How did the shaman showman cast a spell on Norway’s Princess Märtha Louise? Durek Verrett is Hollywood’s self-styled ‘global ambassador of love’ – now the controversial school dropout is set to join the ranks of European royalty, writes TOM LEONARD
He calls himself a sixth-generation shaman, whose powers to communicate with the spirit world, ’emotionally download people’ and ‘help’ victims of cancer have won him Hollywood fans, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Selma Blair and Rosario Dawson.
Paltrow, the founder of wellness and lifestyle brand Goop, has even described the bisexual, self-styled ‘global ambassador of love’ as her ‘soul brother’.
Others call Durek Verrett a deluded buffoon at best — a showman rather than shaman who is minting it from his ability to persuade film stars and in many cases desperately vulnerable people into believing that he has supernatural powers.
And then there are the Norwegians who, whatever their views on his abilities, may soon have to call Hollywood’s Shaman Durek a member of their royal family. The ‘most heartfelt congratulations’ that King Harald and Queen Sonja have sent to their daughter, Princess Martha Louise, and Shaman Durek following their engagement announcement last week will hardly be echoed by all their subjects.
The level-headed Scandinavians take a dim view of Mr Verrett’s wacky claims, however much Tinseltown royalty rhapsodises about a man who charges up to $1,500 (£1,200) an hour and champions the power of the spirit world over conventional science and medicine.
Princess Martha Louise, the royal couple’s oldest child and a distant cousin of the Queen, remains fourth in line to the Norwegian throne after her younger brother Prince Haakon and his children. Apart from his claim to be of Norwegian descent, Mr Verrett may not appear to have much in common with the princess. In fact, they were made for each other: the divorced mother of three also claims to be very much in touch with the spirit world.
Always unconventional, she gave up her HRH title in 2002 when she married a commoner, a writer called Ari Behn.
He committed suicide on Christmas Day 2019, two years after their divorce came through.
Shaman Durek and Princess Martha-Louise of Norway attend Derek Warburton’s Celebration of the Launch of his New PRIDE Makeup Collection Benefiting GLSEN on June 10, 2022
The couple, who announced their engagement on Tuesday, pictured, said people like to watch royal interracial relationships on TV like in Netflix’s Bridgerton, but they don’t like to watch real interracial relationships
She began claiming to be clairvoyant as long ago as 2007, describing herself as a ‘high sensitivity light fountain’.
She opened the Astarte Education Centre for communicating with angels, promising to teach students to ‘create miracles’ in their lives ‘with angels and with your own force’. The school closed in 2018.
In 2019, she announced (on Instagram) that she had found love with Verrett, her American self-described ‘spirit hacker’, a Los Angeles-based one-time young offender who at 47 is three years her junior — and three months later renounced many of her royal duties.
The couple met on a blind date arranged by mutual friends in a vegan restaurant in 2018, although Verrett claims they have met several times before during past lives, including one in which — conveniently — he was a pharaoh and she his queen.
She described him as her ‘twin flame’, adding: ‘He has made me realise that unconditional love actually exists here on this planet.’
Within days of the announcement, the pair bore out the fears of sceptics that she would compromise her family, by holding a series of seminars across Norway titled The Princess And The Shaman. After an outcry over the way she was exploiting her royal title, she agreed not to use it for her work.
The couple have attributed much of the hostility he has encountered in Norway to racism. He has said that ‘people don’t want a black man in a European royal family’ and claimed that the couple have received death threats.
Shaman Durek, real name Durek Verrett, is pictured with Jo Wood. He is set to marry Norway’s Princess Martha
A Norwegian newspaper that attended those first seminars given by the couple was not impressed. ‘We were prepared for gibberish and cliches but it was still two hours of your life you’ll never get back,’ reported the iTromso. ‘The problem was a lack of form followed by a lack of content.’
In an Instagram post, Verrett said he was ‘overjoyed’ that he would spend ‘the rest of my life with the most pure-hearted, angelic, wise, powerhouse woman who represents all levels of a goddess in my eyes’.
No doubt anticipating a backlash to their engagement — they’re both clairvoyant, after all — the happy couple put out a statement challenging the cynics: ‘Love does not judge where you come from or who you are as a human being. Love creates a bridge between people, cultures and religions.’
That sort of flannel no doubt goes down a treat in La La Land but it’s hardly likely to reassure those — particularly in Norway — who have denounced Verrett and have spent time debunking his many wild claims.
Verrett describes himself with all manner of impressive New Age descriptions including ‘evolutionary innovator’ and ‘women’s empowerment leader’.
He has claimed that, like other shamans, he can talk to spirit animals and human ghosts, having first discovered his shamanic powers at the age of two when his mother played drums and sent him into a trance in which he met his dead ancestors.
He was brought up in Sacramento, California, and it has been reported that he was raised in vast wealth as the son of a successful property developer who had a private jet.
At other times, he has said they were so poor he’d have to go fishing at night to feed his relatives.
