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Myerhoff Working on Notes During the Peyote Hunt

Myerhoff Working on Notes During the Peyote Hunt

As part of her work with Ramon, the shaman-priest who was her guide to Huichol life, Myerhoff took peyote to better understand the hallucinogen's cultural role. This is how she described an important part of her vision:

"I sat concentrating on a mythical little animal, aware that the entire experience was drawing to a close. The little fellow and I had entered a yarn painting and he sat precisely in the middle of the composition. I watched him fade and finally disappear into a hole and I made an extra effort to concentrate on him, convinced that a final lesson a grand conclusion was about to occur. Just as he vanished, an image flicked into the corner of my vision. In the upper righthand quadrant of the painting, another being had just jumped out of sight. I had missed him and he was the message. There it was! I had lost my lesson by looking for it too directly, with dead-center tight focus, with will and impatience. It was a practice which I knew was fatal to understanding anything truly unique. It was my Western rationality, honed by formal study, eager to.simplify, clarify, dissect, define, categorize, and analyze. These techniques, exercised prematurely, are antithetical to good ethnographic work and this I was to learn and learn and forget and relearn. The message could emerge anywhere on the canvas; one had to be alert, patient, receptive to whatever might occur, at any moment, in whatever ambiguous, unpredictable form it assumed, reserving interpretation for a later time. In the years to come, the vision was to serve as my mnemonic for this principle and help me keep it in the foreground of my consciousness for all that was ahead."


1. Quote from Barbara Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt: the Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974) 43.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Myerhoff Working on Notes During the Peyote Hunt." (Viewed on February 7, 2016) <>.


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