The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Dr Buzzard is the name of a famous conjure man and root-worker from St Helena Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. He performed physical healings as well as a wide variety of magical services.
Buzzards allegedly served as his familiars, hence his name. Clients traveling to the doctor’s home were allegedly rowed across the river by a pair of buzzards.
Dr Buzzard’s true identity is somewhat mysterious, perhaps because more than one conjurer may have operated under that name. This was for centuries not an uncommon metaphysical tradition, particularly during eras when magical practice was illegal or discouraged: if a name had power, people would use it, for a variety of reasons. At a time when there was little or no media, people frequently had few expectations as to someone’s appearance and so this was not a difficult practice.
Dr Buzzard’s prime specialty was court cases. Clients paid him to win their cases. He would dust the courtroom with magical powders and attend trial daily, sitting prominently in the courtroom, chewing on Court Case Root (Laos or galangal root, so-called because it reputedly provides courtroom success). He did not hide but was a highly visible presence wearing his trademark purple sunglasses that he never removed in public. The sheer intimidation factor of having him in the courtroom cannot be overlooked. (He also allegedly once made a buzzard fly around the courthouse.)
Dr Buzzard achieved financial success through root-working. He owned his home on St Helena Island, drove an expensive car, and financed the building of two churches.
There are references to Dr Buzzard in Harry Middleton Hyatt’s five-volume compilation of Hoodoo and Conjuration lore. J. Edward McTeer, High Sheriff of Beaufort County from 1926 until 1963, recounted his experiences with Dr Buzzard in two books, High Sheriff of the Low Country (1970) and Fifty Years as a Low Country Witch Doctor (1978) (McTeer was also a magical practitioner).
McTeer’s Dr Buzzard, who is generally acknowledged as the real one, is Stepney Robinson, a tall dark-skinned man who wore expensive black suits and purple sunglasses and whose father may have been an African-born conjurer. He was born in the latter half of the nineteenth century and died in 1947. His practice (and name) was inherited by a son-in-law, who died in 1997.