Part 1 – Tracing the first Steps of the Ghost Dance

The “Tracing the Steps of the Ghost Dance” is a storytelling project led by our Americas project director Michael Stuart Ani. Michael has been a student of plant wisdom for almost fifty years, with deep connections to the Lakota, Mazateca, and having lived for 20 years with one of the most remote living tribal communities, the Yamomami in the Amazon of Venezuela.

The goal of this project is to create understanding about the importance of the ancient relationship between plants, people and their environment, using the Ghost Dance ritual as our case study. The story being told is important for the future of our planet. While there are those fighting desperately to protect our planet, environmental problems seem to be multiplying quicker than remedies can be created to solve the magnitude of global destruction. Storytelling brings us closer to appreciation of what we are about to loose at the expense of ‘advancement’, by unifying diverse groups of people, coming together to preserve the human kind in the weave of nature, across vast distances.

The project begins at the beginning, returning to the land where the Ghost Dance was created thousands of years ago, a ritual created to connect humans to the ancestral spirit of the land and, in that way, connecting them to the wisdom they need to preserve a correct relationship to the natural world.

The journey starts here…

Thousands of years ago, the Ghost Dance ritual began in the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, Mexico, with the springing up of a sacred mushroom called Desheto. Praised by the local people as ‘the Fruit of Knowledge’, Desheto is said to have given the wisdom needed to save the future of the Americas (Turtle Island) from destruction. The Ghost dance celebrates the transfer of  Deshetos knowledge and the land, rituals and culture of the Sierra Mazateca.

And like the spores of a mushroom, the essence of the ritual spread. Challenged by outside forces, the Ghost Dance has changed form outwardly, but retained its basic imprint.

Michael Stuart Ani and his mushrooms
Michael Stuart Ani examining his freshly picked mushrooms on a recent trip to the Sierra Mazateca – photo taken by Heather Fern Vuchinich

In the following parts of this series the story will unfold covering;

  • Geography and history of the Sierra Mazateca
  • The secrets of the sacred mushroom
  • The modern revival of plant medicines and the psychedelic 60’s
  • Commercialization and the white man’s mushroom
  • What does the future hold for Desheto?


For this first part of this project,  Michael Stuart Ani visited the Sierra Mazateca to trace the origins of the Ghost Dance and the mysterious Desheto mushroom. Next we intend to follow the ceremony northwards to the Lakota of the Sioux Nations in the United States of America.

Want to find out what led to the Wounded Knee Massacre and the outlawing of the Ghost Dance? Then please make a donation and help us continue the project by sending Michael to meet his old friends, the medicine men of the Lakota people.

Read more about our other projects here 

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