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The Shaman of Instagram

  • July 05, 2020

When practiced seriously, Ms. Mokelke said, shamanism is a rigorous discipline, involving years of study. There is no official licensing or certification process to becoming a shaman, in part because shamanic powers were passed down through lineage, she said; it is not a replacement for medical treatment, though it might be a complement.

“When we train people, we say, look, if somebody is seriously ill, you go to a doctor, or you go to a therapist, but you don’t neglect the spiritual aspect of the illness,” Ms. Mokelke said. “Shamanism focuses on the spiritual.”

Still, there is an element of destiny to it as well, Mr. Verrett suggests.

“You don’t become a shaman because you went to Peru, bought a poncho, sang some sacred songs and learned how to make a booming batch of ayahuasca,” he writes in his book. “You become a shaman because the spirits choose you to be a shaman.”

Born Derek Verrett (he changed the spelling of his first name to “Durek” in 2013 “because I felt like I was a new person,” he said), Mr. Verrett grew up in a wealthy, mostly white neighborhood in Foster City, Calif., in a strict Seventh Day Adventist home.

His father, who had trained as a shaman but ran a construction business, was Afro-Creole and from New Orleans; and his mother, a psychic medium, is West Indian-Norwegian and from New York. She returned there after they divorced, and his father wavered between encouraging his son’s shamanic gifts and telling him to “be normal,” Mr. Verrett said.

In his book, Mr. Verrett writes that his father, who died in 2017, was physically abusive, taught him that homosexuality was wrong (Mr. Verrett has dated women and men) and that “the only way to get ahead in life was with a white woman on your arm.”

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