ChapterPDF Available

Power and legitimacy in the reconfiguration of the yagecero field in Colombia



Recent years have been witness to growing global-level allegations of sexual assault in contexts of yage consumption. While an apparently exceptional phenomenon, it is a scarcely recognised and studied issue. Beyond its legal and ethical implications, my goal is to propose a more in-depth and contextual explanation of the framework of social relations in which the practice of ritual consumption takes place and, as such, shed light on that which is at stake in the reconfiguration of the yagecero field. This article presents a case study carried out in Colombia and based on the capture of a renowned Neoshaman accused of sexual assault in 2015. It seeks to elucidate how, over a whole decade, this personality and his organisation provided evidence of the risks of a drift towards the sectarian as part of a Neoshamanic movement legitimised by the argument of indigenous authenticity. I propose an examination of the reconfiguration of the Colombian yagecero field promoted over the past thirty years by a growing process of urbanisation, elitisation and internationalisation, in a context whereby multiculturalism is exacerbated as a state policy. Such a transformation may be considered an interface between tradition and innovation based on which traditional yage consumption becomes available to new audiences, the ritual repertoire is amplified, new symbolic references are introduced and the mechanisms of the legitimacy and legality of its use are reformulated in the national and international context.
11 Power and legitimacy in
the reconfi guration of the
yagecero fi eld in Colombia
Alhena Caicedo Fernández 1
On the 4th of June 2015, somewhere near Bogotá, Colombian authorities
detained Taita 2 Orlando Gaitán, a well-known neoshaman who, under his
self-denomination as a traditional indigenous physician, led yage sessions
as part of his provision of therapeutic and spiritual services in various cities
around the country. He was detained due to allegations of sexual assault
made by a number of women, among them, minors belonging to the Comu-
nidad de Paz de Pensamiento Bonito [Community of Nice Thoughts], a
group created and led by Gaitán in Bogota in the beginning of the 1990s.
The allegations very rapidly echoed through the media, which had no
qualms about stating that the assault was due to the “irresponsible con-
sumption of hallucinogens” by unwary followers of false gurus who prom-
ised hope.
Taita Orlando, as he was known in certain circles, had declared himself
the last descendant of the Carare Indians, and he had founded his career as
a therapist and spiritual leader on asserting his indigenous authenticity as
a source of power. He had been at the head of an organization called Fun-
dación Carare for at least 15 years prior to his detention. The organization
dedicated itself to many activities, among which included the promotion
and provision of “traditional indigenous medical” services and psycholog-
ical and spiritual healthcare in Bogota and cities such as Sogamoso and
Medellín. A few years later, the neoshaman’s numerous followers – urban
men and women; mostly middle-class professionals who later also drew in
friends and relatives – came together as the Comunidad de Paz de Pensami-
ento Bonito (CPPB). If, on the one hand, the Fundación Carare served as a
legal entity for the Taita’s activities, the CPPB became consolidated, above
all, as a center of identity for the group of followers and, in Bogotá, had
more than 200 followers at the beginning of 2010.
Ritual yage consumption in Latin America has extended to many very
diverse scenarios. This expanding fi eld stretches through the traditional
therapeutic practices of the peasant farmers and indigenous people of Ama-
zonia to neoshamanic tourism that attracts hundreds of enthusiasts from
the Global North to the jungle and from the host of ayahuasca churches in
different countries to the diversity of neoshamanic movements inspired by
the New Age that include yage rituals.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 199 20-12-2017 13:43:14
200 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
In Colombia, the expansion of the yagecero fi eld over the past 20 years
is linked to the urbanization and elitization of yage consumption (a rec-
ognized practice of indigenous origin) promoted by the appearance of an
urban spiritual therapeutic market led by indigenous and non-indigenous
specialists known as “taitas yageceros.” This opening of the traditional fi eld
is profoundly permeated by the effects of the introduction of multicultural-
ism as a state policy in Colombia with the promulgation of the Constitution
of 1991. The constitutional recognition of indigenous cultural difference
opened a new legal section of differential rights for these populations. The
expansion of yage consumption is given within this context of the legitima-
tions of indigenous identities and of the recognition of their cultural mani-
festations. This is why, in Colombia, the legitimacy – and the legality – of
yage consumption is given mainly in terms of a therapeutic practice belong-
ing to the cultural sphere of certain indigenous traditions, in contrast to
countries such as Brazil, where it is recognized for its religious nature of
mestizo origin ( Labate, 2004 ). The appearance of new specialists or “new
yagecero taitas” in a kind of interface between the yagecero tradition of the
Amazon and the ritual innovations aimed at the urban public has, over the
past 15 years, markedly transformed the yagecero fi eld, together with its
operational dynamics and logic.
Thus, in light of the allegations of sexual assault by Taita Orlando Gai-
tán, we would like to explore the recent evolution of this interface in order
to propose a number of clues that can help us understand the risks and
threats of the current yagecero fi eld. This work is based on my research as
an expert advisor for the Prosecutor’s Offi ce for this case, and it is supported
by the data from a previous study ( Caicedo, 2015 ), as well as new informa-
tion gathered in interviews carried out with people close to the CPPB, its
followers and former followers, between 2015 and 2016. It should be made
clear that the judicial inquiry is still underway and to date there has been no
offi cial judgment on the case. I will therefore not delve too deeply into direct
information from the allegations.
Comunidad de Paz de Pensamiento Bonito
Orlando Gaitán is a well-known taita belonging to this generation of inter-
face specialists who have legitimized themselves as traditional physicians,
claiming that they are a continuation of the indigenous yagecero tradition,
and asserting their “mission” to be that of propagating yage throughout
Western society. According to his own statements, he was initiated as a taita
under the guidance of reputable curaca 3 of the Putumayo lowlands, who
taught him the secrets of the plants of power. As he relates it, it was the
legacy of his Carare Indian grandmother that gave him the power to heal.
The real story of Orlando Gaitán is much more complex. Of rural origin, he
became known at the end of the 1980s as a member of a renowned peasant
organization that was awarded the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize. He then
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 200 20-12-2017 13:43:14
Power and legitimacy 201
began to work as a public offi cial for the Ministry of Health, a position that
allowed him to explore vast regions of the country, among them Putumayo
in the Amazon foothills, considered quintessentially a territory of yagecero
tradition. The friendships he built with some of the most renowned elder
curacas in his travels as a public offi cial were what permitted him to ensure,
years later, that he had been initiated in the art of curing under the tutelage
of these yagecero teachers.
In 2003, Orlando Gaitán began to host yage sessions in Bogotá. In the
beginning, he presented himself as an apprentice of Taita Antonio Jacanami-
joy, an Ingano Indian from Santiago, Putumayo, whom he recognized as the
person who had given him the power to heal. But soon, any reference to his
teacher disappeared. He called himself “taita” and took up the ethnic name
“Carare” as the mark of indigenous lineage that he claims today, and that
legitimizes him vis-à-vis his followers. Taita Orlando’s reputation grew, and
with it came recognition in the media and by state bodies and academia.
He had many loyal followers who had been close to him ever since he
began to host yage sessions and offi ciate as a taita yagecero in Bogotá. As
the years went by, through Fundación Carare, the taita and his disciples
bought land on the outskirts of Bogotá, where they built the maloca 4 that
they called “El sol naciente” [The rising sun]. For many years, they hosted
at least two yage sessions per week that were open to the community and
the interested public and a group that was formed with a strong internal
hierarchy built around the taita’s leadership was consolidated.
