First, it should be noted that John is a very common Christian name, hence the very large number of “Saint Johns”. This also accounts for the very large number of Johns in Latin American folk-magic. In fact, there are so many Juans that I am tempted to consider them a classification or group of spirits altogether. Indeed, in the Venezuelan religion of María Lionza there is a court of spirits called the Court of the Juans.
A common theme in the stories of many of these “Johns” is that they lived very violent lives and often suffered very violent deaths. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the life of one of the more infamous Johns: Juan Soldado, a convicted rapist and murderer who was executed by court martial. He is petitioned for a variety of conditions, notably by undocumented migrants for safe travelling prior to crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.
The earliest record I am aware of a “Juan” folk-saint is that of Juan Minero in the Inquisition archives of Colonial Mexico, dated 1718. An Indigenous Mexican painter was requested by a local woman to paint a retablo of a figure that she named Juan Minero. The retablo was confiscated and the painter arrested by the Holy Office. For those interested, the legend of Juan Minero is that he lived a very violent life, frequently entering churches to commit acts of blasphemy and sacrilege (which I will not detail here). After death, he was consigned to the mines of Purgatory to mine coal for the flames of both Purgatory and Hell. He is called upon as an Anima Sola, or intranquil spirit, in acts of coercive love magic to reunite lovers or force someone to love another.
The tricky thing about these folk-saints is that it can be maddeningly difficult to disentangle all the possible threads that could be connected to the saint.
In the case of San Juan Loco, there is Saint John of God (Juan Ciudad), the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God. In brief this saint, who was born three years after the discovery of the Americas, had a severe mental breakdown and was imprisoned in a sanatorium. Upon his release, he had a mystical experience after listening to the preaching of Saint John of Avila (yet another John!). He founded his order and administered to the poor and the mentally ill. He is considered a patron saint for those suffering from these conditions to this day.
In 2006, an online Dominican newspaper (Hoy Digital
) reported that a chromo of San Juan Loco had been discovered in a cave by a spelunking group, along with a coconut believed to be an offering. This calls to mind other Saint Johns associated with caves (e.g. St. John of Edessa and St. John of Rila), not to mention caves being the dwelling places of chthonic spirits. The same article gives one of the prayers associated with San Juan Loco, also calling upon the spirit of the demon Balancebú Artaclán (Beelzebub *Artaclán). This same prayer is associated with San Juan Trastornado, although it is possible to find other prayers that are unique to San Juan Loco.
The stories and legends surrounding these figures are rich and varied, and I haven’t yet mentioned other well-known Johns, such as Don Juan del Dinero, San Juan el Conquistador, Don Juan del Desespero, Don Juan de los Caminos, etc.
Without wanting to take up any more space, suffice it to say that San Juan Loco is an intranquil spirit. If you are interested in this type of work, please see the Intranquility
and especially theAnima Sola
pages and related products. If you would like to do this work but aren’t sure how, please consider a training session with a member of AIRR. As this type of work can be very dangerous and requires some degree of skill, you may also consider hiring a professional worker through AIRR to undertake this on your behalf.
*I believe Artaclán may be a corruption of arraclán, itself a corruption of alacrán, meaning scorpion.