Healing with Yagé: An Interview with Taita Juan Bautista Agreda Chindoy
Taita Juan is a Cametsa traditional healer and yagecero from the Sibundoy Valley in Colombia. As a member of the new generation of Colombian taitas traveling the world, he has acquired clients and apprentices from throughout the Americas and Europe. He is perhaps best known internationally for having been detained by United States Customs officials and charged with possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 1 drug (ayahuasca) in 2010; he was subsequently released and deported. In this interview, we explore Taita Juan’s views on how ayahuasca can be used to diagnose and heal illness. We address how clients are prepared for ceremonies (i.e., diet, sexual activity) as well as how he determines which patients can safely receive ayahuasca or other plant medicines (i.e., proscriptions based on health conditions or medication use). The interview also explores how the substance itself is ritually handled, including preparation, dosage, and its combination with other purgative plants and healing techniques such as limpias (cleansings), perfumes, and music. We discuss how Taita Juan’s treatments are occasionally used in conjunction with conventional allopathic medicine. We also discuss his claims to have cured cases of heroin addiction, cancer, and AIDS, and address the drug addiction treatment clinic he and his assistants are founding in Central America. Finally, the interview explores not only Taita Juan’s experience of being detained and released by the United States government, but also the legal ramifications this has had for the traditional use of ayahuasca in Colombia and elsewhere.
KeywordsTraditional Medicine Traditional Healer Sick Person Heroin Addiction Elemental Energy
We would like to thank Pamela Ruiz Flores López for the transcription of the original interview with Taita Juan, Gustavo Caldarelli for his assistance with the translation of the interview to English, and Clancy Cavnar for the revision of the text. Finally, we would like to thank the Taita for his time and patience in doing this interview and for his willingness to share so openly his knowledge of Cametsa healing practices—both those he was taught and those he himself has developed over his years of caring for patients hailing from near and far. We also thank him for sharing his artwork here with us.
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