They Will Not Have to Tell Me, I Will Know – Sheriff J.E. McTeer and the succession of a spiritual worker

Posted in > BLACK CADILLAC REVIEW by David on September 17, 2019

“They were sought out by the community for help to determine what is causing problems of all types from love to ghosts to just plain bad luck. Sadly, when things went wrong they also risked becoming a community scapegoat.

In every community in the U.S. since colonial days, there were people who acted in this sort of manner. It is interesting to note that I have found a lot of evidence of these sorts of practices here in southcentral Kentucky. When I have spoken publicly about the book people always come up to me to tell stories of their grandma’s magic, how they were cured by a healer and how they remember being treated with herbs and so forth.

By the way, I am not referring to the New Age folks in very recent times who have tried to adopt these techniques to what is called the Neo-Shamanic movement. This is the magic and folk wisdom that Grandma and Grandpa used to employ. ”

– Jack Montgomery, author of American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healers (1)

13775396_10154397329246670_5345376281602678814_nJ.E. McTeer was a sheriff in South Carolina who brought traditional practices into his work as a law enforcement officer during the mid-20th century. His book, 50 Years as a Low Country Witch Doctor, is an incredible testament of a man who bridged worlds and broke boundaries.

Here is a sheriff in the segregated climate of the southern U.S. who not only ignored social norms in order to foster a true sense of community – he embraced a way of life and practice that took him into the uncharted and liminal territories of the invisible world and the ‘closed societies’ of practice where he learned his craft. In the heated environment of the south he ignored racial boundaries and learned directly from black spiritual workers and shared in their secrets – admitted into mysteries that were demonized and mocked by the popular press of the day. In doing so he became a vital force for bridging the black and white cultural divide – and more than simply helping those who sought him with their individual ailments, he helped to foster a deeper healing within the spirit of America itself.

When I last read the book one of the things that struck me most was his statements regarding his concerns that there would be no one to follow him in the role of community healer when he died:

“The only qualm I have is, who will succeed me?

There are many, many requirements. You must have the power to make yourself believed, but even more important , you must believe in yourself. Genetically, your cells should inform you, as your brain develops, if you have been endowed with ‘special gifts.’ If so, the road to your future has been decided for you…

These are the qualities I look for in a successor:

A person who is virtually retired and financially able and willing to help people. This person’s reward will be the satisfaction othat he or she has restored many lives to normalcy, and indeed, has saved some.

A great many people have come to ask me to teach them how I perform my cures. So far none have had the emanation of kinetic force which I know they must have in order to impart it into the mind of the one seeking help.

I have not given up. They will not have to tell me; I will know. I only hope it is soon, very soon.” (2)

13680791_10154397329316670_3001785398803621083_nThese are important considerations for all of those pursuing a path as spiritual workers.

Not only do you need focus and intention – but you need to be touched with the power of presence as well. Jack Mongomery, quoted at the beginning of this post, met McTeer and gives further credence to the legacy of this amazing man:

“I met and spent time with a famous root-doctor named James McTeer of Beaufort, S.C., who was known to treat clients from all over the world.

A former High-Sherriff, Mr. McTeer was an amazing man with a magnetic personality. It was a privilege to be in his company and witness his magical work.

After his death in 1979, the county named a bridge for him bearing a plaque that honors him as a “legendary lawman, author, spellbinder and raconteur.” (1)

In our violent and dissembled world the legacy of folks like J.E. McTeer is a powerful reminder that there is another way – and a reminder of the very real responsibilities that those on a true spiritual path need to reckon with. I don’t think McTeer’s found his successor yet, but I echo him in his hopes that they come “soon, very soon.”


For more on the inspired life of the High Sheriff see: 

Quintessentially Lowcountry: Sheriff J.E. McTeer  – https://www.islandpacket.com/news/local/article33390648.html

(1) Jack Montgomery’s work American Shamans: Journeys with Traditional Healers explores the world of American folk healers, including his friendship with Lee Gande, a Hexenmeister in the Deutsch PowWow tradition – the quotes here come from an interview with The Amplifer.
(2) J.E. McTeer, 50 Years as a Low Country Witchdoctor (Beaufort Book Co., 1976)

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