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Thursday, August 18, 2011


OVER 45 YEARS AGO,  Richard "Doc" Miller was just 12 years old when he started working with his uncle Dr. (Doc) Donald Miller at Miller's Rexall Drugs, a typical pharmacy located in downtown Atlanta. This was back when drugstores were located on every corner in every neighborhood (almost), when the place to go to get what you wanted was the neighborhood drugstore. Miller's Rexall fit this profile perfectly; it was a family-friendly corner drugstore that, for folks living in the neighborhood, had everything they wanted and needed.

With drugstores on every corner, competition was fierce; it was fast becoming survival of the fittest in the world of pharmacies. Miller's had to find a niche that would set the business apart from the other drugstores. According to Doc Miller, that was a task that wouldn't be as hard as one might think. As a young boy, he noticed that people would come into the drugstore asking for herbs and powders, and things that were not outside of the scope of mainstream pharmaceutical products. Most pharmacies stocked a variety of herbs, oils and botanical essences, things that were the materia medica of hoodoo. What was different was that the customers began asking for natural cures and spiritual prescriptions for making a spouse faithful, attracting love and money, and a variety of other remedies for life's issues beyond health and beauty care. The niche was beginning to define itself. And because Uncle Doc Miller was an astute business man, he took notice and began exploring what it was all about.

The Spider's Web

Back in the 1960s, Doc Miller knew nothing about hoodoo, conjure, or the power of the root. But he would soon learn. One day, the butcher who worked next door came running into Miller’s Rexall after cutting his hand to the bone. Though it appeared that a trip to the emergency room for stitches was necessary, an elderly black woman walked up, took a careful look at the man’s bloody hand and said, “You don’t need no doctor. Wait here.” What happened next would change Doc Miller's life forever.

Doc wasn’t necessarily a believer way back then, but after witnessing what a conjure woman could do with a mess of cobwebs, Doc’s perspective on the world of folk medicine was radically altered. You see, that old conjure woman knew what she was doing.

What Happened

The elderly lady wasn't a stranger to the store. In fact, she was a regular customer. She  used to come into the store with a burlap bag and purchase herbs and such. The young Doc thought she was a little strange, but really didn't give it much thought. That day, the old lady walked over to the mess of cobwebs in the corner of the store, grabbed a handful and wrapped them in the injured man's bloody rag. She then wrapped his hand with the spider web infused rag and told him not to worry, it would be healed by the next day. Sure enough, when the man unwrapped his hand the next day, the cut had fully healed. While the young Richard may have been a doubter before, he was a doubter no longer. This was a pivotal moment in his life;  an experience that would forever change the way he viewed the world. It would guide him on a special path of healing himself. That day, the young Richard became a believer and grew up to be Doc Miller, a well respected conjure man and spiritual doctor in his own right.

Miracle or Science?

Years later, Doc Miller happened upon an article in Scientific American about the healing properties of spider webs. Apparently, a study had been done which revealed spider webs can heal cuts. Doc was both surprised and amazed, and his respect for natural cures and remedies became that much stronger. Today, he leaves the spiderwebs that form in the store because it reminds him of where it all began.

What the old conjure woman did was not a miracle, it was just good old fashioned folk medicine. The old people know many such remedies and though they may not understand why the remedies work from a scientific standpoint, that doesn't matter. Because all that matters is that it works.

But wait! There's more! Read the full story in Volume 2 of Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly.


  1. Great story, I look forward to reading the full story in the next issue.

    I recall an old woman telling me that if you roll a spider's web into a ball and swallow it with a bit of orange juice it will help reduce a fever.

  2. Interesting Dean, I have never heard that one.

  3. Awesome story! So vivid you could almost see the lil old lady wrapping the hand.

  4. I know right? It's a fabulous story, and Doc Miller's got a bunch more:)


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