This article reflects upon the participant observational method in light of fieldwork undertaken in the Amazonian community of Mapiá. Mapiá is the spiritual headquarters of the largest branch of the Brazilian new religious movement of Santo Daime. Noting how my ritual participation gave rise to the ascription of a qualified insider identity, the following explores how variations in the identity ascribed to me (viz. ‘provisional insider’, ‘potential real-insider’ and ‘counterfeit insider’) refract variegated articulations of the Santo Daime worldview. Employing Patricia Hill Collins’ notion of the ‘outsider-within’, I conclude by arguing that it is naive to see participant observation as a medium through which outsider status is straightforwardly transmuted to insider belonging. Rather, participant observation is best regarded as a methodological strategy for negotiating a complex spectrum of identities comprising any number of fluid and variegated subjectivities.