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The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol

Medicine Teachings for Modern Times

Published by Destiny Books
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

True account of a decade-long apprenticeship with Huichol shamans in the Mexican Sierra Madre

• Contains an insider’s view of the Huichol’s shamanic spiritual practices, including their ritual use of peyote

• Offers the Huichol path to sustainable healing for individuals and our planet

Never conquered by Europeans, the Huichol--known for their use of peyote in spiritual ceremonies--have thoroughly retained their ancient way of life. Growing from a deeply rooted respect and reverence for the natural world, the Huichol’s shamanic spiritual practices focus on living life in harmony with all living things and offer a path to a truly sustainable future.

The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol is the autobiographical account of Pinkson’s decade-long immersion in the shamanic traditions of the Huichol tribes of the Sierra Madre in Mexico. From his first Huichol pilgrimage to Wiricuta (their sacred homeland) in 1981 to searching the desert for the heart medicine of peyote, Pinkson’s account of his initiation into the medicine teachings of the Huichol brings new life to this ancient eco-centric tradition. Providing a guiding light for those who seek to become part of the solution to our planet’s ecological challenges, Pinkson empowers readers to choose their own path toward healing both on a personal and a planetary level.


Chapter 2


I asked Dr. William Lamers, who was also on my doctoral committee and knew me quite well, what kind of people he thought I should work with, and his reply shocked me: “People that are dying. They are on a vision quest although they would not articulate it as such. They are seeking a deeper vision for the meaning of their lives as they prepare to face their death.” I was speechless. Bill went on, “You have been taking people out on vision quests for years now. I think you would work very well with the dying.” I knew intuitively that what he was saying was right, but I didn’t feel capable or confident that I was up for meeting the demands that working with the dying would entail. I told him I needed to think about it.

Not long after that, on the July Fourth weekend of 1976, I was driving down a curvy, country road and ran in to a traffic jam. People were standing by their cars trying to see what was going on. I got out and walked the quarter of a mile to where a crowd stood in the middle of the road. I edged in to see what they were looking at. A young man had been in a motorcycle crash. He lay unconscious in the road, his boots knocked off by the force of the impact. One man was holding his head up, another was looking at his chest. I could see immediately that he was losing life-force energy through the bottom of his feet. Someone needs to go up there and block up his feet so he stops losing that energy, I thought, but I was reluctant to act--I looked like a bum, unshaven and dirty from being in the woods. How would people react to this shadylooking character coming up to the fallen cyclist and doing something weird like holding his feet? How would I react if he died while I was holding him?

I thought about the synchronicity of this accident with the fact that I had been seeking guidance on what to do about Bill Lamers’s feedback to me several weeks prior. Bill had also asked me to teach a class with him on death and dying and join with him and a small group of others who had been meeting for several years in preparation for starting the second hospice program in the United States. I was flattered but hesitant there, too. Could I handle being in such intimate contact with dying people? Now I was faced with the possibility of someone dying right in front of me.

I realized that if I didn’t do something about the motorcyclist on the ground, it wouldn’t be done. Let people think whatever they want of me. I walked over to the prostrate figure. The two men looked at me curiously. I gestured to them to go on with the ministrations. Then I bent down and placed my hands against the motorcyclist’s feet. I closed my eyes and imagined my hands were dams, completely closing off the leaks. To my surprise, I felt very calm, and I knew that even if he died while I was there, I was doing just what I needed to be doing. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance arrived. I walked back to my car and continued on my way. Yes to Bill, to the class, and to the hospice work.

Yet, the Mystery wasn’t finished. Back at the retreat I was attending, I did a meditation taught to me by a spiritual teacher in the spring of 1974, a shaman woman who was part Mohawk, part Apache, and part Scottish. It involved raising and lowering the arms while seated on the earth, maintaining synchronized breathing, and building up an intensified energy charge. The final movement releases all the built-up energy into the center of the earth as your forehead touches the ground in an act of surrender. You remain in this position as long as you can, then sit upright and continue meditating, allowing the energy of the earth to enter your body.

After having great success with this meditation previously, I used it whenever I went on quest or whenever I needed guidance on a big decision in my life. Now, back at the quest site after my experience with the injured motorcyclist, I decided to use the meditation to help me integrate the information I had received about work with the dying. As I reached the point where I placed my forehead to the earth, a voice boomed up from the depths, You are supposed to work with people who have cancer! It was so loud I was shocked. I sat up and looked around. No one. I knelt back into the meditation position with my head touching the ground. The voice boomed again. I tried to ignore it. Working with cancer patients wasn’t my plan for my life; I didn’t know anything about the process. I hoped the voice would go away. It didn’t. It only got louder and louder. Finally, I surrendered. “Okay, okay,” I said aloud. “I’ll do it. But you will have to show me what to do because I sure as hell don’t know.”

