Protecting Yourself Against Spiritual Predators

Spiritual Predators and Manipulators

The information I share with you is with the intention to share lessons, mistakes, and truths learned from my own experience on my path of Indigenous self-rediscovery. This piece is written in hopes that it can guide in protecting yourself against, spiritual/cultural manipulators & predators, whether they be organization leaders or “spiritual leaders/elders.“

I have had profound experiences with spiritually skilled Indigenous leaders and elders. The experiences have been mostly positive but some were also very negative. It is important that you stay on point so that you are not abused, hurt, or become entangled in anyone’s web of manipulation. I made serious mistakes in my ignorance and vulnerability that I am still trying to amend and heal from to this day. It is my sincere desire for you to avoid being taken advantage of like I was, and in turn also being discouraged from participating in positive healing Indigenous activities.

As much as we all would like to think that manipulation and abuse does not take place in Native spiritual settings, it very much does.  While maybe not always malicious or intense, the “predator and prey” power dynamic will always be present in any social situation. Inexperienced and eager learners in the Indigenous community make for the best prey by these spiritual predators. You need to protect your first circle. Period.

While the guidelines in this piece would be helpful to anyone, they are aimed toward Chicanos or others  in the midst of reclaiming their Indigenous identity.  These protective guidelines will focus on spiritual predators in the native community but can also be used to protect against manipulators in general.

The scenario is generally this: experienced or popular organizers who have gained some type of notoriety, usually by way of rank or status in a popular organization, spiritual circle, medicine person, or social media platform, will use their inferred superiority or exclusive access to knowledge (even tho they will disguise it in “humble” indigenous wisdom buzzwords), as a platform to manipulate sincere and spiritually hungry people.

As much as one would like to hold legendary Native organizations or institutions in the highest of regard, the fact is they are human just like the rest of us. We all have different emotional wounds, shortcomings, and coping mechanisms. It is rare that anyone you come across, no matter how spiritually gifted they might appear, that doesnt need to balance out their shadow work.  Just because one has a lot of knowledge, experience, or some spiritual skill does not mean they are perfect. As a rule you should not put them or anyone on a pedestal.

For Mexican/Mesox Natives, much of our enlightenment and strides in reclaiming our Indigenous ways has come via the generosity and guidance of “Northern” or U.S. area Indigenous nations. In this process we often start to emulate our Northern relatives’ cultural and social mannerisms and implement new protocols or ways of addressing people.

There is nothing wrong with this if we are aligning ourselves with good Indigenous ways and habits. The problem comes when we start to sacrifice our own uniqueness and personal freedoms in order to fit in . Humans are social creatures. Our need for social validation is a basic human need. So lack of acceptance by any of our social environments, can put our self-worth in precarious positions if we don’t exercise discernment.

No one likes to come off as unknowledgeable or not “in the know”. Especially when your heart and mind is enthusiastic and inspired with reconnecting with your traditional ways.  People don’t want to offend the “elder”, or they may want to impress a popular person in the Native social circle to gain acceptance.  Never be ashamed to be who you are or come from the social trajectory or experience that you do. Spiritual predators prey on a person’s fear of social exclusion or need for validation.  By positioning themselves as gatekeepers of knowledge or acceptance, they can exert influence over those who fear being left out.

Remember, genuine spiritual leaders or community elders should empower individuals, celebrating their unique journeys and encouraging individual growth, rather than exploiting insecurities or fears of social exclusion.

Some spiritual predators are excellent at cloaking their true motives and true direction. They do this by using soft or flowery words and never really acknowledging exactly what it is that they want, or where it is that they are going, until they have achieved their objectives or until it is too late to reverse their encroachment or predatory intentions. The most dangerous ones come off very impressive and cloak themselves in the most convincing righteous talk, regalia, and calculated “good” deeds.

Identifying a Spiritual Predator

Chancellor Palpatine manipulating young Anakin Skywalker
Chancellor Palpatine manipulating young Anakin Skywalker

While each point on its own doesn’t necessarily indicate someone as a spiritual predator, collectively, they can help you understand the tactics often employed by such individuals. Remember, genuine spiritual leadership should be empowering and nurturing, not controlling or manipulative. Trust your intuition and always prioritize your well-being.

