Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Meet North Carolina Conjurer 'Dr. Possum'

newbernsj.com - Six or seven years ago, three women came to Doctor Possum’s home wanting the Celtic witch and root doctor to tell them if their husbands were cheating on them.

Douglas Helvie, who goes by “Doctor Possum” for his work practicing the African-inspired magical practice of hoodoo, looked to his Norse runes to help see the truth. The 24 symbols carved into chips of rock help the conjureman tap into his psychic consciousness, he said.

What he saw about two of the women gave him pause.

“What I’m seeing right here is you’re not being cheated on. What I’m seeing right here is you’re cheating on your significant other,” said Helvie, as he recalled the memory from inside his store “The Hex House,” recently opened in February of this year.

He sells herbs, candles, coffin nails and books on the occult in the store, located behind his home in Ernul.

A black leather top hat perched on his head and a silver pentagram hanging from his neck, Helvie said he saw that the second woman was cheating with two men. The color ran out of her face, he said, and she asked him how he knew.

“I see what I see,” Helvie said. “You come to me, you ask me to do this reading, I tell you what I’m going to see.”

The 48-year old has been doing psychic readings and other work for years, as he’s a believer in the Wicca faith and a practicing Celtic witch. Just recently, he was also trained in hoodoo.

He completed a mail-in course with Catherine Yronwode of the California-based Lucky Mojo Curio Co. on Feb. 10, and his certification hangs on the wall of The Hex House.

“The hoodoo is a magical practice, it’s not a religious practice,” he said. “It’s something that a person of any religion can practice, if they understand there are certain things it encompasses.”

He said that mostly women come to see him for psychic readings or to pick up a mojo hand — which is a small bag that he fills with herbs such as lavender, rose petal, myrrh, orange peel — for help with love or romance issues.

But there are some things he won’t do as a root doctor or conjureman, such as death spells, or magic to make a person fall in love.

“I won’t put a love spell on somebody for you,” he said. “I’m not going to cage anybody for you. I don’t want the karma, thank you very much.”

Helvie said he has, however, done spiritual healings (one time he said he helped clear out a person’s headache using meditation techniques), he’s done spells to help ward off “good old-fashioned bad luck,” and he’s done psychic readings. He also has small statues of bears, a cat and a dog in The Hex House to help a person’s pet.

“If somebody comes to me, like they have a pet that’s sick or seems to be having difficulties, I’ll do that for free,” he said.

When he works the magic, he said he draws on powers from different sources such as nature or realms beyond normal human consciousness.

“When I practice hoodoo, it’s not uncommon for me to draw on my pagan gods,” he said. “Having said that, I might be … calling blessings from the Buddha. It’s kind of open-ended and it’s got many facets.”

As for his background, Helvie says he’s always had an interest in the occult. He attributes part of his attraction to his astrological sign — he’s a Scorpio, which characterizes people of intensity and contradictions that often have an interest in the paranormal and other unknown mysteries, according to zodiac-signs-astrology.com.

From the age of eight until he was 25, Helvie said he was a practicing Satanist. “Not the puppy-killing, animal-sacrificing kind, but I had gotten involved in that behind my mother’s back as a youth for reasons that are very deeply personal,” he said.

By the time he left the religion, he had risen through the ranks to become a lord high priest. But he left Satanism, and “frankly didn’t look back,” realizing it was causing him to be more and more of a negative person.

Helvie found a group in New Bern practicing Wicca, which is a nature-based religion that recognizes that spirits exist in all things, he said, explaining his own interpretation of the religion. “Plants, trees, people, and animals, everything we believe has a spirit,” he said.

The religion also recognizes a male and a female deity, he said. “It’s not only a god or male deity that exists out there, but there’s a goddess, a female-equal, but separate deity that exists with the god.”

Helvie said he realized from the beginning that the religion was what he’d been looking for in his heart, and now he’s practiced Wicca going on 22 years. He has even started his own branch called Eternal Harvest, and he practices a form of Wicca that is an amalgamation of Germanic and Celtic techniques, he said.

He took the hoodoo course to become a root doctor and conjure man because he felt people, especially in the Southeast, would be more uncomfortable going to see someone who calls himself a witch.

“It’s kind of a social door opener,” he said.

As for why he’s called “Doctor Possum” — he explained the name’s origin came from one day working maintenance at the New Bern Golf & Country Club when he saw a possum on the grounds.

His co-workers, who knew his faith background, had nicknamed him “Doctor Buzzard” after several other root doctors, but he said he was warned in a dream that he couldn’t keep the name.

“‘You’re doing magic on the possum,’” said Helvie, recalling what his co-workers said.

“I’m just petting it!” he said he told them, but the name stuck.

And while Wicca gives him personal powers, its ethics and codes of conduct also guide his life.

“I’m amazed by the potential, how if a person really learns the ancient ways, they can empower their lives, and help them frankly be better people,” he said.

NOTE: before I read the article I was skeptical, probably because of the moniker. But I have to say, his knowledge of conjuring and refusal to cast dark spells changed my mind. Yeah, I know many of you are thinking 'Lon has gone off the deep end'...well, my descendants (who came to America in 1732) were Ana-Baptists from Switzerland...better known in the New World as the Amish. There was a sect in the old Pennsylvania Dutch community known as 'PowWowers'. You can see the 'Hex signs' on Amish barns, these are PowWow symbols used to deter evil spirits. Unlike HooDoo and some other forms of conjuring, PowWow is deeply associated with religion. Most of the better know healing spells and folk magic are in John George Hohman's 1820 German-American magical receipt-book named 'The Long Lost Friend'. Though 'PowWow is illegal to practice in Pennsylvania and other places...be assured, it is still used. Use this link and read some source material HooDoo in Theory and Practice. A side note: I'm not a religious person, but I keep 'The Long Lost Friend' near me...always. It's my version of a 'talisman'.
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