Huichol Indian Prayer Bowl

Huichol Indian Prayer Beaded Prayer Bowl: gourd, glass beads, and beeswax

When I think of a symbol for the concept of giving thanks, I always see a bowl. This year while perusing the Portland Bead Society's Bead Bazaar, my husband and I came across these amazing Huichol Indian prayer bowls that took me by surprise. Right away I was saying to my husband, "which one do you want to take home with you." My husband is difficult to shop for so when something hits me like this bowl I know it is a rare and magical opportunity.

The prayer bowls are made by a Huichol Indian who lives in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in the state of Nayarit located in central Mexico. Karen Fura at Cosas Bonitas Oregon uses fair trade principles to import the art of the Huichol Indians and help create sustainable incomes for artists and their families.

The Huichol Indian artist uses tiny seed beads size 14 (smaller then most beaded Huichol art which uses size 11) and applies them to a beeswax coating on the inside of a hollowed out gourd bottom. By using super small beads, Huichol artists create intricate patterns and symbols depicting their deeply held religious beliefs.

Cosas Bonitas Oregon offers bowls with stylized deer, maize, and eagles, but my husband was drawn to the colors and pattern in this piece, which represent a cluster of peyote buttons.

Beaded peyote pattern, Huichol Indian Prayer Bowl (detail)

Peyote is one of the Huichol deities that descended from the sun god, and is used as offerings in prayer bowls. Sometimes peyote cactus is used in rituals where they are contacting the spirits of their ancestors through singing and weeping. Looking closely at the pattern of a peyote button you can see how the artist creates an illusion of three dimensions by using varying gradations of blue beads around the edge of the design. It is such a subtle technique that creates a mystical affect.

I enjoy holding this bowl in my hands. It is so light and yet powerfully colorful all at the same time. The symbols for peyote remind me of reading Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge where the author recounts his purported training to become a shaman. Whether The Teachings of Don Juan are fiction or non-fiction is of no importance to me, for I deeply enjoyed Castaneda's amazing story of a teacher and student coming together for moments of learning.

My favorite part of The Teachings of Don Juan describe a moment when Carlos Castaneda is asked to find a spot on the porch where he can sit and feel "naturally happy and strong." Each person has their own happy spot and can only find it alone and in their own way. Don Juan doesn't give instructions on how to do it, what to look for, tips and tricks, or anything that you might find in traditional Western teaching. Don Juan poses a riddle and leaves Castaneda to the task of sorting it out for himself. I LOVE THIS TEACHING METHOD!!! This is how I would have wanted to teach all my art classes, because it is real learning that is coming from the inside out, building an internal confidence that is unshakable. It is true and acknowledges the primal essence that we all possess.

This prayer bowl and its peyote pattern reminds me of my search for my spot -- a place I can be "naturally happy and strong." It is a place rooted in my family where I can feel myself stretching up to sky and sending branches out into the heavens. I am in deepest gratitude and prayer for this sacred space and offer praise and thanksgiving for the opportunity to receive this sense of belonging into my life!

Thank you for the generous gift of your presence this holiday season...
Wishing you all light and love for Thanksgiving!


  1. thank you for sharing this beautiful and meaningful art - i will be looking into it... and thank you, beth, for being so integral to my journey - i honestly cannot express how different my world would be had i not chosen at the fork in the path the side that you had given me a glimpse of...

  2. amazing work! and I would love to have as my art teacher :)

  3. Wow - that is gorgeous!!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. wonderful post! i am familiar with both the Huicholes and the Yaqui Indians. I must read that book that you mention, it sounds great.
    that prayer bowl is gorgeous, what a wonderful gift!
    have a great day today!

  5. What a beautiful bowl and a wonderful story behind it. Am sure it will be a treasured keepsake for many years to come. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Sandra so glad you have a connection to these indigenous people!

    Mary Jane, your words are so sweet! I'm glad you are choosing this path that is speaking to your soul's creativity :)

    Kiki, haha! I'd also institute a policy of no grading :)

    Catherine and Heather, thanks for stopping by and making my holiday grand! Hope you are all enjoying some togetherness time.

  7. Now it is just over a year later and I have gone back to read your post that was inspired from the prayer bowl that you found at my table at the Portland Bead Society Bazaar. Thanks so much for connecting the act of buying it to its true meaning! These Huichol artists that we work with are provided with a more than sustainable income which enables them and their families to continue their spiritual lives, which is of primary importance to them, of course. Would that we all could conduct our lives this way!

    Thanks again,


  8. absolutely breathtaking..I live in mexico now, I want to try to create something similar to this, and maybe find one made by the Huichol.

    1. Wow that would be a fun thing to make!


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