    • False Intimacy: They often establish a contrived sense of friendship or closeness, deterring individuals from asking tough questions for fear of appearing distrustful or risking social exclusion.
    • Emotional Manipulation: These predators can deliberately provoke strong emotions like anger, sadness, or guilt. If they know personal details about you, they might invoke names or events close to your heart. This emotional upheaval is often followed by a request—such as donating money, committing to a cause, or performing a favor.
    • Vague Responses: They tend to provide elusive answers or tell you what you want to hear. If you encounter ambiguous language, research further. Don’t accept vague answers, especially from those you barely know.
    • Cultural Overrepresentation: Excessive use of cultural symbols or attire, like always wearing regalia or excessive jewelry even in informal settings, can be a red flag.
    • Intolerance to Dissent: Anyone not aligning with their views is quickly labeled an “enemy” or belittled with negative labels.
    • Suppressing Other Ideas: While they might not be open to other’s ideas, skilled manipulators often present information selectively, leading you to believe you’ve reached a conclusion independently.
    • Defensiveness: They might become hostile or defensive when questioned, often using their supposed spiritual or cultural status as a shield: “How dare you question our traditions; I’m a sundancer, elder, such and such organization, etc….”
    • Self-righteousness: They frequently project themselves as community saviors or possessors of exclusive spiritual knowledge.
    • Lack of Mutual Respect: Genuine concepts like sharing, cooperation, and mutual respect may be foreign to them. However, they might feign these traits when it suits their agenda.
    • Seeking Devotion: They might push you towards pledging long-term commitment or devotion to them.
    • Blind Followers: Watch out for their followers who seem overly zealous, lacking critical thinking, or who vehemently defend the predator without logic.
    • Mismatched Words and Actions: Their mask often slips when: • they get anxious or impatient when nearing an important personal gain.• Overreactions when plans go awry or you don’t follow their directive. • Defensive behaviors when presented with facts contradicting their narrative
    • Isolation Tactics: They might suggest or push for you to distance from family or friends who might challenge their narrative.
    • Excessive Interest in Personal Life: They might seek undue information or influence over your  personal decisions and life that are typically private.

Protecting Yourself Against Spiritual Predators

After identifying potential red flags, trust your gut feelings, seek advice from trusted sources, and remember that genuine spiritual mentors will uplift and guide without seeking to control or exploit. Consider doing more research or seeking resources to understand these tactics better and to ensure your spiritual journey remains enriching and safe. If you’re consumed by doubt or lingering questions, that’s usually a good sign for you to step back and remove yourself from that situation. This at least gives some distance to reflect from “outside.”


    • Spiritual Cleansing and Guidance: Regularly engage with sage, sweetgrass, or other sacred medicines through smudging and offer your prayers or meditations. Regular prayer and meditation was my anchor and guide. Here’s a template you might consider for your own prayers.

    • Trust Your Intuition: Always trust your gut feelings. If something feels amiss, take time to investigate the cause. Engage in meditation and develop an understanding of your inner thoughts and feelings. Should you sense undue pressure or negativity, trace its origin to discern its validity.

    • Fact Verification: Always check the validity of what you know about others. Most times, we only know what we’ve been told. It’s crucial to validate the information before making judgments or important decisions.

    • Inquire and Verify: If someone is asking for any level of commitment from you, ensure you ask questions. Investigate significant claims made by them to confirm their authenticity.

    • Identify Clear Intentions: Be precise in understanding what an individual seeks from you, especially if it results in substantial personal or professional changes. Being clear on intentions can save you from future regrets.

    • Assess Genuine Actions: Look for consistent signs of genuine good deeds and attitudes. Superficial words can be deceiving, so ensure you distinguish genuine and consistent intent from mere lip service.

    • Evaluate Group Dynamics: If you’re part of a group or organization, assess how often your views or ideas are accepted or implemented. A lack of inclusivity might indicate an unhealthy environment.

    • Helpful Stones: Carry Obsidian or Black Tourmaline with you. These stone relatives are rooted in our Indigenous spiritual sciences and are known to assist with clarity and shield against deception.

    • Don’t Hesitate to Question: Regardless of someone’s perceived status or importance, you have the right to ask questions, especially when they request substantial commitments like trust, personal information, or financial contributions. Always approach with respect and politeness, but remember, there’s no shame in seeking clarity.

I hope my advice serves you well. There is good chance that this page will be updated in time. But for now I really hope you consider the points and perspective I bring forth.


About the author

Miguel Quimichipilli Bravo— Chicano-P'urhepecha from Venice, CA. Native-Indigenous spiritual activist, educator, lettering artist, musician, and Native spiritual run organizer since 2002.