The CPPB can be characterized as a neoshamanic movement ( Hamayon,
2003 ; Vazeilles, 2003 ) whose main purpose was to “reach a state of physical
and spiritual wellbeing through the path of yage opened by Taita Orlando.”
From this point of view, his work is based on at least three principles. In the
rst place, the New Age inspired the movement. That is, a kind of secular
religiousness typical of Western urban societies that is founded on the idea
that humanity is sick and needs to be healed. The modality of healing, par
excellence, is the individual transformation of one’s consciousness through a
number of different corporal and ritualistic practices of different origin that
each individual can combine as they wish ( Teisenhoffer, 2008 ; Hanegraaff,
2001 ; Champion, 1989). The New Age is broadly extended through Europe
and North America and has even made its way to the urban middle and
upper middle classes in Latin America. Many of the neoshamanic practices
recapture the indigenous rituals from different traditions: yage, peyote, San
Pedro, inipi or temazcal consumption, vision quests, medicine wheels, etc.,
but they also recapture Eastern practices, such as yoga, Reiki, Ayurveda,
and meditation. Given that healing is the main goal of the CPPB, the thera-
peutic work is its most important activity, and yage sessions are considered
the nucleus of the therapeutic process. However, in addition to the yage
sessions, the community has also embraced corporal rituals and techniques
from different origins that take place within and without the actual yage
session. This is important, given that the multiple cultural references make
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 201 20-12-2017 13:43:14
202 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
it almost impossible to determine the adequate and legitimate uses of such
practices, as the activities of the new taitas are not supported by a single
source of legitimation, but rather by several sources (Caicedo, 2014). This
grants the specialist a certain degree of power to reconfi gure the ritual sce-
nario as he sees fi t, providing him a strategic ambiguity before the sources
of legitimation. We will come back to this point later on.
Another founding principle of the CPPB is its promotion of the indig-
enous yagecero tradition as a model to follow. In such contexts, what is
understood by “indigenous tradition” is a representation of what the urban
middle-class followers conceive as the “indigenous,” and less so as what
these people’s traditions really are. Behind the idea of an “indigenous tra-
dition,” there is an amalgamation of representations that are historically
constituted on the Otherness of the nation ( Segato, 2004 ), intertwined with
representations of Indianness as construed by the global media ( Caicedo,
2015 ). The representations of Indianness that guide these neoshamanisms
shed light on a profound idealization of the indigenous, founded on the
basis of an ignorance of its realities. This idealization also involves the cir-
culation of social imaginaries and representations at different levels, as well
as the use of sources of information such as the New Age-inspired cultural
industry. Such imaginaries consider Indianness an ontology opposing the
socio-industrial society and its values that is morally superior and an exam-
ple of a source of possibilities for spiritual evolution. The idealized image of
the indigenous in such contexts is easily identifi able in the added value given
to anything – elements, symbols, and practices – that can be aesthetically
qualifi ed as “authentically indigenous.”
Not all indigenous people are the same; they do not necessarily think
alike or have the same practices, nor do their values necessarily oppose the
techno-industrial society. Moreover, not all of them consume yage. Even
so, in such circles, the cultural practices of certain groups with a yagecero
tradition, such as the Ingano and Kamentsá of the Putumayo highlands, and
the Siona, Kofanes, Coreguajes, and Inganos of the Putumayo lowlands, are
considered metonymies of the indigenous world. Now, in the case of neosha-
manic yagecero groups such as CPPB, one has to bear in mind that the fact
that Taita Orlando claims to have been trained by renowned indigenous
yagecero curacas has allowed him to use the different forms of relationships
that he built with some of them as a source of legitimation with the urban
public. The legitimacy granted by having had renowned indigenous teachers
is something that has multiple uses for the new taitas.
The third founding principle of the CPPB is the conception that yage is
a sacred plant whose ritual consumption allows healing. The ingestion of
yage is considered a form of healing that consists of “cleansing” physical,
mental, and spiritual disease. Through yage, people can access a special
state of consciousness – a “connection” – whereby the patient can “cleanse”
himself through the pinta , 5 or vision. This acceptation of healing contrasts
with that of the yagecero traditions, whereby it is the specialist that extracts
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 202 20-12-2017 13:43:15
Power and legitimacy 203
the disease from the body of the patient through ritual practices codifi ed in
techniques such as blowing, ritual chanting, and the use of the wairasacha
or ritual broom (Garzón, 2004). In this case, what we observe is that, for the
members, both conceptions of healing coexist, despite their contradictions.
In Colombia, there are a number of neoshamanic groups that are guided
by similar principles of belief. Most work harmoniously and have adapted
themselves to urban life without any signifi cant inconvenience. In this con-
text, however, the CPPB presents particular and signifi cant characteristics.
In recent years, the evolution of this group has exposed characteristics that
provide clues to the context in which the allegations of sexual assault arose.
In the following section, we propose an exploration of three characteristics
of the CPPB that can help clarify the panorama; fi rst, the ritual practice and
recent confi gurations; second, the centrality of Taita Orlando as a charis-
matic leader; and third, the therapeutic model that guides the community’s
The reconfi guration of the CPPB’s ritual practice
The ritual practice of the CPPB provides a rich and complex scenario for
exploring the reconfi gurations promoted by the expansion of the yagecero
eld. Tradition and innovation merge and acquire different weights. For the
followers of these neoshamanisms, the strict adherence to the “indigenous
yagecero tradition” in ritual practice is an essential condition. By brandish-
ing indigenous authenticity as the model to follow, it is possible to conserve
what can be considered the traditional format of yage sessions. This means
that the ceremony is presided over by the taita, it is carried out exclusively at
night, the principle of the exclusion of menstruating women is maintained,
and it includes the three basic moments: preparation, where the ritual space
is ordered and the ritual time is initiated; the taking of yage, which begins
with the yage spell or prayer, the distribution, drinking the yage; the follow-
up; and, fi nally, the healing with which the ritual ends. These characteristics
can be considered the basic framework of the ritual within which the ritual
action is improvised ( Losonczy, 2006 ) in the traditional mestizo and indig-
enous contexts of the Colombian Amazon foothills. The yage sessions set up
by the CPPB have different modulations and new corpus rituals that have
been introduced within the basic scheme throughout the years: ritual dance,
the celebration of a Catholic Mass, therapeutic techniques, and corporal
practices that are incorporated into yage sessions. Yage sessions can be open
or closed to the public according to their purpose, in turn, modifying the
The ritual activity that is exclusive to the community is, however, much
broader and involves a varied range of appropriated and invented practices
ordered into a sophisticated ritual calendar. In addition to the yage sessions,
there were periodic rituals in which other plants of power were ingested,
such as the coca leaf, and the shishaja ( Gaultheria strigosa ). Rituals were
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 203 20-12-2017 13:43:15
204 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
also carried out to pass on knowledge, as rites of passage, to observe
advancement in the group’s internal hierarchy, and for collective healing and
forgiveness rituals, among other purposes. Every ritual takes place at a spe-
cifi c time and fulfi lls a particular function within the order and hierarchy of
the CPPB. What is clear is the role played by Taita Orlando in the defi nition
of the community’s entire ritual activity. As the central authority, he was the
only person who could decide on the type of rituals to be carried out, how
and why, in what ways they should be modifi ed, and the correct or incorrect
way of carrying them out.
