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Unknown Huichol

Shamans and Immortals, Allies against Chaos

Jay Courtney Fikes

The culmination of 34 years of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, this book offers ground-breaking insights into fundamental principles of Huichol shamanism and ritual. The scope and length of Fikes's research, combined with the depth of his participation with four Huichol shamans, enable him to convey with empathy details of shamanic initiation, methods for diagnosis and treatment of illness, and motives for performing funeral, deer and peyote hunting, and maize-cultivating rituals. « less more »
AltaMira Press
Pages: 281Size: 6 3/4 x 9 3/4
978-0-7591-2026-6 • Hardback • November 2010 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
978-0-7591-2028-0 • eBook • November 2010 • $72.99 • (£49.95)
Jay Courtney Fikes teaches social anthropology at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chapter 1 Preface
Chapter 2 Chapter 1. Confessions Of A Hybrid Anthropologist
Chapter 3 Chapter 2. Shamanic Initiation And Ancestor Veneration
Chapter 4 Chapter 3. Entering The Afterlife
Chapter 5 Chapter 4. Interdependence And Continuity In Huichol Cosmology
Chapter 6 Chapter 5. Seeking Sacred Indexes To Celebrate Life's Logos
Chapter 7 Appendix A. A Huichol Woman's Burial
Chapter 8 Appendix B. Funeral Ritual Song Excerpts
Chapter 9 Appendix C. Deer Hunting And Reincarnating Rituals
Chapter 10 Appendix D. Death and Mourning Among the Huichol
Chapter 11 Endnotes
Chapter 12 Bibliography
This invaluable book offers an alternative interpretation on what it means to be human. Jay Fikes unites his experiences as an aspiring shaman with his dedication to scholarly accuracy; he presents the Huichol religion from a perspective unfettered by modern, Western, science-vectored assumptions. His book integrates sympathetic and discerning interpretation of nuances in Huichol shamanic initiation, myth, ritual, and pilgrimage, creating an insightful portrait of a people whose annual cycle of rituals and pilgrimages have, until recently, sustained their harmonious relation with nature and with their divine ancestors. Fikes's book will become a landmark in comparative religion.
Huston Smith, professor emeritus, Syracuse University; author, The World's Religions

An important new study in comparative religion and philosophy, this fascinating and dramatic account is based on Jay Fikes's in-depth research, spanning more than three decades, on Huichol ceremonial life and worldview. Many of its unique insights reflect the author's personal knowledge of the shamanic experience. Fikes also reveals and clarifies fundamental long-term themes in Mesoamerican religion and worldview. Unknown Huichol contributes to symbolic anthropology, the anthropology of religion and of art, and to broader anthropological theory.
Conrad P. Kottak, University of Michigan

Unknown Huichol is imbued with the message that we must be attentive to our consciousness - even if this puts us at odds with establishment thinking and anthropological precepts about the cognitive, experiential distance between 'informants' and researchers. Jay Fikes has shown that there is a lot we have yet to learn about the Huichol; he has made major strides toward filling our gaps of knowledge.
Servando Z. Hinojosa, University of Texas-Pan American

Fikes, who teaches anthropology at Yeditepe University in Turkey, calls himself a "hybrid anthropologist." He has not only studied shamanism as a professional researcher among the Huichol of west-central Mexico over the last 30 years, he has also participated in their religion by ingesting peyote and undertaking pilgrimages to their sacred centers. And he believes, as they do, in the imminence of spirits and the possibility of communicating with ancestors and deities. Fikes has produced here a very readable, at times engaging, mélange of ethnographic description and personal revelation based upon his long encounters with Huichol shamans. The author gives special attention to Huichol notions of the soul and afterlife and to description of their elaborate funerary rituals. Peter Furst's book, Rock Crystals and Peyote Dreams: Explorations in the Huichol Universe (CH, Jul'07, 44-6313), covers much the same ground more thoroughly and in greater depth, though without the narrative of personal spiritual encounters that Fikes provides. Fikes was also coeditor of a volume of translations of Huichol myths collected in the 1930s, Huichol Mythology by Robert M. Zingg (CH, Jun'05, 42-5955). Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries.