by Brant Secunda
I remember one of the first times I brought my teacher, Don José Matsuwa, to Europe soon after I had finished apprenticeship with him. It was an amazing time. Don José, my Huichol Indian grandfather, was happy to be going on this trip. We departed from Mexico City, looking forward to our adventure together.
Before we had left Don José’s village, high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, his wife and my Huichol grandmother, Doña Josefa had reminded me to take good care of Don José. “Remember,” she said, “we need him.” Then she added jokingly, “and also, at 100 he shouldn’t have any girlfriends.”
“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I will guard him with my life.”
We arrived in New York for a 5-hour layover. My grandmother from New York City met us at the gate (those were the days). It was very special for me to be with my grandmother and Don José at the same time. Both of them had taught me so much throughout my life.
We joked around for quite some time. Then I noticed some American Indians coming over to our gate. It was Joseph Eagle Elk and his family. They were also on their way to the same Shaman Conference that we were heading to.
After a long flight, we finally arrived in Munich, Germany. From there, we were taken by car to the beautiful Alps, covered with snow and newly budding wildflowers. After getting settled into our rooms, Don José wanted to go for a walk. He reminded me to breath in the beauty of the land, as we strolled amidst the fresh green meadows, speckled with flowers and surrounded by towering mountain peaks.
Don José and I returned from our walk and immediately ate, so that we could get to sleep early. We sat at a table off to one side of the dining room, so that we could joke around in private.
We finished our bowls of soup and Don José thought we were done. He was very surprised at the 6-course meal that was about to ensue. He thought it was some sort of joke, when I kept telling him, “It was just the beginning.” For the rest of his life, Don José would remember how much food the people ate at that conference. “The Huichols definitely do not eat this much, he joked at the time.
The following day was the official opening of the International Shaman Conference. Don José and I made the opening ceremony, prayer and song. Then Don José dramatically stood up and said that he had a special announcement to make. He looked so regal, in his Huichol costume, exquisitely embroidered with sacred symbols of deer, eagles, butterflies and flowers.
I remember feeling so blessed to be standing next to my 100-year old grandfather at that moment.
“I want to announce,” Don José said, “as I stand here as an old man and elder, that I am here to say that I am leaving my grandson, Brant Secunda, in my place to help carry on the teachings of Huichol shamanism, health and healing. He has completed a long and arduous apprenticeship with me and now we stand here as close companions on the path of the shaman.”