Thus, in a little less than 15 years of the CPPB’s existence, it displayed
a kind of ritual fi xation through which it structured itself and regulated
and standardized all of the group’s ritual activities, and its procedures and
hierarchies according to the leader’s personal decisions. This ritual fi xation
included the possibility of modifying and adapting the rituals, which hap-
pened alongside a standardization of the behavior of the followers that took
place outside of the actual rituals. Various neoshamanic groups are charac-
terized by a hyper-ritualization of the practices of their followers ( Caicedo,
2015 ). Those who join movements of this nature tend to turn many of their
daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, and bathing, into minor individual
and collective rituals, granting them transcendental meaning associated
with the idea of healing and spiritual evolution. This hyper-ritualization
can lead to an excessive control of what people do and how they do it. In
the CPPB, daily behavior has been the object of the reconfi guration of rules.
The taita established these behavioral standards among his followers, who
subsequently embraced them in full. Among other things, he codifi ed greet-
ings, dress, the way in which the taita had to be addressed, what should
and should not be said in conversations, and the use of language, as well as
regulating the followers’ diets, their private sexuality (e.g., avoiding or pro-
moting sexual relations according to the calendar), and the type of physi-
cal contact allowed and prohibited among people of the same or opposite
sex (e.g., no greeting with a kiss, no hugging) ( Sánchez, 2015 ). All of the
leader’s instructions on what to do and what not to do, and how to do it,
were ultimately grounded on the idea that strict fulfi llment of such rules was
necessary for the achievement of spiritual evolution and that all the rules are
part of traditional codes pertaining to the “path of yage.”
The leader’s charisma
The CPPB is defi ned by its members as a unit. They tend to affi rm that the
group constitutes the body of the community, while Taita Orlando is its
head. This metaphor on the fi gure of the body is telling of the taita’s role as
a charismatic leader.
Orlando Gaitán ensures that he is responding to a call made by the taita
elders who, according to him, chose him to open the doors to “indigenous
wisdom” for the non-indigenous. The allusion to him being the “chosen
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 204 20-12-2017 13:43:15
Power and legitimacy 205
one” served as a mark of authenticity and allowed him to position himself
as the legitimate heir of the “indigenous tradition.”
6 At the same time, this
choice served to legitimize his condition as a bridge or mediator between
two worlds, something he generally claimed to be his “mission.” The taita’s
strong personality made his followers recognize him as someone who was
extremely warm and, at the same time, particularly harsh. His harshness
was explained as a test of the appreciation and commitment the community
had for him. In this sense, it was not unusual that many saw him as a father
gure; a father who they could trust, who they could follow blindly, and
who imposed obedience at any price. For the followers, given his unique
and personal relationship with the “invisible world,” Taita Orlando is the
only person that can ensure their well-being. In fact, this was precisely his
Thanks to his charisma, the taita portrayed himself as a model to follow,
legitimizing himself as the only person able to judge the good or bad behav-
ior of his followers. His power became so central that all of his decisions and
actions were considered original and authentic, and, as such, incontestable.
The authority granted to a leader by his group is undoubtedly the greatest
source of power and manipulation ( Luca, 2004 ). So, how did Orlando Gai-
tán become the charismatic leader he is today?
In the yagecero tradition, an apprentice receives from his teacher the
waira – the bundle of leaves the shaman shakes in ceremonias – as a symbol
of recognition of his power to heal through the auxiliary spirits that inhabit
the world of yage ( Pinzón, Suárez, & Garay, 2005 ). However, in the case of
Taita Orlando, the type of initiation process he described was, at the very
least, doubtful. On the one hand, the story about how he learned this art
is ambiguous and imprecise; he presents all his teachers as highly reputable
taitas who are already dead. On the other, he resorted to citifi cation strate-
gies for his qualifi cation as a traditional yagecero physician that are not
part of the traditional logic of yagecero learning. One example of this is the
tendering of a legal certifi cate issued to him by an Ingano political authority
as a diploma, copied from a legal diploma format. We highlight the use of
original or copied offi cial formats as a mechanism for indigenous authentic-
ity, and as a new modality of legitimation for the yagecero fi eld.
In the 1990s, when the fi rst yageceros began to travel to the city to offer
yage sessions to middle and upper-middle class intellectuals and academics,
it was the latter that legitimized the indigenous practices in the city. Twenty
years later, the equation is inverted. Currently, it is only a few elder taitas,
recognized as political and medical authorities of their respective commu-
nities, who now serve as the sources of legitimation and guarantee for the
practice of the new urban taitas like Orlando Gaitán (Caicedo, 2013). Taita
Juan is a Siona yagecero who lives in the Amazon foothills. He met Taita
Orlando a few years ago when he traveled to Putumayo, and they quickly
became “companions” or “friends,” which, in the yagecero fi eld, refers
mainly to being allies in the exchange of medicinal plants. Thus, Taita Juan
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 205 20-12-2017 13:43:15
206 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
became the yage supplier for CPPB. For his part, Gaitán would take him to
Bogotá every now and again as a special guest to guide yage sessions in the
maloca. The presence of indigenous yagecero doctors like Taita Juan in the
ceremonies reinforced Taita Orlando’s legitimacy.
From this perspective, it seems clear that Orlando Gaitán’s legitimation
strategy was supported by the ambiguity between what would be a process
of initiation with a teacher, and the relations of the commercial exchange
of yage that exists among the taitas of Putumayo. In this sense, the relation-
ships between Gaitán and the yageceros of Putumayo did not only become
decontextualized; they shed light on a kind of instrumentalization of the
links and the existence of power relationships between himself and the
indigenous taitas for whom the city represents power, recognition, and suc-
cess vis-à-vis the urban public ( Caicedo, 2015 ).
CPPB’s therapeutic model
As head of the organization, Gaitán made all the decisions in all areas.
However, his best known skill was always that of diagnosing diseases and
identifying the particular treatments for all types of physical, psychological,
and spiritual disorders. Until only a couple of years ago, the CPPB health
center was working in Bogota, combining traditional indigenous medicine
services with clinical allopathic medicine. The legitimacy and legality of this
health center consisted in promoting the complementarity of health systems
constitutionally guaranteed by the differential legislation for indigenous
7 as well as in the regular use of an increasingly standardized
medical terminology. Thus, the center had a fairly large group of doctors,
nurses, psychologists, and other trained health professionals, all follow-
ers of the CPPB. In his position as a traditional indigenous physician and
head of the center, Taita Orlando acted as the highest diagnostic authority,
while the doctors were in charge of monitoring the patients. The treatments
included different types of therapy and plant-based medicines, as well as
yage sessions, with the understanding that yage allows one to “see” the ulti-
mate cause of the disease, and provides the cleansing which makes healing
possible. In this sense, one of the particular features of this treatment was
that some of the diagnoses and therapies were actually carried out by the
doctors and the taita himself during the yage rituals.