The voice stopped. I was relieved but mystified. When I got home two days later, Andrea told me someone had called from Los Angeles and wanted me to call them back as soon as I got in. “It sounded urgent,” she said. I dialed the number. A woman answered and I identified myself. A chill went through me when she said, “I hear you work with cancer patients. My brother has a brain tumor and we want to come up and see you.” You sure didn’t waste any time with that one, Great Spirit! I thought to myself in amazement.

About The Author

Tom Soloway Pinkson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, ceremonial retreat and vision-fast leader, sacred storyteller, and shaman. For 32 years he worked with terminally ill children at the Center for Attitudinal Healing in California, successfully integrating the wisdom teachings of the Huichol and other medicine teachers into the world of the practicing psychologist. His most recent work includes training in the Hardiness Factor (training for emotional resilience) and A New Vision of Aging (working consciously with the challenges and opportunities of the elder years). The founder of Wakan, a nonprofit organization committed to restoring the sacred in daily life, he lives in Southern California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Destiny Books (January 29, 2010)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594773495

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Raves and Reviews

“I am happy to learn that your work with entheogens continues. It is and will be an important contribution to the aims to convince the health authorities to loosen the ban that inhibits the legal use of entheogens. Entheogens must become available legally for meaningful use in psychiatry and for healing.”

– Albert Hofmann, Swiss scientist and discoverer of LSD-25

“In this absorbing account of his initiations with the Huichol, Tom Pinkson helps us to reconnect with the teachings of our indigenous American ancestors. This is healing Earth-wisdom for our fractured civilization, and inspiration to honor the creative forces inherent in the land, the plants, the animals, and the people.”

– Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., author of Green Psychology and Sacred Mushroom of Visions

“Tom Pinkson’s fascinating journey into Huichol shamanism and how he applies this ancient tradition to healing others as well as the crises that our modern world now faces is a must read for anyone searching to raise consciousness for the betterment of both humanity and our Mother Earth.”

– James Endredy, author of Beyond 2012: A Shaman’s Call to Personal Change and The Transformatio

“Indigenous wisdoms offer ways we can learn from both the seen and unseen worlds. Thomas Pinkson shares more than 20 years of experience and wisdom he has garnered from the Huichol Indians of Central America. This book is very relevant to fostering interdependence and re-visioning healing possibilities for restoring environment, communities, and humanity.”

– Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., cultural anthropologist and author of The Four-Fold Way

“Tom’s book is well written, like creating a finely woven basket, the kind our ancestors in northern California tribes used to receive the gifts of Nature. Thus it is that Tom has provided modern people in search of a soul with a basket full of ancient flowers. I really enjoyed reading the book; it is, indeed, a good teaching and gift to the people.”

– Bobby “Medicine Grizzly Bear” Lake-Thom, traditional Native healer and spiritual teacher

“Seeing beyond the constrictions of our present ways is critical for our survival. Tom Pinkson’s story sheds light on the potential in each one of us to change the current channels of our perceptions in order to live a more expansive, sacred, and compassionate life. His encouragement for us to walk our path with ceremonial gratitude grew from his apprenticeship with Huichol shamans and is medicine for our times.”

– Marion Weber, founder of the Arts and Healing Network and the Flow Fund Circle

“Pinkson is one of those rare individuals who walks his talk, whose life is built on helping others, loving and forgiving, and a determination to trust and listen to the inner voice within him.”

– Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., author of Love Is Letting Go of Fear

The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol is a good read and a powerful memoir. Pinkson’s many adventures serve as a catalyst to get on with one’s own spiritual awakenings.”

– Stephen Kiesling, editor in chief, Spirituality & Health

"The Huichol tradition teaches how to reweave our connections with the web of life inspiring us to move from alienation to cooperative partnerships. These teachings are essential for creating harmony in the world. Tom Pinkson not only studied the spiritual practices of the Huichol--he lives them and their beauty. He is a living example of how we can sculpt a new world through the power of love. His story is brilliant and engaging, deep, and filled with rich wisdom, love, and inspiration. This is such an important book for our times."

– Sandra Ingerman, author of Soul Retrieval and Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide, May 2010

"I found Pinkson's account of his experience very fascinating. I felt I was right there with him going through his trials and tribulations as well as his awakenings and transitions. The writing is deep, poignant and encouraging. The Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol gives the reader courage to delve into their own inner source for direction toward self healing. . ."

– Irene Watson, Reader Views, August 2010

“. . . it [Shamanic Wisdom of the Huichol] slowly grows into a part of one's inner life, the way a daily walk in a new-found meadow can become familiar because of its timeless beauty and tranquility.”

– Curtis McCosco, Circles of Light, November 2010

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