Beyond Peyote: Kieri and the Huichol Deer Shaman is anchored by the biography of a Huichol shaman who did not depend upon peyote, a manifestation of their world-famous tutelary spirit. Instead, at age seven Jesús González unwittingly ingested psychoactive honey made from nectar of a more potent divine plant, Kieri, in the genus Solandra. Eating such singular honey allowed González to discern that the spirit of Kieri-revered by Huichol as their "Elder Brother"-was selecting him to serve as a shaman. His detailed description of seeing and hearing Elder Brother's invitation to become a shaman provides a glimpse into the world experienced by Huichol shamans. Some 45 years later, Jesús González and one of his two wives became sick, a sign they were being punished for disregarding the gift Elder Brother had bestowed upon him. To atone for failing to heed the shamanic call of his childhood Jesús and his wife began performing rituals to honor Ancestor-Deities controlling natural phenomena vital to Huichol survival. Doing so enabled Jesús and his wife to regain their health. Jesús soon began healing his relatives.
González offers abundant information explaining how he treated and diagnosed diseases. He also clarifies how his father and grandfather became shamans. To provide a complete account of Huichol shamanism González chose Jay Fikes to interpret and publish his all-inclusive narrative of the divine birth and life of the first Huichol Deer Shaman. His entertaining narrative of Elder Brother's birth, from a pollinated Kieri flower, transformed into a boy because of a childless couple's prayers and offerings, illustrates why Huichol shamans should practice compassion, integrity and truthfulness, virtues indispensable to effectively serve their people. Beyond Peyote cites ample evidence supporting the conclusion that although Huichol venerate both peyote and Kieri as incarnations of Elder Brother, Kieri is perceived as the more powerful and ancient entheogen.
Fikes also discusses chronic problems stemming from extreme poverty prevalent among those traditional Huichol still inhabiting their rugged mountain and canyon homeland surrounding the Chapalagana River Valley in northwest Mexico. Exemplary in this regard is the involvement of some Huichol in small scale marijuana cultivation, dating to the mid 1980s. Murders and corruption associated with that lucrative but illegal enterprise are revealed in Fikes' meticulous review of the 1998 murder of Phil True, the American journalist killed by two Huichols whose illegal cash crop was burned just one year before they murdered True as he hiked alone through their territory. Carlos Castaneda's influence in stimulating True and many other Americans longing to locate, or perhaps to become shamans, to visit the Huichol is carefully documented by Fikes, who is Castaneda's most severe anthropological critic.