Taita Orlando Gaitán considers disease as the product of inadequate
behavior, or a “badly managed emotion,” which refers to an interpreta-
tion of the healing process as a moralizing exercise ( Caicedo, 2015 ). In this
sense, the body constitutes a text in which to read the problem that is pro-
ducing the patient’s disease. Reading the body as a whole or by its parts –
asymmetries, pain, tension, weakness, etc. – allows the determination of the
ultimate cause of the disease, which, despite having a physical manifesta-
tion, refers to a behavioral disorder; that is, it refers to the realm of social
relations and emotions that the person may display in his or her daily life.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 206 20-12-2017 13:43:15
Power and legitimacy 207
Thus, the yage ritual allows the patient to “cleanse” the polluting effect of
such relations, and healing is given when bad behavior or bad emotions are
The CPPB health center had a signifi cant number of female patients,
mostly from the urban working and middle classes. Although it seems dif-
cult to generalize why this is so, some research shows that complementary
and alternative medicine is more popular among women (Ghasarian, 2002).
Many women went to the center because they were having physical prob-
lems, but many more went because friends and family had recommended
that they should.
9 These friends and family members had usually attended
the CPPB looking for cures for different types of pain; work, family, and
relationship problems; because they had suffered a loss; to deal with issues
related to self-esteem, depression, physical violence and abuse, etc. With
this varied demand, it is interesting to see how problems associated to the
womb (i.e., the uterus) seemed to be the most recurrent diagnosis. By ana-
lyzing samples in the laboratory, Taita Orlando determined the state of
the patient’s womb and established the type of treatment to be followed.
The aim of the treatments was to “cleanse” the female reproductive organ
through therapies, sitz baths, incense and medicinal elixirs, and, of course,
yage sessions.
According to Gaitán’s therapeutic model, the female reproductive system
as a “creator of life” means that women have more body parts than men.
This theory of the female body is founded on a differential conception of
female and male forces, that, in the case of women, is determined by their
capacity to conceive and by the power attributed to the menstrual cycle.
Due to their condition – that of having more body parts – it is affi rmed that
women are more emotional than men and, as such, more capable of mak-
ing mistakes in social behavior, making them more sensitive to disease. The
theory underlying these representations sets out that the menstrual cycle is a
time when the woman’s womb opens to allow the menstrual blood to fl ow
out. This is considered a signifi cant source of contamination, as it is pre-
cisely through the womb that the woman expels the negative energy of all
the social relationships she has experienced during her 28-day cycle. In this
sense, a diagnosis of the state of the womb allows the determination of the
cause of the condition, while therapies performed on the womb cleanse the
effects of the woman’s greater emotionality, and the yage sessions allow her
to reassess her patterns of behavior in order to achieve physical, psychologi-
cal, and spiritual healing.
Undoubtedly, fi nding a scenario that pays special attention to individual
wellbeing, proposing a physical cure for non-physical pain – then a slippage
of the idea of healing from the physical to the spiritual – makes CPPB’s pro-
posal attractive for those women looking for some kind of solution to their
personal dramas. The CPPB therapeutic model offers them a disposition of
prise en charge in which their condition as women is recognized as a differ-
ential marker that establishes special healthcare guidelines.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 207 20-12-2017 13:43:16
208 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
It is clear that Gaitán’s therapeutic model incorporates the conceptions of
certain yagecero traditions, as well as those of some alternative medicines
and of the practice of allopathic medicine. The taita, as an expert traditional
physician, was in charge of diagnosing the disease and of telling the team
which treatments and plant remedies to prescribe. For its part, the medical
team acted as the taita’s collaborator in monitoring the patients but, above
all, as the guarantor of his therapeutic practices to the clientele and the
authorities, allowing the health center to function as an approved health
service. This therapeutic model is a substantial example of the logics that
bolster the interface between tradition and innovation; it is notable in that
it is supported by records, each of which having its own particular forms
of legitimation. However, for the actors involved, the taita’s eclectic logic in
positioning himself as the authority was not to be challenged. We can there-
fore affi rm that Orlando Gaitán displayed a strategy of cross-legitimation
that consisted in resorting to diverse sources of legitimation that he was able
to articulate in such a way that each source served not to legitimize a con-
crete practice, but rather, to legitimize the other sources, thus making them
impossible to question.
Women and the innovations of the yagecero fi eld
The appreciation of the feminine is not excluded from this neoshaman’s
therapeutic protocol. In many of the scenarios of the new yageceros, the
female condition has a central importance within their discussions and
practices (Caicedo, 2013; Peluso, 2014 ; Fotiou, 2014 ). Given that, within
the traditional fi eld, yage is associated with male power, these new urban
spaces, considered heirs of the yagecero tradition in the city, adopt differ-
ent mechanisms and strategies that include women at both discussion and
practical levels, reconstructing the modalities of the ritual use of the psycho-
tropic treatment.
In the traditional yagecero fi eld, yage is considered male. The learning
process of a curaca or taita consists in the accumulation of the substance
that constitutes the shamanic power inside his body ( Langdon, 1992 ). Only
men retain the power of the teaching imparted by the yage, because only
they can become curacas.
10 However, the shaman’s power can also be lost,
even that of a highly trained curaca. To maintain the power, strict rules
of behavior have to be followed in daily life, as well as strict instructions
insofar as contaminating substances that affect the power-substance. The
main source of corruption to the power of a curaca yagecero is a woman’s
menstrual blood ( Amaya, 2008 ).
11 In fact, it is quite common to hide yage
from public view, given that a mere glance from a menstruating woman can
damage it and make it useless. This is why yage is considered “celoso,” or
guarded in the sense that it protects its own power by requiring to be hidden
from public view when it is being prepared for use.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 208 20-12-2017 13:43:16
Power and legitimacy 209
However, in the interface promoted by the new yageceros in the new urban
scenarios, the association of yage with male power is reassessed. Among some
neoshamanic groups, the modifi cations contemplate allowing the participa-
tion of menstruating women in the sessions; the inclusion of women that can
be “initiated” as apprentices; the disregard of strict diets, and no restrictions
concerning food and sexual relations, among other contraventions. Never-
theless, in more orthodox versions in which the exclusion of menstruating
women does not enter into discussion, an interesting innovation of the fi eld
has to do with the appreciation of the female condition in the discourses of
the followers of yagecero neoshamanisms. The power of women appears
as a reference in the discourse associated with the sacred character attrib-
uted to nature, maternity, and menstruation; vital aspects that are, accord-
ing to the followers, all undervalued by the techno-industrial society. This
female power has also become a point of reference in various types of rituals
( Caicedo, 2015 ). It should not surprise us that many neoshamanic groups
have adopted rituals complementary to the yage sessions (the power of men)
that are represented as ceremonies associated with the “power of women.”
We must not forget that the followers of yagecero neoshamanism tend to
share universes of meaning with followers of other currents associated with
vast semantic fi elds of the New Age and its cultural industry.
The growing trend to make the feminine more prominent in the new sce-
narios could be read as an innovation pertaining to the broadening of the
eld. The sessions’ urbanization and elitization have shed light on the mas-
culine nature of the yagecero tradition and opened a space to counteract the
imbalanced participation of men and women in such practices. Considering
the interested urban public and the social classes implicated, it would be
very diffi cult to maintain such an imbalance. What is interesting about these
innovations is that they not only establish complementary spaces or spheres
for women, but that they have also gained increasing visibility among the
urban public.
