Opinion: The chequered past of Durek Verrett presents a headache for Norway’s Royal family and institution

Durek Verrett at the event in West Hollywood that follows the Oscars. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB

Norwegian social circles were abuzz with the news that Princess Martha Louise and self-styled shaman, spiritual guide, and healer Derek Verett got engaged earlier this month. However, Verrett’s previous views which are, to put it nicely, unusual at best, have ruffled many feathers.

He has accused some in the media and many in Norway of not wanting to see a black man in the Royal Family. Is he just a shaman wrongfully persecuted because of his ancestry and outspoken alternative views or is he a “charlatan” peddling dangerous conspiracy theories?

A modern sort of Norwegian love story

June has been a busy month so far for the Norwegian Royal Family. Aside from the celebrations of Princess Alexandra’s 18th birthday, her aunty, Princess Märtha Louise has become engaged to her long-term boyfriend, American businessman and self-styled shaman, spiritual guide, and healer, Durek Verrett. In an hour-long live broadcast on Instagram earlier in the week, the couple spoke to their legion of fans, followers, and critics on a wide range of topics but most interesting were their views and experiences on racism.

Verret, 47, grew up in Sacramento, United States, and claims to have Haitian and Norwegian ancestry though this has been disputed by a local historian. Nonetheless, during the Instagram session, he spoke heavily about the racism he felt he has received in Norway from the press. He felt that many in Norway “did not want to see a black man in the Royal Family” and that “it is not the same when a man in the royal family chooses a colored woman. A man can choose who he wants. But that a princess chooses a colored man has not happened before and it is difficult for people to deal with.”

The couple had not announced a wedding date yet but both the King, Queen, and Crown Prince have all sent their official congratulations to the newly engaged pair. Yet many in the Norwegian press and politics are not thrilled with the Princess’ engagement to a man that they have labeled a “charlatan” and a “con man.”

What do Verrett’s previous relationships reveal?

Durek Verrett would be, it is fair to say, not your “typical” addition to a European Royal Family. This black American grew up in Sacramento which must seem a million light-years away from the rigid formality and privilege of the Norwegian Royal Household. He and the Princess have been seeing each other, officially, since May 2019 and have been jet-setting between Norway and the United States since then.

Verrett’s long and chequered love life would make, one day, for a fascinating Netflix series. He was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment (of which he only served a year before getting out on parole) for organizing a party in an abandoned house that was eventually set on fire. His previous marriage – to a Czech national – ended in 2009 when he reported her to immigration authorities resulting in her imprisonment and deportation from the country as she was staying in the United States illegally.

Verrett then had a long relationship with his business partner and masseur but broke off their engagement before their planned wedding in 2015. His ex-fiance said that Vurett had essentially “brainwashed” him and labeled him as dangerous and manipulative. Finally, before meeting the Princess, he lived with his then-manager who claimed that Verett had “controlled my whole life” and also claimed to have been “brainwashed” by Verrett.

A real shaman or a real charlatan?

Putting his romantic history to one side – yes, we all make romantic mistakes (not sure I’ve ever been accused of “brainwashing” or deliberately deported an ex-girlfriend though) what many in the Norwegian media focus on is his career and outspoken views and musings. He does have that American entrepreneurial spirit and aside from being a self-styled shaman, spiritual guide and healer is a businessman.

Before moving into shamanism, Verett had a limited career as a model and an extra on some television shows. He also claims to have worked at Shamir Medical Center, in Israel, where he treated children with cancer using shamanistic methods. The hospital strongly denies that he has ever worked there. According to his website, he describes his shamanism as being “no-nonsense” whilst the Los Angeles Times describes Verrett’s mission is “…to bring the ancient practice of shamanism to the mainstream, helping people to “get lit” by cultivating love and acceptance of themselves and others.” He has worked with many celebrities and glitterati, perhaps most famous among them the darling of new-age spirituality, and famous Hollywood actor, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Yet it was his 2019 book, Spirit Hacking, that drew severe and heavy criticism. In it, Verett makes a number of outrageously false claims ranging from how children get cancers because they want it to chemotherapy not working and just being a monkey-making ploy by the medical establishment to a claim that he can turn atoms and even reduce the aging process. The book was so controversial that it was dropped by its original publisher, Cappelen Damm, but did eventually get published by a smaller publishing house. The criticism of the book was severe. The newspapers Morgenbladet described it as “the ravings of a lunatic” whilst Verdens Gang called it “nonsense, garbage, and dirty talk”.

