homepage logo

Sanibel’s sole remaining witch doctor speaks out

By Staff | Dec 11, 2009

Dr. Zulu, Sanibel’s lone surviving witch doctor, has his own views on health care reform. Sitting in his straw hut deep inside “Ding” Darling, Dr. Zulu is a formidable figure. He is 4 foot 6 inches and wears the same medical uniform he’s worn to make house callsoin Sanibel for more than 70 years.

The uniform consists of a loin cloth which he claims he bought at Bailey’s all those many years ago, worn out alligator shoes and a New York Yankee baseball cap. He is smoking his ever present “peace pipe” which he claims he passed around during the celebration of Sanibel’s independence 35 years ago.

He claims he has outlived all the other Sanibel witch doctors that used to practice their profession on Sanibel before the new breed of medical practitioners made their way to our shores. I asked him about the current health care reform issue and he blew a smoke ring my way that practically paralyzed me in my tracks.

“Health care reform? What is there to reform? In my day we worked on the barter system. I would visit a patient, cure him of all his ailments and in turn he would hand me over a dozen groupers. That was the economic system back then.”

Since I was somewhat taller than Dr. Zulu he asked me to lie flat on the dirt floor on my back to level the playing field. I actually had no choice. The acrid smoke coming from his peace pipe buckled my knees and almost got me to hallucinate. What was I doing here in the first place? Why had the Islander editor asked me to interview this decrepit old relic? How did she even know about the existence of Dr. Zulu?

Staring up at his straw roof I asked: “Do you think we need health care reform in the first place?”

Some unrecognizable jungle sounds made their way from somewhere deep in his throat and he rolled his eyes as though he were in a deep trance until you could only see the white. “Modern doctors are not as efficient as my generation was and shouldn’t be rewarded further. My ointments and treatments would cure anything. The spirits I would invoke had healing powers and weren’t transferable. U.S. medical schools are centuries behind the healing powers I possess.

“In the old days of Sanibel, I would go from house to house healing such diseases as blackened fish hangover, the red algae plague, and athlete’s foot. I would do my native dances to call up the spirits and then I would rub my mixture of natural potions into raw wounds. Within hours, my patients would rise up from their beds and perform natural convulsions. I was then handed my dozen groupers and went on to the next house.”

I was interested in his views on the cost of health care and the percentage of the population that wasn’t covered. “Much of the present U.S. health care reform is focusing on the many millions who can’t afford to pay for health care and have no insurance. What is your view on this?”

Dr. Zulu rose from his stool, stretched his 4 foot 6 inch body, looked up to the heavens, again uttered a guttural sound and said: “Everyone is entitled to be cured of whatever ails them. I remember the day I testified at a Congressional hearing and made the case to train new and better equipped witch doctors. I told the group of Congressmen that the cost of practicing medicine could be reduced substantially if I could find disciples and train them. I said that we didn’t need expensive MRI machines. We needed to find leaves from certain trees that we could place on various parts of the body and dance with the spirits.

“I told them that healing powers weren’t in the big machines and the pills. I told them that witch doctors carried with them the power of knowledge from thousands of years and didn’t require fancy medical degrees and offices. My goal was to convince these skeptics that witch doctors could keep the cost of medicine down and cure anything that nature created.”

I was very encouraged by this. “So what was their reaction?”

Dr. Zulu exhaled another lethal dose of smoke rings and my mind conjured up visions of primitive villages with his patients flashing Medicare cards. He said: “The Congressmen told me that they couldn’t condone the practice of medical sorcery as they called it because modern medicine had too strong a lobby.

He said I should come back when witch doctors had a lobby that was much stronger. They told me to go back to my straw hut on Sanibel and run for Congress. I went back to Sanibel a defeated and broken man. I am now working on a book which will explain the benefits of witch doctor healing powers. I hope to have it ready for the Oprah show next year.”

Sensing that I had my story, I thanked Dr. Zulu for his time, crawled out of his hut and when I was finally able to stand up I realized I had forgotten something.

I opened the trunk of my car, took out the package I had brought and dropped it in front of his hut. I truly hoped he would enjoy the 12 groupers I had brought him.