All these modifi cations are possible to the degree that the new taitas and
their followers do not subscribe to the traditional networks that have his-
torically been responsible for bolstering the fi eld, and that do not respond
to their forms of internal control, such as restrictions and prohibitions,
attached to the hierarchies of learning and the exchange of power pertain-
ing to yagecero shamanism ( Pinzón & Suárez, 1991 ). In this sense, those
who move through this interface can choose different traditional or non-
traditional practices as they please and obtain legitimation when they are
considered by their followers as authentically indigenous.
Power, cross-legitimation, and deregulation of the interface
Almost two years after the detention of Taita Orlando Gaitán for allega-
tions of sexual assault from various women from the CPPB, legal action
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 209 20-12-2017 13:43:16
210 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
is still underway. Beyond the indignation caused by the news and the soli-
darity felt with the claimants, offi cial investigation has shed light on the
enormous diffi culties faced by the authorities in understanding what the
CPPB and its therapeutic-spiritual practice actually consists of. It is dif-
cult for the average citizen to understand, using common sense alone, a
phenomenon such as neoshamanism, which resumes indigenous practices,
including the use of a psychoactive substance, but whose followers are
non-indigenous people who belong to the urban middle class and profes-
sional circles. In addition to this, the sparse media coverage of the case
insists on presenting it as the consequence of an irresponsible use of “hal-
lucinogenic products,” morally sanctioning yage consumers. But, beyond
this, the case faces two new circumstances: on the one hand, as the proce-
dures advance, certain CPPB followers will not report or testify against the
leader, as they fear his shamanic power of retaliation. On the other hand,
the accusing entity has not been able to fi nd competent authorities to help
it determine whether Taita Orlando is a traditional indigenous doctor or
not, whether the practices of the CPPB are legitimate or not, and whether
ritual yage consumption is legal outside of the indigenous communities
and territories.
In this sense, my intention is to present the idea that this case should not
be understood in a fl at and generic fashion as a simple phenomenon brought
about by the commodifi cation and expansion of the consumption of “psy-
choactive drugs,” as has been suggested by a number of media sources. On
the contrary, the case sheds light on the complexity of the reconfi guration
of the yagecero fi eld as part of the historical fi eld of inter-ethnic relation-
ships specifi c to the Colombian nation. This inter-ethnic fi eld involves the
common sense of the average citizen, that of the authorities and that of the
urban neoyagecero. In the same way, the case speaks of a particular moment
in which the changes in the way yage is used have led to the formation
of an interface whereby traditional practices and innovations coexist. Such
transformations are the product of processes of urbanization and elitiza-
tion, crossed by the fl ows of the global market, but that, at the same time,
respond to the multiculturalist policy of the Colombian state. The case also
expresses a progressive trend towards the deregulation of this interface as a
consequence of the changes in the legitimation regimens for yage consump-
tion, as well as the emergence of new forms of legitimation based on roman-
ticized representations of Indianness and on cross-legitimation strategies.
Finally, this case also reveals that, despite the fact that most neoshamanic
practices are harmless, some can display the features of sectarian danger,
such as those of the CPPB, that evolved in a community of believers guided
by a charismatic leader ( Luca, 2004 ).
Let us now take a closer look at this interface. The complex relation-
ship between tradition and innovation that activates the interface is not
exempt from tensions and contradictions. The new taitas have broadened
the fi eld towards new audiences, but they have, at the same time, dislocated
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 210 20-12-2017 13:43:16
Power and legitimacy 211
themselves, to a greater or lesser extent, from the traditional yage networks.
The forms of legitimation of their practice seem to adapt with increasing
ease to a logic of self-regulation and self-healing advocated by the New Age
discourse as a means of wellbeing and spiritual evolution. This also implies
stopping the recognition of external forms of authority and the mechanisms
of legitimation or replacing them with others that appear authentically
indigenous or authentically “Other.” The historical logic behind the ampli-
cation of the fi eld, founded on processes of learning with curaca teachers
and on an adscription to the yage exchange networks that establish posi-
tions within the hierarchy of power derived from the jungle, is slowly losing
force ( Pinzón & Suárez, 1991 ). In the case of this taita, his instrumentaliza-
tion of friendship and commercial relationships with the yagecero curacas
of Putumayo as a tool to gain legitimation in the city can also be read as a
sort of relation of power, which, at the same time as allowing him to use
the social representations of indigenous authenticity in his favor, begins to
exclude the curacas from the interface.
On the other hand, the new taitas play with multiple therapeutic registers
from different, and very diverse, traditions, ranging from allopathic medi-
cine, to yoga, reiki, inipi, circles of words, etc., and they reconfi gure the tra-
dition into new versions; for example, by positioning a new rituality for the
female public, while their practice does not rely on the formal recognition
of external authority for its legitimation. On the contrary, they themselves
become their own authority. In this sense, they have a great fl exibility in
terms of combining therapeutic practices and rituals but, above all, they use
self-legitimization strategies. Who has the authority to decide who is and
who isn’t a traditional yagecero physician in a fi eld where recognition has
historically been a scenario of dispute for power? And who could defi ne it in
a fi eld where power and recognition are self-allocated with a certain degree
of effectiveness? These are some of the contradictions we face. In fact, the
reconfi gurations that lead to this interface have progressively generated a
deregulation of the fi eld in terms of a trend towards the dilution of con-
sensual models of authority that defi ne who the specialists in the fi eld are,
of what their practice consists, and how this knowledge – synonymous to
(shamanic) power – is transmitted.
The contradictions and tensions of the interface show that this is not
reduced to the relationships between tradition and innovation. In the case
of the CPPB, the centrality and authority reached by the charismatic leader
and his ability to manage rituality as a planning and control device, the
implementation of a therapeutic model aimed at a female clientele, and,
above all, the possibility to compose cross-legitimation mechanisms, are
conditions that jointly allow the generation of a space propitious for abuse,
even if they do not in themselves explain it. As shown by Peluso (2014 ),
similar conditions can be identifi ed in other contexts in which abuse has
been reported. In fact, we could even speak about a pattern of risk within
the broader interface.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 211 20-12-2017 13:43:17
212 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
CPPB activities convoke very diverse social actors (taitas, middle-class
followers, doctors, women, curacas, auxiliary spirits, etc.) who act in dif-
ferent dimensions (during the ceremony, in the surgeries, state institutions,
social networks, etc.) and through different mediations (yage pintas , treat-
ments, women’s rituals, state policies, representations of Indianness, etc.).
The relations of differentiation and exteriority are central to the power
of healing in the same way as in traditional yagecero shamanism ( Taussig,
2002 ; Chaumeil, 1999, 2003; Pinzón & Suárez, 1991 ). Difference repre-
sents power. The yagecero’s power grows as he captures the power of the
“Other” and puts it at his own service. Chaumeil speaks of a shamanism of
variable geometry that identifi es elements of power in differences or in exte-
riority ( 2003 ). If we assume that the difference is not an essence, but rather
that it depends on the position of the subject – in this case, the yagecero and
those that participate in the ritual – the forms of Otherness depend on their
position in the social fi eld. In other words, their power (which is, in part,
the power of difference) depends on the historical, social, political, and sym-
bolic context in which they are inscribed and on their ethnic origin, gender,
class, generation, etc.
