A contemporary adaptation of an indigenous Huichol teaching tale, illustrated with traditional yarn drawings by Huichol artisans
• Shares the hidden treasures of a nature-based indigenous culture
• A teaching tool for multicultural studies for children ages 6 to 9
• Explains who the Huichol people are and the symbolism of the images used by the artists
The Huichol Indians live in the remote regions of the Sierra Madre Mountains of western Mexico, where geographic isolation has allowed them to retain their culture and spiritual traditions in the face of colonization. Their nature-based way of life makes no distinction between the sacred and the secular, and they express their reverence for the powers of the earth by regarding all elements in nature as family.
The Journey of Tunuri and the Blue Deer is a modern adaptation of a traditional Huichol story depicting a young child finding his (or her) personal task in life by connecting with the powers of nature. The story is told through the experiences of young Tunuri, who becomes lost in the woods. He meets the magical Blue Deer--a messenger between the worlds of mortals and deities--who introduces Tunuri to Father Sun, Mother Earth, and others in the natural world, while leading him back to his human family. Through this lovely tale and the vivid illustrations done in the medium of traditional Huichol yarn drawings, children can learn about their place in the sacred web of life.
One day the families of a village in the mountains of Mexico began walking through the woods on their way to the sacred mountain, which was far away in Wirikuta and took many days to reach. Along with the adults in one of the families was a small boy named Tunuri. Because he was very adventurous, Tunuri loved the long journey to the sacred mountain and often liked to walk where his parents couldn’t see him.
In the middle of their journey, as they walked in the early morning light, Tunuri saw a beautiful butterfly with wings of many colors, and he decided to follow it to see where it was going. He ran with the butterfly over many hills and through the forest--until he looked around and realized that he couldn’t hear or see anyone anymore.
There were no voices and there was no laughter in the air. The forest was full of shadows and stillness. He knew then that he was far away from his family--he was lost! Tunuri was afraid. He turned in every direction, trying to see something familiar, but he didn’t know where he was or which way to go.
Then something caught his eye. What was it? Tunuri looked up and saw a family of deer standing at the top of the next hill, and one of the deer was walking toward him. As the animal came closer, Tunuri knew that this was no ordinary deer, for his coat was a lovely deep blue--and he glowed all over, as if the sun or moon shone from inside him.
As he came near, the magical Blue Deer spoke. “Hello, Tunuri. I know you are lost and I know where your family is. Grandfather Fire has sent me to show you where you can find them. You must follow me--and hurry, so they won’t miss you!”
Then the Blue Deer turned and ran away. Tunuri was disappointed. He wanted to follow the Blue Deer, but the animal moved too quickly. Tunuri looked at the ground, wanting to cry--and saw right away that wherever the Blue Deer had stepped, there were now colorful flowers growing! The footprints of the magical deer made a trail of beautiful flowers for him to follow.
Tunuri began to walk, following this flower trail. He walked up a high hill and standing in the sun at the very top was the Blue Deer. Tunuri ran up to him and saw the sun shining brightly in the sky. As he enjoyed its warmth on his skin, he heard a strong, kind voice speak. “Hello, Tunuri! I am Father Sun.”
Tunuri was surprised and turned his face to the bright sky. “You and all other beings are my children,” the voice said. “I am father to everything on Earth, and in my light and warmth and energy the trees grow tall, the flowers bloom, and the fruit ripens. My light shines from your eyes and lives in your heart. You can feel my warmth on your skin and see the beautiful colors I paint on the clouds. I am here for you, my son. Remember that you can talk to me whenever you wish.”
Tunuri was filled with happiness from Father Sun’s warmth and care. “Thank you, Father Sun! I will always remember.”
The Blue Deer then turned and ran away again, and as he ran, he called to Tunuri, “Follow me! Your family is waiting for you!” Tunuri followed the flowers again until he came to a beautiful wide valley between two great mountains. As he joined the Blue Deer he suddenly felt a wind blowing through the valley, cool and fresh. The leaves of the trees began to dance, the tall grasses swayed back and forth, and the birds above them flew effortlessly in the sky.
Tunuri then heard a singing voice, “Hello, Tunuri! I am Brother Wind. Because the Sun is my father too, you and I are brothers. In fact, I am the eldest brother of all beings, and I give the breath of life to all children. When I blow strongly, I move the sky, and when I blow gently, you can hear me whispering. I am here, Tunuri, whenever you need me. Just take a deep breath, and I am with you.”
Tunuri breathed in deeply and felt the fresh wind fill his lungs. “Good to meet you, Brother Wind. I will breathe and visit with you!”
And with that, the Blue Deer ran again and called to Tunuri, “Follow me! We’re going to visit your sister.”
Soon they came to a shining lake. Tunuri stood next to the Blue Deer on the lake’s shore and watched the many animals drinking there. Then he looked into the clear water and saw all kinds of fish swimming. On the surface of the lake he could see the reflection of the sky above. He bent down and took a small sip of the cool water, and just then the water spoke to him.
“Hello, Tunuri,” the water said in a cool and lilting voice. “I am Sister Water. Wind is my brother and Sun is my father. I quench the thirst of all Earth’s animals and plants. Whenever you stand in the rain or by a stream, a lake, or an ocean, I will be with you. Drink me and I will nourish your body. I will be your sister forever.”
Tunuri splashed some of Sister Water’s cool drops on his face. “Thank you, Sister Water. I will always remember you,” he said happily.
James Endredy is a practicing shaman of Hungarian descent who learned his craft from formal initiations with the peyote shamans of Mexico and through 30 years of living with and learning from shamanic cultures in North and South America. He is actively involved in preserving historic alchemy texts as well as the world’s indigenous cultures and sacred sites. The award-winning author of several books, including Advanced Shamanism, Teachings of the Peyote Shamans, Ecoshamanism, and Earthwalks for Body and Spirit, he lives in California.
Maria Hernandez De La Cruz lives in a small village within the San Andreas ceremonial center in the Huichol Sierra. A highly accomplished artist, she began making yarn drawings as a child. Long before starting work on this book, she had a dream vision of Tunuri while on a pilgrimage to the sacred desert of Wirikuta--and thus was not at all surprised when asked to illustrate this story.
Casimiro De La Cruz Lopez comes from a village near the ceremonial center of Santa Catarina in the Huichol Sierra, where he spends much of his time helping his father, who has been the elected spiritual leader of their community for many years. While doing much of the yarn work for this story alongside María, Casimiro was also instrumental in translating the author’s and Maria’s visions into two-dimensional images.
". . . marvelously illustrated with colorful yarn pictures by Maria Hernandez de la Cruz and Casimiro de la Cruz Lopez, and includes information about the Huichol people, their sacred symbols and their art. Ages 6-9 (and to be enjoyed at any age)."
– Light of Consciousness, Winter 2004
"A highly recommended addition to school and community library Native American collections for young readers."