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Dr. Buzzard

From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Dr. Buzzard
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 12:08:12 -0800

From e-mail:

> Hi. I sent you an e-mail a few weeks ago
> around christmas asking if you knew anything about Dr. Buzzard
> of Beauford, SC.  The one that you mention on one of your pages.  We
> are somewhat familiar with him and would like further info if there is
> any. One reason is because there have been quite a few references of 
> his work using his name and my mother knows he's dead.  Isn't he?  We 
> spoke with someone in Philadelphia using his name, and I found an 
> article that says he used to advise political people and he is suppose 
> to be 66-years old, and this one is in or was in Virginia.  We have a 
> relative who knows him very well and we think we are dealing with 
> some left over work of Dr. Buzzard's.  

Sorry i didn't get back to you earlier -- the Holiday season was a time
of great work-load for me. 

The earliest mention i have found of Doctor Buzzard is in Harry M.
Hyatt's 5 voloume oral history compilation of hoodoo lore collected from
1,600 African-American informants. At the time Hyatt recorded these
histories, in the late 1930s, Doctor Buzzard was dead. 

Doctor Buzzard was supposedly the greateest root worker of all time, a
gifted magician and conjure, and a healer as well. Many informants told
Hyatt that Doctor Buzzard had been a white man, and that he had died in
the late 1920s, about 10 years before Hyatt interviewed them. These
accounts were consistent and coherent. 

Several informants also told Hyatt that in the vacuum left by the death
of the original Doctor Buzzard, a number of "Little Doctor Buzzards" had
sprung up in various locales in the South-East. Most of of the
second-generation Doctor Buzzards were black; one was said to be
claiming that he was the white Doctor Buzzard's illegitimate son. The
informants' opinions of the reputations of the faux Doctor Buzzards of
the 1930s varied; some were judged to be poor copies, others to have a
degree of power and knowledge approaching but never exceeding that of
the original. 

What Hyatt's research indicates to me is that any reference to 
     a black root worker calling himself Doctor Buzzard 
or to 
     a white root worker called Doctor Buzzard and *alive after 1929* 
must be a reference to one of the many first-generation successors
operating in the 1930s-70s, or to a second-generation successor of the

For an overview of Harry M. Hyatt's 5,000-page long book on hoodoo
magic, see

Now, as to dealing with "left over work" from one of these Doctor
Buzzards...that's another matter. I have often heard it said that the
most difficult jinxes to break are those laid by someone who has since
died. Yet, perhaps what one Doctor Buzzard put down, another Doctor
Buzzard may remove. 

Good luck, 

catherine yronwode

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Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
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