The new scenarios of yage consumption relate the forms of difference and
inequality, both within and without the ritual session. Thus, for example,
during the healing ritual, the specialist – the taita or yagecero – plays an
active role when he sweeps away and extracts the disease from the patient’s
passive body. This structural inequality given during the therapeutic process
involves the patient’s trust and the power he delegates to the taita who he
presumes has particular expert knowledge. In this sense, the inequality is
legitimate. On the other hand, in these new contexts, the fi gure of the taita
has been deeply idealized by his followers. The romantic image of the wise
healer-shaman that has circulated in the global information and consumer
networks has fi ltered through to urban social sectors that access such rep-
resentations. Thus, even more power is conferred to this idealized image.
The forms of difference at stake are, in turn, forms of power in con-
text that act according to the logic operating within the yagecero fi eld,
but also according to the hegemonic logic of the broader fi eld of the social
sciences. During the healing sessions, as the differences between the taita
and the patient are active, so are the ethnic and cultural differences (and
inequalities) of all the participants (Indians, urban mestizos, gringos, etc.);
differences between the urban and rural as part of a broader hegemonic geo-
political logic; class differences (between new urban middle- and upper-class
followers, and the traditional popular class followers); generational differ-
ences (refl ected in aspects so elementary as the authority of those followers
with more experience, who know the leader since he began to practice with
regards the younger, newer followers); and, last, but not least, gender dif-
ferences in which the established patriarchy works effectively on bodies and
desires, placing women, younger ones in particular, at a disadvantage. In
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 212 20-12-2017 13:43:17
Power and legitimacy 213
fact, according to the therapeutic model, they are the main source of pollu-
tion and risk against the taita’s power and, at the same time, they constitute
the ideal patient to diagnose, treat, and cure.
The convergence of these multiple differences is a condition of the healing
process; or, in other words, healing, when it happens, is the metabolism of
difference that, when healing is not produced, leads to the detonation of the
power of difference, generating chaos. In this sense, the allegations of sexual
assault are related to a pattern of social relations of difference – to the multi-
relational nature proper of the yagecero fi eld of power, to the strategies of
cross-legitimation and a trend towards the deregulation of the interface –
more than they are to the psychoactive effects of yage. Thus, the risk of
abuse – not just sexual, but any kind of abuse – can be latent, despite the
attempts to regulate the sources of legitimation that allow it.
Several authors have expounded on the existence of radical differences
between traditional shamanism and neoshamanisms ( Vazeilles, 2003 ; Per-
rin, 2000 ). Cases like this one reveal that, despite the distinctions between
the type of actors, meanings, and purposes, yagecero shamanism and
neoshamanism coexist within the same fi eld of power where the power of
difference is more active than ever.
1 Assistant professor at the Department of Anthropology at Universidad de los
Andes, Bogotá, Colombia (+571) 3394949 ext. 2553, .co
2 The term “taita,” of Quechua origin, is widely used in southwestern Colombia
to refer to men with authority: fathers, elders, and masculine political authori-
ties. In the recent expansion of the yagecero fi eld, the notion of taita has been the
most widely used to refer to the Indian curacas or specialists. The new yageceros
have adopted the term to position themselves vis-à-vis the urban public
3 The term “curaca” is the vernacular way to refer to traditional doctors special-
izing in yage in northwestern Amazonia.
4 Another of the innovations of the expansion of the yagecero fi eld is the use of
ritual spaces known as “malocas.” These are large constructions inspired by
Amazonian community houses that serve as the ritual setting for the yage ses-
sions. What is curious about them is that, despite the fact that they are a rela-
tively new invention, to the followers of yagecero neoshamanism, malocas are an
indicator of Indian authenticity in the practice of the rituals.
5 A “pinta” is the vision or visual effect produced when yage is ingested, and is
considered the basic unit for capturing meaning within the indigenous yagecero
cosmovision (Pinzón, Suárez, & Garay, 2003)
6 Although these new taitas were initiated in much shorter periods, compared to
the preparation times their teachers were subject to, the fact that they immersed
themselves in the life conditions of the natives often seems enough to legitimize
this learning. Going to the “jungle” – or the indigenous territories in this case –
would seem to make up for the reduced training time. The spatial distance super-
sedes the time.
7 In the Colombian legislative framework, among its social policies, multicultural-
ism as state policy has encouraged the recognition of different healthcare models
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 213 20-12-2017 13:43:17
214 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
for the indigenous communities. This has meant that the indigenous communi-
ties have their own healthcare models and, in general, a service provision system
in which both models complement each other. While open to the public, the
Fundación Carare Health Center protected itself as part of this legislation.
8 This principle partly resembles the cosmological models of some yagecero com-
munities in the Sibundoy valley in Putumayo, where disease is considered a prod-
uct of social relations and where the power of yage is a decontaminant (Pinzón,
et al., 2005); however, it would be inappropriate to say that we are talking about
the same thing.
9 This information was taken from an interview carried out with the people in
charge of keeping the medical records of all the patients that arrived at the center
and consists of all the information taken between 2005 and 2009.
10 The exception for yagecero women is that they begin their initiation processes
after menopause.
11 In these traditions, it is considered that women, through their womb, are able
to easily absorb negative entities from the environment. However, these entities
do not put the women themselves at risk, as they are expelled by the body on
a monthly basis, along with her menstrual blood; the risk is assumed by those
who may be nearby when the womb opens. Thus, menstruation is considered a
powerful source that is able to destroy the shaman’s power. This is why yagecero
curacas avoid being near menstruating women or receiving food from them
under any circumstance. During their period, women have to be far away from
the curaca and areas where yage is stored or cooked.
Amaya, C. (2008). Medicina tradicional indígena: Opción saludable para la mujer
[Traditional indigenous medicine: A healthy option for women]. GESTS Facul-
tad de Medicina Universidad del Rosario , 3 (15). Retrieved from www.urosario.
Caicedo, A. (2013). Les nouveaux yajeceros urbains. Une approche de la consom-
mation rituelle du yajé en Colombie [New urban yageceros. An approach to the
ritual consumption of yage in Colombia]. Revue Civilisations – Chamanismes en
Mouvement , 61 (2), 53–67.
Caicedo, A. (2014). Yage related neo-shamanism in Colombian urban contexts. In
B. C. Labate & C. Cavnar (Eds.), Ayahuasca shamanism in the Amazon and
beyond (pp. 256–276). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Caicedo, A. (2015). La alteridad radical que cura. Neochamanismos yajeceros en
Colombia [A radical otherness that heals: Yagecero neoshamanism in Colombia].
Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes.
Champion, F. (1989). Les sociologues de la pos-modernité religieuse et la nébuleuse
mystique ésotérique [The sociologist of the religious pos-modernity and the
mystical-esoteric nebula]. In Archives des sciences sociales des religions , 67 (1),
Chaumeil, J. P. (1999). El otro salvaje: Chamanismo y alteridad [The other savage:
Shamanism and otherness]. Revista Amazonia Peruana , 26 , 7–30.
Chaumeil, J. P. (2003). Chamanismes à géométrie variable en Amazonie [Shaman-
isms of variable geometry in the Amazon]. In R. Hamayon (Ed.), Revue diogène –
chamanismes (pp. 159–175). Paris: Presses Universitaires Françaises.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 214 20-12-2017 13:43:17
Power and legitimacy 215
Fotiou, E. (2014). On the uneasiness of tourism: Considerations of shamanic tourism
in western Amazonia. In B. C. Labate & C. Cavnar (Eds.), Ayahuasca shamanism
in the Amazon and beyond . (pp. 159–181). New York, NY: Oxford University
Garzón, O. A. (2004). Rezar, soplar, cantar. Etnografía de una lengua ritual [Pray,
blow, chant: Ethnography of a ritual language]. Quito: Abya-Yala.
