Becoming a Mara’kame – part of the Story of El Grupo Tatewari
This a story about a small group of people drawn together to learn the ways of healing and relating to the world as a Divine living presence as practiced by the Huichols, a pre-Columbian shamanic culture whose spiritual traditions still shine a vital light in this world. This group of modern Western people, moving with the guidance of Grandfather Fire began listening to a “soul calling” to learn the ways and mysteries of this traditional spiritual medicine.
They asked: “How can we provide deep healing to our people”? Healing rooted in respect and balanced exchange between each other as humans and inclusive of all the “other than human peoples”. ” Where is the doorway to healing that helps us learn our place in this world”?
Who can say where our story begins? According to the Huichols all of us people, the human people, the rock people, the plants and animals, every presence here in this world was sung into being in the time before time. Our world is made of the relationships between all of the beings expressing as Divine presences here. This is a very old perspective, one which has sustained traditional indigenous cultures across milennia. Now we find ourselves in a time of great urgency and change. The speedy pace and greed of modern human life is destroying the bounty and beauty of the natural world. Our systems and technologies will fail and this experiment of isolation from, and dominance over Nature, will end. In some ways this story is about what humans can do to help re-establish balance into the world. This is about Remembering the Sacred.
Our elders tell us that the only way humans truly learn the value of something is by having it taken away. It’s an unfortunate design feature of the human mind. They teach that the antidote to the folly of the mind is through cultivating the heart energy of Fire and following traditional ways of building and maintaining relationship with the Divine forces which give us everything we need to sustain our lives. There are countless traditional stories about this from all corners of the earth.
So in a way our story begins with the Huichol story of the Singer, Tematsi Kauyumari also known as the Blue Deer. In his song the peoples lost their way from living in reciprocal relationship with the Gods and the heart-knowing and joy that comes from that. We have forgotten to how listen to the winds of the four directions. Forgotten how to make the offerings to the sacred places and how to cultivate our own heart wisdom as a reliable guide to a good life: living in a balanced vibrant community of presences in the living natural world. So in a way our story could begin with this Remembering showing up and mysteriously drawing this small group of people together.
But where does this remembering come from? How can you remember something that hasn’t happened yet? The old ones tell us that all that lives is reborn and lives again. And so mysteriously we feel connected to and called by certain places, or peoples or art or music that is not of our own village. The modern people in this story, let’s call them “El Grupo Tatewari” have all responded to the calling of this ancestral medicine path of the Huichol ( Wirrarika) people, a people renowned for their deep spiritual connection to the lands and their powerful shamanic healing, they once inhabited a vast area of Western Mexico. When the conquistadors came, they were driven into the high mountains of their land, the home of many of their sacred places. There, they maintained their traditions, engaging in cycles of ritual and ceremony that honored the living world and life itself, making pilgrimages to the sacred places, living simply with plenty, practicing their arts which are expressions of their connection with the many gods that comprise the world.
How do modern people responding to a soul-calling find their way along the almost invisible path to an authentic teacher? It turns out the Gods have their ways of cooking up challenging life situations, setting up “chance encounters,” and bringing forth “calling sicknesses” and guiding dreams. These are some of the ways the Gods move people through the world to set certain things in motion. An American healer named Eliot Cowan was touched by all of these circumstances back in the early 1990’s. He repeatedly dreamt of a mountain with unique features. His father became very ill and wanted a shaman’s help and “chance” sent Eliot to the remote Huichol Sierras to seek this help. There he met an elder shaman Don Guadolupe Rios to whom he described his dream about the mountain. Hearing this Don Lupe told Eliot he had seen that he would be coming and that he had been waiting for him. He took Eliot to that very mountain, a sacred place of pilgrimage to the Huichols, and thus began Eliot’s shamanic apprenticeship.
After six years of pilgrimage and other learning, Eliot successfully went through the sacred doorway of an initiation ritual to become a mara’kame or traditional healer and ritual leader for his people. A few years later the aging Don Lupe became ill. Before his death he conferred upon Eliot his capacity to lead others from our culture who were called to this path through the cycles of pilgrimage and apprenticeship to become initiated mara’kames. With great integrity Eliot shouldered this responsibility and people slowly and steadily began appearing who were deemed to have the right soul-calling to do this work. It’s not so much a choice as a calling.
One who appeared was David Wiley an American businessman who was living in Cuernavaca Mexico. David’s story is unique. As well as being an apprentice he became an invaluable resource to the beneficial growth of the group through his capacity to, in certain ritually appropriate circumstances, transmit guidance from Fire for the dangerous and difficult work of approaching and engaging very powerful sacred sites and Deities. The elemental God of fire called Tatewari or Grandfather Fire was known to the Huichols as the first shaman and a key guide and intermediary between the human people and the living world of the Gods and ancestors. None of this work is possible without Grandfather’s help and protection. As modern western people the group has all the blindnesses, ignorance and misconceptions about the true nature of the world that plague our people everywhere. You could say just as the Gods saw it was time for this Remembering to actualize in our modern people, for the benefit of all people, they saw that we needed special help in learning how to see properly and listen deeply.
