Becoming a Huichol Healer

About the Huichol Medicine Path

To become a mara’akame—a Huichol medicine person—one must be called by the gods and ancestors.

One night an indigenous Huichol man or woman, living in a village high in the Western Sierra Madre of Mexico, has a special dream.

The next day he or she visits a wise elder and recounts the dream. The elder says the young one is being called to become a mara’akame – a medicine person.

The young one finds a guide and embarks on several years of apprenticeship. There is much prayer, fasting, and arduous pilgrimages to sacred mountains, forests, deserts, caves, and the Ocean.

There is also arduous work dealing with emotional blocks, fears, and areas of blindness.

If the apprentice works hard and stays true to the path, eventually he or she is declared ready to be a candidate for initiation. The village gathers in a ceremonial center for three days. An elaborate ritual is performed. If the ritual is successful, the apprentice is now recognized as a mara’akame.

They will spend the rest of their life as a resource for the community, bringing blessed healing, wisdom, and ceremony from the gods and ancestors to the people.”

This story has been re-enacted countless times over thousands of years. It has provided health and a good life through times of privation and times of fruitfulness. But, until recently, this medicine has not been available to almost anyone in Western culture.

Years ago, Eliot Cowan was identified as having a soul calling to the Huichol path. Once he completed his apprenticeship he offered traditional Huichol healing to many grateful clients.

Huichol medicine is deeply effective in our culture. It nourishes body and spirit in ways much needed by modern Western people.

Eventually Eliot was given a second initiation as a tsaurirrikame, or elder medicine man. He also served as a guide to a number of apprentices.

Huichol Healing by initiated mara’akate is available. Please visit the Traditional Shamanic Healing site for more information. Huichol healing can also be experienced at a 5-day Healing Intensive at Blue Deer.

Some Mountains are More Than Mountains

Pilgrimage Offer

Not all caves, springs, groves and deserts are just caves, springs, groves or deserts. Some are god beings of vast capacity, masquerading as features of the landscape. These god beings offer help to human beings.

What kind of help?

Some of life’s challenges yield to our effort, but some require something beyond what self-effort alone can muster. For this reason people throughout the world have long made pilgrimage to the sacred places…

  • to discover themselves and their purpose
  • to improve their relationships
  • to find a life partner
  • to receive healing
  • to bring forth their work as a soul expression
  • to receive abundance
  • to connect with community
  • to connect with the natural world
  • to grow spiritually
  • to connect with the Divine
  • to find peace and joy

How does one go about it?

Long ago our ancestors were instructed how the sacred sites wish to be approached and what they should be offered in exchange for their help. These instructions have been upheld by generations of tradition-holders; the guidance of a living tradition-holder is always required.

The sites are approached with respect, devotion, and formality. In the pilgrimages led by Eliot Cowan – a tradition-holder in the Huichol lineage – pilgrimage requires a cycle of yearly visits to the sacred site or sites.

Does pilgrimage really deliver?

When a pilgrim engages a site whole-heartedly, the site responds in kind. Here is the report of one whole-hearted pilgrim, speaking five years after completing her yearly visits:

I had been widowed twice and experienced the death of my teenage daughter, my brother and several close friends. I felt I was losing my mind to early Alzheimer’s. Was there purpose or value in all this loss? I asked my pilgrimage site to show me, and I received much more than I asked for:

I came out of isolation and found the courage to live more deeply connected to community.

I established clearer boundaries with my family, so my role as “ caretaker” was no longer at the expense of my own well-being. Because of this we have a fuller, healthier relationship to this day.

Unexpectedly, new love blossomed into the most fulfilling partnership I’ve ever known.

I discovered that the memory I had been losing was the memory of my self. What continues to grow in me is the sense of my true self and my purpose in serving others. There is a deep calmness and joy in me that supports my everyday living. I feel held and buoyed by life. In my heart I know that all is in the right place and time.

Could this be for me?

In the modern western world, this type of pilgrimage work has been hard to access. It would often involve difficult, sometimes dangerous travel to isolated places. Even in those places authentic guides are rare and not always cooperative.

For over twenty years, Eliot quietly led Western people to sacred sites in the US, Mexico and other countries. This had been done with the explicit authorization of his elders, his ancestors and the God of Fire. Recently three magnificent sites in California have made it known that they can help more people, and wish to do so. If you would like to explore whether pilgrimage might be for you, please contact Eliot’s successor Anna-Lena Hitlon at