Colon, Putumayo, Colombia

After two days alone in Santa Marta, Tien called me and told me he had found a Taita to work with, and that I should come down south to join him for three private ceremonies.

The next day, I flew into Pasto, an airport that could be out of an Indiana Jones movie – a single runway in a landscape of canyons.

Then, I took a taxi towards Colon, where Tien and I met at a hot spring.

The following day, we would climb up a mountain through a jungle for three hours to work with Taita Salvador. Taita is the Quechua word for father and refers to Colombian shamans. Taita Salvador was recommended to us by two people we had met in Palomino.

They call this place the “Highland Amazonas” – well, yeah, it is a jungle…

The Taita’s son had been born just a few days earlier. Still, he offered to facilitate three ceremonies with us.

On the first night, he was drunk and apologized to us, saying it was out of joy and celebration with his friends over the birth of his son. So, without an opening ceremony or prayers, he gave us the medicine. We were a little surprised but were able to feel empathy for the special situation of his son’s birth. The first night was easy and chilled. Some purging, some cleansing, all good.

The second night became surreal…

About an hour after drinking the medicine, Tien suddenly started to do Buddhist prayers and then went into his mode of chanting exorcist mantras. As usual, when Tien does that, I had to start purging hard. Perhaps it was one of my deepest purges thus far.

Once I was done, he asked me if I could help him. “A spirit went inside of me!” he said.

I pounded my fists on his back with full power for about 30 minutes or so.

“This spirit is really tricky. It keeps escaping!” he said.

After some time, we took a break. He started talking to the Taita in Spanish, and I only understood a few words.

He told him that the space was not properly cleansed and that there were many spirits present.

The Taita was offended and responded, “Tranquillo hermano!”

I wasn’t sure if I understood correctly what was going on as the Taita continued laughing wholeheartedly.

About an hour later – Tien, in a posture as if he were tied to the ground in child’s pose – called me and said, “Do you understand what situation we are in?”

My heart rate started to rise as I anticipated what he was going to tell me next.

“Basically, we are prisoners, and I am possessed by the spirit of a dead paramilitary fighter. He says he can kill us. The Taita is with him and serves him,” he said.

“What do they want from us?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I’m trying to negotiate with the spirit. Maybe you can negotiate with the Taita,” he responded and then added, “I’m sorry to have gotten you into this situation. This may be our last night alive!”

I sat next to Tien and took a deep breath.

I was surprised at how calm I remained.

We were stuck, in the mountains three hours away from the nearest human infrastructure, surrounded by a jungle, and even if I wanted to run, Tien couldn’t move at all.

And then, I started to recall, not seeing myself returning from this trip and Phara’s warning on our last night in Peru.

“Perhaps, this is it. Perhaps this is my destiny!” I thought.

Then, I thought of my daughter and how if I didn’t make it back, I would not have the opportunity to guide her into freedom. And then, I thought of my mother, who wouldn’t be able to bear the pain.

I went through different scenarios in my head, but basically, the moment the Taita openly would threaten us, there was no way back. There was no way he would let us leave there alive as we would destroy his reputation.

I also considered finding a spot with mobile reception and calling the police. But what would they do? Would they do something? Send policemen through the jungle to rescue two Gringos?

“The only thing we can do now is remain calm!” I told Tien. “I will stay awake and alert… let me know if I can do anything for you, brother!”

A few more hours passed. Tien couldn’t move throughout the time and was just moaning. The Taita did nothing to help him. Then Tien told me, “I will telepathically connect to his daughter and ask her for mercy.”

Suddenly, after a few moments, he was capable of getting up. “I will take a shower now” he said and left.

When he returned, the Taita’s seven-year-old daughter – who had been sleeping in the maloka with us – stood next to the door, fully awake.

Tien entered the maloka and expressed his gratitude to her in Spanish. Then he turned to the Taita and praised his daughter and her special heart.

“The energy has changed,” he said to me “She saved us! The Taita will not do anything against her will. We can rest now.”

The next day, Tien told me that this was his most intense medicine journey ever (and he has done hundreds). He then added that the Taita was not evil as such, but he was possessed himself and did not do the cleansing work a shaman needs to do regularly.

Shamanism has been glorified in the West in recent years. The reality is that there are perhaps more black magic shamans and people serving the dark side out there than there are good, clean, and pure ones.

I’m happy we made it out of there.