CONTACT US    BUY BY PHONE: 508-954-8545

Huichol Art

Huichol Bead Art

The Huichol people are an indigenous tribe living in secluded settlements within Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. They are known for their beautiful Huichol art — animal figures, jaguar heads, masks and ceremonial bowls coated with beeswax, then covered in tiny, glass beads. Hundreds of beads, set in place one at a time, produce dazzling patterns derived from their ancestry and spirituality. The creation of this Huichol bead art requires a great deal of inspiration, patience and concentration, all characteristics of the Huichol Indian outlook on life.

rosendo de la cruz huichol artist
Your Title Goes Here

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Read More About Huichol Art

There are said to be only about 18,000 Huichol Indian people today. In addition to their native costumes and ritualistic ceremonies, they are known for their Huichol art — handmade objects covered with colorful, tiny glass beads arranged in intricate patterns. The Huchol are also known for their yarn “paintings,” patterns and designs made with colored strips of thin yarn, pressed in a flat background of bees was.

Who are the Huichol?

Huichol Indians are perhaps the most storied indigenous peoples living in Mexico today. Their homeland is located in secluded regions of the Sierra Madre mountains in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit. Descendants of the Aztecs, they still maintain their pre-Columbian traditions and language. They live in communities without electricity and running water, in houses with dirt floors and thatched-grass roofs.

The Huichols, or “Wixárika” as they prefer to be called, cling strongly to their ancient pagan beliefs. Their lives revolve around elaborate religious traditions which have remained unchanged since long before the Spanish conquest. The Huichols believe that their ancestors, the “first people,” were deities who lived in the Wirikuta desert but were later driven out into the mountains to live as mortal farmers. They revere the deer animal, which is an integral part of their spiritual ceremonies. Huichol culture also celebrates the peyote cactus and its hallucination-inducing flesh. It provides an emotional pathway through which they can connect with their gods.

What is Huichol art?

In Huichol life, religion and art are intertwined. The tribe is renowned for its beautiful beaded artwork, created for display in their temples and religious caves. Arte Huichol includes beaded eggs, jaguar heads and ceremonial bowls. Laden with colorful Huichol bead art patterns, the Indians consider their art to be sacred, bearing colors and designs derived from their spirituality. Huichol art is made by coating the bottom of a gourd, or the wooden figure of an animal, with a mixture of beeswax and pine tar. Then, one-by-one, the artist presses into place hundreds of brightly-colored glass beads. The creation of these works of art require a great deal of inspiration, patience and concentration, all characteristics of the Huichol Indian approach to life.

The ritual sharing of Huichol peyote

The focus of Huichol religious practice is the peyote hunt. This is a month-long pilgrimage during which families travel on foot, some 300 miles to the mystical desert land of Wirikuta, located within the state of San Luis Potosí. On the journey, they immerse themselves in rituals that they believe will open themselves to the feelings and perspective of their deity ancestors. When the pilgrims arrive at Wirikuta, they look for the deer god who then leads them to the sacred peyote plant. This is a spineless cactus, native to Mexico, which contains the psychoactive drug, mescaline. Researchers believe that Native Americans have used peyote in their religious ceremonies for around 5,000 years. On the Huichol pilgrimage, the first plant found is divided up amongst the members of the group so that all may eat a piece of peyote. This moment of sharing fulfills one of the highest goals in Huichol life. They have journeyed to the ancient paradise, transformed themselves into deities and communed with other gods. After the ritual sharing, the family members look for more, eventually eating enough of the peyote to have hallucinations and visions.

The psychedelic symbolism of Huichol bead art

From the ecstasy of that peyote experience comes the unique, colorful artwork of the Huichols. They see the creation of their Huichol art as the pathway to direct communication with the deities. The peyote plant is prominently featured in Huichol creations. Many of the Huichol bead art figures, from skulls to animals to bowls and plaques contain images of peyote, their plant of life. Sometimes it appears as an ear of corn, or as the antlers of a deer. Also prominent are images of the serpent, one of the most powerful animals in Huichol mythology, because it protects both corn and peyote. Serpent images represent four female deities, each a different color. For example, Kapiri, a white serpent, lives in the north. Others, corresponding to the south, east and west, are blue, red and black.

The tribe sees the creation of Huichol art as a pathway to direct communication with the deities. All of the Huichols’ colorful and unique pieces of art are laden with mystical symbols often fully understood only by the artists themselves. The ceremonial bowls, called jicaras, are made of cut-off gourds whose inner core has been coated with a mixture of beeswax and pine resin. Into this sticky material, the Indians embed hundreds of tiny, colored chaquira, or seed beads, creating a dazzling array of vibrant patterns. No two patterns are alike. In ancient times, the beaded bowls were made with bits of bone, coral, jade, seashells, and turquoise. In modern times, the artisans are using tiny, multi-colored glass beads from the Czech Republic. Their beaded animals are made in similar fashion, beginning with a base frame of wood or papier mache, that is then coated with the wax substance. This holds the tiny beads in place.

Huichol yarn painting

Intricate yarn paintings, made by pressing colorful bits of yarn into wax-coated plywood disks, are another form of Huichol Indian art. These paintings can be visually stunning. Each Huichol yarn painting tells a story from the tribe’s mythology, and each creation is one-of-a-kind. This form of art did not exist in the traditional Huichol culture, but is a more recent product that has proven to be very popular with tourists.

Showing all 12 results

Mini Cart 0

Your cart is empty.

SAVE 10%

Sign up for our mailing list today and get a 10% OFF coupon to use on your next order!

You have Successfully Subscribed!