Over time the group began countless trips to sacred places, learning to make the offerings, sing the songs and prayers and slowly learning how to “listen”. As they journeyed to a remote Huichol ceremonial village the Huichols looked on the foreigners with compassion recognizing the lost nature and spiritual poverty of modern life. For over 400 years the Huichols have successfully protected their culture and traditional ways from the encroachment of the Spanish, the Church and the Mexican authorities. Yet, the Huichol elders saw that these people belonged to their tradition and medicine. In a formal letter they described the group as Los Invadidos, “the invaded ones”. They saw these people had been invaded by their Gods. And the guiding deity, Tatewarí (Grandfather Fire), (who they speak with quite easily in his elemental presence without any special help) spoke to them and sent many unmistakable signs that these people belonged.
The people kept returning year after year, growing in number, led by Eliot Cowan and David Wiley two of the first Tsaurirrikate ( fully initiated shamans and ritual leaders), of Euro-American descent. This group of pioneering pilgrims are accomplished people, doctors, counselors, healers, tradespeople, businessmen, educators, artists and musicians. Many, after undergoing traditional apprenticeships—making pilgrimages to the sacred places, being initiated through grueling ritual fiestas—have become Marakate, traditional shamanic healers in this ancestral lineage.
Today this medicine group is comprised of 26 Marakate and 2 Tsauririkames. The principal human teacher is David Wiley. Guided by Grandfather Fire and a five person Council of Elders they continue the work of honoring the sacred sites and serving as healers and ritual leaders in their local communities throughout America, Mexico and the UK. It is a lifelong commitment. Each of these people has given and sacrificed their time, energy and resources to follow this path, confronting their own fears and doubts that are symptoms endemic to modern society.
Traditional wisdom also teaches that humans are designed to live in community. Helping each other to move from the illusory dream of separation and to step into the dream of nature. Grandfather Fire has brought forth three organizations as organs which provide healing, support traditional indigenous wisdom, and create heart-centered community gatherings. In this spirit the group has worked, with many others, to develop The Sacred Fire Community, The Sacred Fire Foundation, and the Blue Deer Center. The mission of these organizations is to support the authentic human birthright to live a life of balanced, meaningful relationship with each other and the living world. Many of the marakate of El Grupo Tatewari serve in leadership roles in these organizations to further this goal and provide broader heart-centered perspectives as a solution for modern problems.
The group has been gifted two Tukis, traditional Huichol temples, as homes for their ritual work. One is in the remote ceremonial village, Tatei Kie (the House of the Gods). There had always been five ancestral Tukies. These are seen as living beings and as elders. The Huichol have a prophecy about a new time for their people and tradition. In that prophecy, a sixth Tuki would be established in Tatei Kie. Strangely, this would signify a time when the closely guarded Huichol traditions will move to benefit others outside their land and people, and in turn the outside world would begin to benefit them.The village made a place for the group near the mirador overlooking the canyon. The Huichol homelands are a rich field of ancestral presences. The elders, seeing the love and commitment of the group, continue to generously help them learn to overcome the ignorance and mind-centered blindnesses of modern man. And in the beauty and stillness of this sacred place to be filled with the mysterious presence of the Gods.
The other Tuki is far to the southeast in Tepoztlan, in the central highlands. In this sacred valley ringed by mountain Deities the land is moist and fertile. For untold generations, it brought forth abundant harvests of corn. Grandfather Fire told David Wiley that a Tuki should be built on the land. The Tuki was built, consecrated and enlivened and in a ritual presided over by the venerable shaman Don Jose Sandoval de la Cruz in which he verified it’s authenticity. This was an unprecedented endeavor. Never before had a consecrated Tuki sprouted outside of the Huichol homelands.
In 2010, a five year cycle of three-day ritual fiestas began to enliven, honor and feed this Tuki. Conducted by Don Jose, whose generosity towards Grupo Tatewari continues to be of invaluable help to this day. These rituals were precise in the proper creation and consecrations of offerings and the singing of prayers so that the Gods of the Huichol tradition and the deities that watch over Tepoztlan were satisfied. The fiestas were completed later each year with long difficult pilgrimages in which five Jicareros (“carriers of the offerings”) from El Grupo Tatewarí took the consecrated offerings to the sacred desert, the birthplace of the Huichol gods. The Jicareros then returned the blessings to the Tuki and distributed them to the community of Tepoztlan in great celebratory fiestas.
The cycle of fiestas was completed in 2014 and the Tuki is recognized as fully alive. It is watched over and cared for as a living being. The Huichol elders, ancestors and Gods conferred the treasure and presence of this first Tuki outside of the homelands and acknowledge it as an authentic expression of their tradition. Grandfather Fire has designated it as the principal Tuki for El Grupo Tatewarí, a shoot from the ancestral Sixth Tuki in Tatei Kie. More than just a place for these pilgrims to gather, this Tuki has become a home for local and international community gatherings, teachings, healing work, ceremonies and pilgrimage. Most importantly, it generously offers a place of genuine connection to the livingness of the world to a modern culture that is steeped in separation. Its presence is a blessing to all people, bringing healing and balance to a troubled Western world.
Yet, it is seen that the blessings of this place extend far beyond the devotion and work of these healers. It is a part of the Great Remembering that is happening as the modern world hurtles toward catastrophe. In this Remembering, we are reminded of our essential connection, dependence and obligation to the world, of the need to release our separation and fear, of the joy of opening our hearts to the livingness that surrounds and includes us.
The marakate of El Grupo Tatewari live and serve our people in America, Mexico and the UK. They offer traditional shamanic healing, and counsel in their local communities and wherever they travel.
marakame listing w/contacts here
i think we should have a slide show on this page