The Power Of Symbolism Essay

775 words - 4 pages

A symbol is any “‘object, act, event, quality, or relation which serves as a vehicle for conception’” (230). Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians by Barbara Myerhoff is a very intricate text which involves numerous aspects of symbolism. Myerhoff not only applies a much deeper meaning to deer, maize, and peyote, but she also uses these objects as a representation of divine beings and spirits. The deer, maize, and peyote are very powerful entities but together they form the deer-maize-peyote complex, which is central to the Huichol life. The unification of these disparate objects can be easily understood once they are analyzed on three different levels: exegetical, operational, and positional.
The exegetical level includes the interpretations and explicit declarations by the people using the symbol. The deer is considered to be a sacred animal and its blood is considered to be magical. The deer is a central part of the Huichol’s religion which derived from their recent past as deer hunters. The deer is also a major food source, but the women did not use any parts of it. Deer is also used in ritual ceremonies by smearing the blood on arrows to make them “strong enough to carry the desire and intentions of the Huichols to the gods” (200). Without this anointing the arrows are only poor weak sticks. The maize, on the other hand, is considered the central theme in Huichol religion. It is very mundane, unpredictable, mysterious, demanding and tedious. The agricultural aspect of maize is used as the great equalizer. Maize is the heartbeat and the spirit of the Huichols. Just like the deer and maize, peyote is considered sacred by the Huichols, but it differs because it cannot be purchased even though it is available in markets.
The operational level is when the symbol is equated with its use. The deer has numerous uses throughout the peyote hunt. It brings peyote to each hunt, gives Huichols his blood, provides a bridge between mara’akame and Tatewari, and even arouses feelings of fondness and gratitude. The deer served as the closest link between a mortal and a deity. Like the deer, the maize plays a part in everyday activities of the Huichols. The maize provides metaphors of beauty. Women are said to be as beautiful as maize while people are said to be tender as new maize. The deer, the maize...

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