tourists, serious collectors and museums throughout the world has grown rapidly in the past ten years.
The meaning behind the colors and symbols is what gives meaning to each piece of their art and tells a beautiful story. It makes the Huichol Art a precious cultural legacy worthy of preserving! Do you agree?
We hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead! Happy Pinning!