… to the throne in Norway.” That’s how one of Norway’s most respected commentators summed up the news this week that Princess Martha Louise plans, as expected, to marry an American who calls himself “Shaman Durek” and has supported himself as a healer and spiritual guide who can summon spirits.
Noting that King Harald V is about to get a shaman as a son-in-law, commentator Kjetil B Alstadheim also wrote in newspaper Aftenposten Wednesday that Norway’s Royal Palace “will probably tolerate this, too.” He was referring to earlier royal partnerships that have raised eyebrows, and how the king’s daughter has made headlines for years.
She turned 50 last year, born well before Norway’s constitution was amended in 1990 to allow the oldest child of those in the succession line to become heir to the throne, regardless of gender. That’s why her younger brother, now Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, will succeed the currently reigning King Harald instead of her. She was thus allowed more freedom growing up and many Norwegians could breathe a sigh of relief, as Alstadheim indicated. Her lively youth and a string of commercial ventures in which she’s been accused of exploiting her royal title have all provoked critics. Her marriage to the late high-profile author Ari Behn in 2002 also stirred controversy, and King Harald famously warned Behn at their lavish wedding in Trondheim that his new son-in-law must always expect surprises from Martha Louise.
It was when she founded her so-called “angel school” (officially Astarte Education/Soulspring) to help people get in touch with their own angels that controversy really began swirling around the unconventional princess. She ventured increasingly into spirituality and healing as well. She made headlines when she opted to give birth at home (she and Behn had three daughters) and even when her children’s unusual names were revealed: Maud Angelica, Leah Isadora and Emma Tallulah.
She and Behn divorced in 2017 and she confirmed publicly in 2019 that she and Durek Verrett had become both professionally and romantically involved. When they set off on a series of public appearances called “The Princess and the Shaman,” criticism over her commercial use of her royal title spiked. After some royal family discussions she said she understood how she provoked Norwegians by using her royal title in commercial ventures. Her constant use of her title ceased in commercial ventures but she continues to use it when she carries out some official duties. She’s still a patron of organizations, mostly tied to disabled children and adults, and chairs a charitable fund in her name.
Tragedy struck the entire royal family, meanwhile, when the princess’ ex-husband Ari Behn committed suicide during the Christmas holidays in 2019. At his funeral right after New Year, the couple’s oldest daughter Maud Angelica impressed the nation when she stood by his casket in the Oslo Cathedral and implored anyone feeling depressed to seek help. The appeal left most in tears, and the king clearly proud.
Verrett, meanwhile, has stirred controversy by suggesting on social media that he could cure people with serious illnesses, reduce their age and believed leukemia was a result of an “imbalance” in the skeleton. The 48-year-old Verrett also claimed that with shaman techniques he could “clean the body” of built-up poisons. That was debunked by Norwegian doctors, one of whom told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) at the time that he “didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”
“A dilemma arises when you claim you can cure and treat serious illness like cancer,” Dr Jørgen Skavlan, known for taking part in public debate in Norway, told NRK. “Then you’ve crossed a moral and ethical border and must tolerate tough oppositoin and, in fact, ridicule.” Verrett later moderated his comment that he didn’t claim to cure cancer, rather to “help” cancer patients. He has also apologized for claiming that a Norwegian publishing firm refused to publish one of his books and for making critical remarks about Norwegians in general.
More recently, Verrett claimed he could “rotate atoms” in the human body to reduce age, and that he’s not a normal person, rather a cross “between a reptile and Andromeda.” That’s language “from someone who lives off of being a shaman and healing people, and from another world than the one we’re accustomed to,” said NRK’s royal reporter Kristi Marie Skrede.
Martha Louise and Verrett clearly share common interests, though. In a written statement on Tuesday they declared that they were glad they found one another across continents, ethnicity and social background. Princess Martha Louise claimed she was “so happy to be engaged to Sjaman Durek,” noting that he makes her “heart jump.” Verrett wrote on social media that he was “overjoyed with tears that I get to spend the rest of my life with the most pure hearted, angelic, wise, powerhouse woman who represents all levesl of a goddess in my eyes. Together as a soulful spiritual couple we will use our power to support the people to create a world based in love and acceptance. Changing the world through our love.”
King Harald and Queen Sonja, who faced criticism when they married in 1968 because she was a commoner, issued a statement that they extended their “heartiest congratulations” to the couple and wished them “the best for their future together.” Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, who endured criticism over their romance as well, also extended their “warmest congratulations” and were sending their “best wishes to the whole family for a happy future.” Commentator Alstadheim also wrote that he, too, congratulated the couple with no sarcasm intended. “It’s just fine when people find one another,” he wrote in Aftenposten, adding that it’s really no one’s business but their own.
“But nothing is strictly private when it involves the royal family,” Alstadheim added. “The family is the core of a monarchy. The position as head of state is inherited … so romance, engagements, marriages and the births of children are of great public interest. The past few decades have shown how complicated that can be.” Norway’s monarchy, however, continues to have strong public support.
The couple was in Los Angeles, where Verrett reportedly lives, when they issued their engagement announcement earlier this week. No date for a wedding was revealed. Princess Martha Louise had said she planned to move to the US with her three daughters but the Corona crisis disrupted that. NRK reported that the couple “will continue to live on different continents” at least for a while longer.