To add to his interesting medical theories, Verrett also considers himself “reptilian”, claims to have known about the September 11 attacks two years before they happened, and considers 5G technology to be a conspiracy to “enslave” people.

Is the criticism fair though?

Is all this public criticism and scrutiny of Verrett “fair” though? In the Instagram session, he spoke quite openly about how he perceived Norway to be surprisingly racist and the troubles that he, as a black American man, faced living in a relatively “white” and historically homogeneous society. Putting aside his “theories” and “shamanism”, it would be hard as a black immigrant entering the absolute peak of “white privilege” – that is a Royal Household. Princess Märtha Louise spoke to this during the Instagram session and admitted her “naivety” when it came to racism in Norway.

We have seen, across the North Sea in the United Kingdom, how another American “outsider” came into a Royal family and suffered the ire of racist social media trolls. When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Cambridge, there was significant online trolling and downright racism as she was of mixed white and black ancestry. There is no doubt that a small amount of online traffic against Verrett and the couple becoming engaged is down to racism. However, much of the criticism about him, at least in the traditional media, is due to his work and outspoken “theories and views” rather than the color of his skin.

Talking to the newspaper VG, Abid Raja (V), accused Verrett of playing “the race card”. The criticism that the Norwegian media and public have hurled against him is not due to how he looks but rather what he says. Raja said that “It is all his statements as a shaman, including about cancer and Norwegian women’s sex life, that weaken his credibility.” Across the political aisle, former Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke to TV2 about the criticism of Verrett. She said “The shaman must endure that a critical focus is placed on the ideas he has about things in the world, which to me seem very strange and very little knowledge-based.”

Princess Märtha Louise and Shaman Durek. Photo: Carina Johansen / NTB Scanpix

The real danger of conspiracy theories

We have all seen how dangerous conspiracy theories can become – from the January 6 Capitol riots in Washington to the huge anti-vaccine movement worldwide. For the Royal Household to be associated with someone who has disturbing views on women’s sexuality and medical treatment, let alone downright conspiracy theories about 5G is less than ideal.

The monarchy and the Royal Household play an important part in the social and cultural fabric of everyday Norwegian life. They are a symbol of the country and its long and proud history. Though it is exciting to see an “outsider” join the Royal family – some much-needed diversity in this most “white privileged” palace – Verrett can probably leave his unfounded theories and views at the door.

An engagement is always a happy time for both the newly engaged and their families. Like all families in Norway, the Royal Family cannot escape one member having a chequered past and outspoken views.

However, the line between “shaman” and “charlatan” is drawn precariously thin.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Norway Today unless specifically stated.

About the author:

Jonathan is a lover of the written word. He believes the best way to combat this polarization of news and politics, in our time, is by having a balanced view. Both sides of the story are equally important. He also enjoys traveling and live music.

Source : #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

2 Comments on "Opinion: The chequered past of Durek Verrett presents a headache for Norway’s Royal family and institution"

  1. A fair, excellent article, Jonathan. Just reading the guy’s Wikipedia entry should gravely concern anyone.
    This is like Rasputin getting next to the Russian royal family.
    My Rock Island (Illinois) Senior High School was thoroughly racially integrated, and being Northern in the 1960s we all supported the civil rights movement/crusade then going on down in the South.
    If there *had* been any racist incidents in the school, former World War 2 combat infantry commander Principal Charles O. Austin would have stopped it … Draconianly … and he made that crystal clear … so there *weren’t* any. 🙂
    We had great football and basketball teams and identified as RI Rocks, rather than racially.
    Some black kids did try to use the racial/”racist” guilt con on white girls, but the girls – us already being integrated – weren’t buying it.

  2. Patricia Miller | 20. June 2022 at 15:53 | Reply

    This is an excellent article. A criticism or questioning of a person’s views is not racist simply because the parties are of different races. It cheapens the term so that actual instances of racism may not be taken as seriously. A minor correction. Meghan Markle became Duchess of Sussex on her marriage to prince Harry.

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