Ghasarian, C. (2002). Santé alternative et New Age à San Francisco [Alternative
health and the New Age in San Francisco]. In J. Benoist & R. Massé (Eds.), Con-
vocations thérapeutiques du sacré (pp. 143–163). Paris: Karthala.
Hamayon, R. (2003). Introduction. Réalités autochtones, réinventions occidentales
[Introduction. autochthonous realities, Western reinventions]. In R. Hamayon
(Ed.), Revue Diogène – Chamanismes [Diogenes – Shamanism review] (pp. 7–54).
Paris: Presses Universitaires Françaises.
Hanegraaff, W. (2001). Prospects for the globalization of New Age: Spiritual imperi-
alism vs. cultural diversity. In M. Rothstein (Ed.), New Age, religion and globali-
zation (pp. 15–30). Copenhagen: Aarhus University Press.
Labate, B. C. (2004). A Reinvencao do uso da Ayahuasca nos centros urbanos [The
Reinvention of the use of ayahuasca in urban centers]. Campinas, Brazil: Mercado
de Letras, Fapesp.
Langdon, E. J. (1992). Dau: Shamanic power in Siona religion and medicine. In
E. J. Langdon & G. Baer (Eds.), Portals of power: Shamanism in South America
(pp. 41–61). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.
Losonczy, A. M. (2006). Viaje y Violencia. La paradoja chamánica emberá [Journey
and violence: The paradox of Embera shamanism]. Bogotá: Universidad Exter-
nado de Colombia.
Luca, N. (2004). Les sectes [The sects]. Collection Qu’est-ce je? Paris: Presses Uni-
versitaires Françaises.
Peluso, D. (2014). Ayahuasca’s attractions and distractions: Examining sexual
seduction in shaman-participant interactions In B. C. Labate & C. Cavnar (Eds.),
Ayahuasca shamanism in the Amazon and beyond . (pp. 231–255). New York,
NY: Oxford University Press.
Perrin, M. (2000). Les chamanismes [The shamanisms]. Collection Qu’est-ce je?
Paris: Presses Universitaires Françaises.
Pinzón, C., & Suárez, R. (1991). Los cuerpos y los poderes de las historias. Apuntes
para una historia de las redes de chamanes y curanderos en Colombia [The bodies
and powers of history: Notes for the history of networks of shamans and healers
in Colombia]. In C. Pinzón & R. Suárez (Eds.), Otra América en construcción .
Medicinas tradicionales, religiones populares [Another America in construction:
Traditional medicines, popular religions] (pp. 136–184). Amsterdam: Colcultura,
Ican, 46 Congreso Internacional de Americanistas.
Pinzón, C., Suárez, R., & Garay, G. (2005). Mundos en red. La cultura popular
frente a los retos del siglo XXI [Networked worlds: Popular culture and the chal-
lenges of the twenty-fi rst century]. Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
Sánchez, B. (2015). Neochamanismos urbanos: entre la fraternidad y la violencia
[Urban Neoshamanism: Between fraternity and violence]. (Master’s thesis, unpub-
lished). Bogotá, Colombia: Pontifi cia Universidad Javeriana.
Segato, R. (2004). Identidades políticas/Alteridades históricas. Una crítica a las
certezas del pluralismo global [Political identities/historical otherness: A critique
of the certainties of global pluralism]. In La nación y sus otros. Raza, etnicidad
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 215 20-12-2017 13:43:17
216 Alhena Caicedo Fernandez
y diversidad religiosa en tiempos de políticas de la identidad [The nation and its
others: Race, ethnicity and religious diversity in times of the identity policies]
(pp. 37–69). Buenos Aires: Prometeo.
Taussig, M. (2002). Chamanismo, colonialismo y el hombre salvaje. Un estudio
sobre el terror y la curación [Shamanism, colonialism and the wild man: A study
on terror and healing] Bogotá: Editorial Norma.
Teisenhoffer, V. (2008). De la ‘nebulosa místico-esotérica’ al circuito alternativo.
Miradas cruzadas sobre el new age y los nuevos movimientos religiosos [From
the “nebulous esoteric mystique” to the alternative circuit: Diverse perspectives
on the New Age and new religious movements]. In K. Argyriadis, R. De la Torre,
A. Aguilar & C. Gutiérrez (Coords.), Raíces en movimiento: prácticas religiosas
tradicionales en contextos translocales [Moving roots: Traditional religious prac-
tices in translocal contexts] (pp. 45–72). Zapopan: El Colegio de Jalisco, CEMCA,
IRD, CIESAS – Occidente, ITESO.
Vazeilles, D. (2003). Chamanisme, Néo-chamanisme et New Age [Shaman-
ism, neoshamanism and the New Age]. In R. Hamayon (Ed.), Revue diogène –
chamanismes (pp. 239–280). Paris: Presses Universitaires Françaises.
15032-0953d-1pass-r02.indd 216 20-12-2017 13:43:18
... Whether it is discussed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, included in mainstream cinema, consumed at the sporadic rave, debated at global academic conferences, featured in the writings of psychonauts, or appeared as a key interest of the broader psychedelic community, ayahuasca has undoubtedly been holding its place in the spotlight. Part of this enormous growth and popularity has led to increased contexts of the abuse of power, intercultural communication and miscommunication, the proliferation of inexperienced shamans, and vast power differentials that have fueled the unacceptable reality that ayahuasca ceremonies can become potential spaces where sexual abuse can occur (Fernández, 2018;Peluso, 2014aPeluso, , 2018Sinclair & Labate, 2019). While the number of women partaking and assuming ceremonial leadership within the context of ayahuasca tourism is increasing, the problem of sexual abuse of women has also been increasing [In examining Amazonian ayahuasca practices outside of the context of ayahuasca tourism, we find that, in many communities, women have had, and continue to have, access to shamanic knowledge and, indeed, have been formally or informally "shamanizing" (Perruchon, 2003). ...
... Later, in the same year, Cavnar (2014) and Peluso (2014b) presented on the issues of gender, power, and sexuality in the I World Ayahuasca Conference in Ibiza, and in December 2014, the Women Visionary Congress (WVC, 2014) published their tips on safety in ceremonies. Since then, there has been an increasing number of scholarly publications noting the problem of sexual misconduct in ayahuasca communities (Fernández, 2018;Méndez, 2015;Molnar, 2019;Peluso, 2018;Sanchez Sarmiento, 2018. In addition, several high-profile cases have also come to light in recent years across diverse ayahuasca ceremonial contexts that have shown that such occurrences are more widespread than previously thought. ...
