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The Earth Is Sick and Dying

"The Earth is sick and dying.

The lands of the Huichol Indians,
hidden high in the remote Sierra Madre mountains of northwestern Mexico, are dying.
The forests are shrinking, water is becoming scarce,
and the animals are disappearing.

Mankind must be a steward of the Earth;
Caretakers for all that dwells upon it;
To be of one heart with all things.

Human beings must learn to share the tears of every living thing,
To feel in his heart the pain of the wounded animal, each crushed blade of grass;

Mother Earth is our flesh; the rocks, our bones;
The rivers are the blood of our veins."

The Huichol Wise man, the Grand Shaman, knows why.

The Huichol shamans say we are perdido, lost. They say we are bringing doom and destruction to Yurianaka, Mother Earth, and that Taupa, Father Sun, is coming closer to the earth to purify it. They are concerned for the future and for the life of their children. They are holding great ceremonies calling in shamans from many areas to try and "hold up the sun." But they know they cannot do it themselves, for they are not the ones soiling the collective nest. We are. We are the ones who have to wake up, who have to find our lives.

For the Huichols, this is the purpose of their sacred pilgrimage to the holy land of Wiricuta--to find their lives. This is what all their ceremonies involving the ritual use of the peyote help them to accomplish. Their technology of the sacred enables them to change channels and access "state specific information" available only on the wavelengths of specific channels. For shamanic peoples such as the Huichols, the purpose in changing channels is not for escapism, to get lost in imaginary hallucinations that have no basis in reality. Their purpose is to get a more accurate reading of the nature of reality. They seek entrance through the nierica into the numinous universe underlying the limited, material world of the sensory--the "mysterious, ubiquitous, concentrated form of non-material energy . . . loose about the world and contained in a more or less condensed degree by all objects" (Bob Calahan in his introduction to Jaimie de Angulo's Coyote Man and Old Doctor Loon).


To obtain information, healing, and power, which they can use here on this plane of existence to better their lives and the lives of their people.

Entering into the depths of the mystery is not something to take lightly, for the mystery is all about power and power can manifest itself in many ways. Out of respect, the Wisdom Elders observe, listen, and commune with this power in all its manifestations. From this base of phenomenological data of mind in nature, nature in mind, they came to learn the order and structure of life's connectedness and that all things are dependent upon each other and thus related. Recognizing this, the norm of reciprocity in all interactions is raised to the status of sacred. Balanced reciprocity with all of creation is observed at all costs, for without this practice, the fragile web of life is irreversibly damaged, a fate that faces us today.

The eminent theologian Thomas Berry addresses this fate:

"The earth asks us to accept greater responsibility. We must exchange mindlessness for mindfulness."

It's an initiation process, says Berry. Humanity is "moving from a state of childhood into its adult stage of life and human community must now assume adult responsibilities."

Respect, humility, clarity of intention, right relationship with the appropriate psychospiritual technology, and sustained, focused mindfulness are all key components of successful channel-changing to access state specific information. The shaman is the state shifter, the channel-changer par excellence, for the shaman is the master technician of ecstasy.

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