He adds that he began his shamanic training aged 11 and got his powers through his mother.
He also claims he was sexually abused by a male babysitter, causing him to drink heavily and use drugs as a teenager.
He dropped out of school and got into trouble, breaking into a home so that he and some friends could throw a party. Then they burned it down —and he was sentenced to juvenile detention.
He says he has lived in Turkey, Israel, Belize and London, where he stayed with a hedge-fund manager client whose ‘life I turned around’.
The patronage of Gwyneth Paltrow (left) and her highly controversial ‘wellness’ empire, Goop, has clearly been crucial in Verrett’s rise
He says he has dated both men and women, his longest relationship —with a masseur named Hank Greenberg — lasting eight years. They were engaged to be married but split up acrimoniously in 2014.
Mr Greenberg, his former business partner, has criticised Verrett’s chumminess with his rich and famous clients — including the princess — and questioned his ‘authenticity’.
Shamans supposedly provide a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, allowing the dead to give advice, and channel healing energy.
During his healing sessions, he kicks off with a ‘shamanic reading’, analysing a patient’s eyes, breathing and bones. In the technique he calls ‘spirit hacking’, he invokes the spirits of dead family members — including his father, his opera singer aunt and his grandmother — to help him ‘reboot’ his patients.
Verrett claims he can free clients of ‘blockages’ that prevent them from finding success or love, or alternatively overcoming addictions.
He also keeps a bucket on hand, having spoken in the past of getting patients to vomit out ‘poisons’ in their body. Verrett limits the poisons in his own system by not eating meat, a diet which he says is particularly painful for him as he feels the memories of any animal he consumes.
(He also finds train travel a problem because of all the ‘spirit guides’ of fellow passengers trying to talk to him.)
Shaman Durek has reportedly promoted a conspiracy theory similar to that propagated by David Icke, who claims that shape-shifting alien reptilians control the Earth, and he has even said he is part reptilian. He has also claimed he can split atoms. He does at least concede he is mortal, having almost died from renal failure — ‘flatlining’ for four minutes — before a kidney transplant in 2012.
Utterly outlandish as his professed powers are, he is clearly not lacking in charisma. People who have met him describe him as ‘mesmerising’ and ‘captivating’.
The princess and her American spiritual guru boyfriend pictured with Gwyneth Paltrow
Most of his clients are women and many have proved to be shamanic putty in his hands. One afternoon, in the summer of 2019, for instance, he apparently reduced each of six women gathered on a patio in Hollywood to tears in just 17 minutes. ‘Breaking into song, speaking in tongues, sometimes touching the women, he became a spiritual emissary/janitor, releasing negative energy, minimising pain, and healing trauma,’ reported Vanity Fair magazine.
One of the women ‘moaned and sobbed so loudly that it was reminiscent of the Katz’s Deli scene in When Harry Met Sally’.
He will often sing songs from Disney films, a musical passion he shares with the princess.
His professional advice includes gynaecological tips. He says some women can get ‘imprints’ on the inside of their vagina if they have too much sex, and provides them with exercises that can ‘clean out’ those imprints.
Rather more seriously, he has been accused of misleading cancer and leukaemia sufferers.
He has denied ever saying he can cure cancer but insists he can help ‘alleviate’ it.
He has also rejected allegations that he has claimed he can defy the ageing process.
Still, with his Hollywood celebrity fan club singing his praises, business has been good, especially in the self-improvement-obsessed U.S.
He wrote a well-publicised 2019 book, Spirit Hacking: Shamanic Keys To Reclaim Your Personal Power, Transform Yourself And Light Up The World.
In it, he claims cancer can be caused by ‘negative thoughts’ and that chemotherapy is given to cancer patients not because it helps patients but because doctors make money from it.
In March, Martha Louise shared the first snap of her three children alongside her partner Shaman Durek (pictured)
He also reveals that malign spirits are attracted to casual sex, leaving those vaginal imprints that he knows how to remove.
His international tour to promote his tome included a trip to London in which ticket holders (paying up to £110 each) learned about ‘shamanic clearing of unwanted energies’ and how to ‘activate their light intelligence mentality’.
The patronage of Gwyneth Paltrow and her highly controversial ‘wellness’ empire, Goop, has clearly been crucial in his rise.
‘What I love about Gwyneth is that from the moment we met, we knew we were brother and sister and that we were meant to be in each other’s lives,’ he gushed to the Mail three years ago.
‘There are no walls or barriers between us. Just love . . . her husband is my brother, her children are my babies.’
He insists he isn’t motivated by money, claiming that when he first met Princess Martha Louise, he checked to see she wasn’t wearing a glitzy watch.
‘If she had, I wouldn’t have been interested. I hate that kind of ostentation.’
Shaman Durek has admitted that he was taken aback by the hostile reception he received in Norway when he first visited with her and said he told the princess he wouldn’t go back ‘for a long time’.
Now he’s set to join the nation’s most illustrious family, no doubt his spirit companions are in wholehearted agreement.