Full-text available
This article reflects upon the conception and development of a set of guidelines for the awareness of sexual abuse in ayahuasca settings, an assortment of scenarios that take place in local and global settings entailing the use of a psychedelic brew known for producing visionary and purgative effects composed of Amazonian Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca vine) commonly combined with the leaves of Psychotria viridis (chacruna) or Diplopterys cabrerana (chaliponga). The globalization and diaspora of ayahuasca expertise, usage, and plant materials has broadened the diversity of individual and group interactions and geographical and social contexts in which this hallucinogenic concoction is ingested, and thus given rise to a range of possibilities, which also may, despondently, include possibilities for sexual harassment and abuse. The authors raise the key issues and processes that have led to formation, publication, and dissemination of the Ayahuasca Community Guide for the Awareness of Sexual Abuse of Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, focusing specifically on the needs for such guidelines, as well as the challenges faced in collaboratively creating them. The creation of guidelines as an educational task is wrought with concerns, as they must first and foremost convey the fact that abuse is never the victim/survivor’s fault, and yet they must also aim to inform individuals of potential common scenarios that can lead to abuse. In this sense, guidelines themselves are held up to scrutiny, and the process of collaboratively crafting the Chacruna Institute’s Guide for the Awareness of Sexual Abuse has not been an exception.
... While emerging research indicates more openness to use of psychedelics among younger ethnoracial minority individuals (e.g., Rigg, 2017), individuals of color generally perceive less protection in their ability to explore potential uses of psychedelic substances than their White counterparts (Beckett, Nyrop, & Pfingst, 2006;Davis & Munoz, 1968). Even in private ayahuasca ceremonies, sexual assault of individuals of color in a vulnerable state is unfortunately prevalent (Fernández, 2018). ...
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was shown in previous clinical trials to be efficacious and safe for alleviating treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, due to low ethnoracial diversity, the question remains as to whether ethnoracial minority participants would benefit similarly. Thus, in Study 1, ethnoracial differences in PTSD symptoms, secondary outcomes (emotion regulation, alexithymia, self-compassion), and suicidality were examined for a recent multisite, open-label trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. In Study 2, a mixed-methods case study was conducted on an ethnoracial minority participant from the same open-label trial, to provide a culturally informed lens on recovery from PTSD in a participant of color. Lastly, recommendations for diversifying ongoing MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials were provided. [Dissertation defended; portions of abstract not shown pending MAPS approval for public release]
Full-text available
Este artículo analiza los puntos de encuentro y desencuentro en la forma en la que jóvenes estudiantes de secundaria de Bogotá leen textos literarios. Por un lado, examino y matizo los planteamientos de Pierre Bourdieu sobre las diferencias de clase social, de estilos de vida y la manera cómo las prácticas de consumo literario encasillan y dividen a los sujetos según sus capitales económicos y simbólicos. Y por el otro lado, basada en el trabajo de campo, acompañamiento y conversaciones, destaco los puntos de encuentro en donde jóvenes estudiantes de los últimos grados de bachillerato en Bogotá se desmarcan de las dinámicas estructurales de la clase social que los separan y, en cambio, se aproximan entre sí por su generación, sus modalidades de consumo y por sus formas de practicar la lectura de literatura
Full-text available
Este artículo constituye algunas de las representaciones ligadas a la alteridad en las tradiciones chamánicas de la alta Amazonía desde una doble perspectiva. Se tratará de examinar de qué manera las sociedades occidental e indígena, por intermedio del chamanismo, asumieron la relación con el otro y como dicha relación se modificó en el transcurso del tiempo. Esta visión cruzada sobre la alteridad nos ayuda quizás a entender mejor la naturaleza misma del lazo religioso en esas culturas indígenas.
Desde sua origem, o fenômeno das religiões ayahuasqueiras brasileiras aponta para um forte aspecto de trânsito inter-cultural, com fluxos migratórios constantes conduzindo a fusões de tradições nordestinas com o universo amazônico, quando crenças e práticas de populações indígenas eram retraduzidas criativamente por diversos e novos tipos de povos da floresta, dos seringueiros aos ecologistas modernos. O trabalho de Bia Labate vêm reforçar este fato, mostrando que as possibilidades inventivas de uso da ayahuasca são extensas e se marcam pela dissolução de fronteiras entre indígena e branco, rural e urbano, floresta e cidade, tradição e modernidade ou antigo e “neo”. Bia nos conta como na prática dos neo-ayahuasqueiros urbanos esses domínios se interpenetram, relatando casos onde arte, terapia, intervenção política, lúdico, mágico, religioso... se mesclam através do uso da ayahuasca, bebida que parece operar aqui como um mediador ou comunicador de perspectivas, percepções, experiências e sensações diversas. O Cipó, Daime ou Vegetal permite a tradução e ressignificação de diferentes práticas culturais e do ponto de vista do “outro”. É isso que A Reinvenção do Uso da Ayahuasca nos Centros Urbanos deixa transparecer, destacando assim o direito à alteridade, princípio elementar da antropologia. Ao apontar para as novas modalidades de uso da ayahuasca, a autora acaba por questionar os monopólios de legitimidade, pondo em xeque a prioridade de determinados tipos de uso sobre outros, ou de privilégios de grupos, culturas e sujeitos sobre o consumo dessa substância. Ela analisa como estes novos usos, apesar de sua originalidade, se inserem dentro de um “campo ayahuasqueiro brasileiro”, acionando muitos de seus elementos e expressando a sua lógica. A autora nos faz notar que a diversidade de práticas do campo ayahuasqueiro não implica em desordem, mas ao contrário, manifesta formas de controle próprias a este universo religioso. Assim, através do trabalho de Bia percebemos que o “ritual” e o “religioso” podem assumir inúmeras faces e formas, envolvendo um processo dinâmico de transformação ou, noutras palavras, de invenção e reinvenção. Ao mesmo tempo em que faz uma crítica lúcida à intolerância religiosa, o livro dialoga implicitamente com os pressupostos da política contra a proibição das drogas, indicando que os controles culturais e informais de usos de psicoativos tendem a ser mais eficazes do que controles externos, pautados apenas em normatizações estatais e jurídicas. Passados seis anos desde que sua pesquisa foi iniciada, a realidade empírica confirma muitas das hipóteses levantadas pela autora. Presenciamos, cada vez mais, o surgimento, nas grandes cidades, de novos modos de consumo dessa bebida de origem amazônica, inseridos sempre dentro da lógica identificada pela autora. As dimensões e variedades assumidas pelo campo ayahuasqueiro parecem ser um sinal de que, ao invés de morte da religião, como profetizam alguns, assistimos a uma extensão do sagrado a dimensões antes inimagináveis e a uma multiplicação das possibilidades de ritualização da vida contemporânea. (Sandra Goulart)
L'A. confronte les resultats de ses enquetes aux analyses d'autres sociologues| elle analyse d'abord la nebuleuse mystique-esoterique, puis etudie les interpretations de types Weberien et Troeltschien, a celles qui privilegient la nouveaute des groupes post-modernes| enfin elle souligne la discontinuite de ceux-ci par rapport a ce qui a precede : la nebuleuse mystique-esoterique tente d'inventer une religion de recherches mystiques et relationnelles
Los textos aquí reunidos giran alrededor de prácticas rituales y de representaciones que la literatura antropoló-gica cataloga bajo la etiqueta de “chamanismo”. Descrito primero por misioneros cristianos en sus recorridos por Siberia, Asia y la América indígena y calificado de paganismo diabólico. Ya en los albores del siglo xx la psiquiatría y la psicología en cambio ven las conductas rituales del chamán, ya sea como síntomas de patología mental, o como recursos terapéuticos contra los mismos. Paralelamente, los trabajos del historiador Mircea Eliade, ampliamente popularizados, las califican de “técnicas arcaicas del éxtasis”, experiencia religiosa primordial de contacto directo con los espíritus, origen de todas las religiones.