João de Deus – or John of God, as he is internationally known – is arguably the most famous psychic in activity in Brazil. He lives in Abadiânia, in the state of Goiás, close to Brasília, the country’s capital. Last Easter, Verônica Angriman, an Argentinian architect based in the US, spent 10 days in the town, that has less than 13,000 inhabitants, to meet the psychic. “It felt like entering a Fantastic Realism novel”, she describes. In this interview, she tells her experience at Casa de Dom Ignácio de Loyola, where John of God operates, and gives a few tips for those willing to pay him a visit.
DB – How was your arrival in Abadiânia?
V – I came from Brasília by taxi (1oo dollars from the airport). It is a really small town and the presence of João de Deus is clearly important for the local economy. There are, for instance, several shops that sell white outfits – demanded for the rituals. He is, of course, very popular in Abadiânia.
Deep Brazil – What is Casa de Dom Ignácio like?
Veronica– Because of the holiday, the house was particularly crowded with both foreigners and Brazilians. I believe there were at least 1,000 visitors daily. Several buses arrived from all around the country. There were maybe a hundred volunteers around, praying, meditating, helping the visitors, translating.
DB – What were your impressions about João de Deus?
V – He received me just after my arrival. In the beginning it was frustrating. Most of the time he seemed totally inert, like a potato sack, his eyes blank like a fish’s. It seemed like he wasn’t giving me much attention, just looking at the pictures that I showed him of my sick friends and relatives. He gave me a series of prescriptions of medicines for them. Only in the last day, when I was going to thank him, in Portuguese – obrigada! -, he seemed to wake up suddenly and his eyes began to shine. He asked what I needed and I said I had a thyroid dysfunction. He said – “yeah, but you also have pain in the belly, don’t you? “- I agreed and he said that he could take care immediately of both problems. In maybe 10% of the cases there is effectively an incision. Generally he asks the spirits to operate the visitor by themselves. A friend of mine told me that was what he indicated for her case – she had problems with one leg. One night, in her hotel, she woke up and saw her leg lifted, being operated by some invisible force. Anyway, in my case, the psychic decided to do the operation himself. He asked a friend of mine to be behind me, to hold me if necessary – it was not. He told me not to worry, that I would have some “spiritual anesthesia”. First he touched my neck, where the thyroid is. Then he picked the lancet and did a small incision in my belly of approximately 5 centimeters (2 inches), where it has been painful for years. I just felt a little stingy sensation. It lasted only a few minutes. I remained standing up and he gave me three stitches. He asked me to stay in town for a couple of days – which I couldn’t do.
DB – What happened just after the surgery?
V – I was sent to a room to rest and meditate for a while. Also, the voluntaries recommended that I should avoid pork or spicy food for 40 days and that I shouldn’t have sex (“not even with yourself”) for that period.
DB – How do you feel now, three weeks later?
V – The incision is healing perfectly. My belly pain is gone but I still have to do some medical exams to check my actual condition.
DB – What are the religious elements involved?
V – There are several Catholic elements, such as saint images. The volunteers and visitors pray the Holy Mary and the Our Father all the time. [my comment: João de Deus is probably a spiritualist, a follower of Spiritism as conceived by French Allan Kardec, a very popular religion in Brazil. His biography also informs that he was a protege of Chico Xavier, a very famous psychic that died a few years ago]. Then, João de Deus claims he incorporates several spirits. One of them, a mean-spirited Roman soldier called Augusto, was probably the one responsible for my surgery. It is said that once this spirit decided to operate on John himself, which he did.
DB – Did you pay anything?
V – There was no fee, but he prescribed a remedy made with a substance extracted from passion fruit, which cost US$ 30. This was my only expense and I know of some people of no means that get the prescription for free. I know the other services I paid for were not related to him – the great hostel, Jardim dos Anjos, where I stayed, for instance, belongs to a Chilean that lived formerly in Colorado, in the United States, where he had a bad work accident and couldn’t walk. He was married to a Brazilian and they decided to move to Brazil. At some point, he visited John of God, that helped him walk again. He was so thankful that he decided to remain in the city. I heard many stories like his. Also, several of the visitors I saw were in town to thank him. At no moment John of God or the volunteers asked for money or suggested services. Now, it is true that some people make good money in all this. For instance: some guides ask US$ 2,000 to help you when visiting Abadiânia, which I think is totally unnecessary. I paid only U$ 50 a day for the hotel room, with three meals included.
DB – But he receives no payment?
V – He works for free at Casa de Dom Ignácio three days a week, and three days a week he works for himself in his home. Maybe he has a private practice, but this is not very clear to me. He seems to have a good life.