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All About Voodoo Dolls

Updated on January 20, 2015

Survey of an Ancient Magickal Art Form

Dolls have been a part of life for many cultures worldwide. Contemporary modern America is no exception. This article discusses the history of dolls as they are used in magick and ritual: ancient Greek poppets, how to make a variety of Voodoo poppets, African fetiches, and Mandrake poppets, for example. Read on to learn about this fascinating magickal art form.

Why do we pin the Doll - Hoodoo Voodoo with Denise Alvarado

Bound Voodoo Doll

Bound Voodoo doll graphic copyright 2009 Denise Alvarado,All rights reserved worldwide.
Bound Voodoo doll graphic copyright 2009 Denise Alvarado,All rights reserved worldwide.

The History of Voodoo Dolls

The making of Voodoo dolls, poppets, fetishes, and ritual effigies has taken place since antiquity. Though the practice is ancient, the manner in which they are used in contemporary magick and ritual remains strikingly similar. Much can be learned from studying the ancient cultures and mystics who held the esoteric knowledge that forms the very foundation of modern day magick, Voodoo, and witchcraft.

The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in both European-based magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual in the context of New Orleans Voudou and hoodoo can be traced to the intermingling of these cultures during the early colonization and slave trade of Louisiana. Some speculate that dolls were used as a means of self-defense to intimidate superstitious slave owners.

Voodoo Dolls in Magick and Ritual

Voodoo Dolls In Magick And Ritual
Voodoo Dolls In Magick And Ritual
For the first time anywhere, explore the history, mystery, and magick of Voodoo Dolls in this fascinating new book. Tracing the Voodoo doll's roots back in history, author Denise Alvarado provides an intriguing account of the most provocative and mystifying icon of the African-derived healing tradition, dispelling stereotypes and myths, while at the same time showing how to make and use Voodoo dolls to enhance every day living. Learn how to make three kinds of Voodoo dolls, find over 30 spells and rituals to find love, attract wealth, offer protection, and promote healing and happiness. Denise Alvarado was born and raised in the Voodoo and hoodoo rich culture of New Orleans. She has studied mysticism and practiced Creole Voodoo and indigenous healing traditions for over three decades. She is a cultural anthropologist, psychologist, writer, artist, spiritual adviser, and cultural consultant.

Voodoo Poppets

Poppets can be used for healing purposes, promoting health, finding love, creating happiness, good luck, protection, binding, cursing, and to manipulate energy in numerous other ways. Poppets come in several forms, including wax, cloth, paper, wood, root, and clay.

Wax Poppets

To make a wax poppet, coat you hands with a few drops of essential oil, mold a shape out of softened wax, and adorn it with stones, beads, or draw names or symbols into the form. You can add hair or nail clippings or some other personal effect of the intended recipient.

Cloth Poppets

Cut a figure form out of cloth and stitch almost all the way up. Leave a space to fill with herbs, moss, hair, or whatever the spell calls for.

Paper Poppets

To make a paper poppet, draw a figure on a piece of cardstock or parchment paper and cut it out. On the paper doll, draw symbols and write the name of the intended recipient of the spell. You can affix a photo onto the face if you have one.

Wood Poppets

Using a soft wood, carve a figure form. Glue hair to the head or yarn representing hair, and paint the wood with acrylic paint. You can paint symbols, names or paint clothes, or a face.

Root Poppets

Root poppets can be made out of naturally shaped roots that look like figures, or they can be carved out of root vegetables like potatoes.

Clay Poppets

Clay poppets are molded out of any number of types of clay. Create a hollow space in the clay to place personal effects of the spell recipient, or fill with special herbs or drawn symbols and then seal. paint or adorn the clay accordingly.

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Poppets Made of Mandrake Root

In the past, poppets were made out of mandrake roots or ginseng which can look amazingly human in form. Mandrake poppets are also called fetiches. Superstitious people were so afraid of its appearance that they would draw a circle around it or tie a dog to the plant to protect themselves when the root was pulled from the ground. It was believed that the mandrake could kill a person from the screams so powerful. The root was worn around the neck.

Men and lesbian women should carry with them the feminine, White Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum var. vernalis), or the substitute, White Bryony (Bryonia dioica).

Women and homosexual men should carry with them the masculine, Black Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum var. autumnalis) or the substitute, Black Bryony (Tamus communis). (From the Black Arts by: Richard Cavendish)

Kolossus: Greek Poppets

The ancient Greek practice of constructing and using ritual effigies (poppets, voodoo dolls) dates from the fourth century BCE. Called Kolossos (kaw-lawss-SAUCE), these poppets were typically made for defensive purposes. Their use was aimed at containing hostile forces, as opposed to destroying them, or binding protective forces, to ward off an invading enemy or to protect one's home and family.

Kolossoi (kaw-lawss-SOY) have two general purposes: binding and restraining. Today when we talk about binding spells we typically think of binding a person. The Greeks, on the other hand, used their poppets to bind certain deities for reasons of public and private defense. For example, dangerous deities such as Ares, the God of war, could be bound to prevent war or death or the battlefield. Protective deities could be bound to keep them from leaving. Sometimes, the reason for binding deities had a dual purpose: to keep them from leaving as well as to secure their protection from enemies.

The second function of Kolossoi was that of restraining ghosts and other hostile energies referred to as Hikesioi Apaktoi. Often a binding ceremony would follow a funeral in order to restrain the ghost of those passing to ensure proper protocol was in place to guide them to the Land of the Dead. Kolosoi may also be used to bind and restrain mortal enemies. For example, one fashioned a Kolossoi to restrain an Eidlon or Phasma (Phantom) that was sent by a Gos (Sorcerer). If the antagonist was unknown, then a pair of Kolossoi, a male and a female, were used. If the enemy is an army or a family, then three Kolossoi were used.

Kolossoi were regularly used to protect boundaries. Hence, they would be buried at a wall or fence line to protect a building or a home. Certain Kolossoi were rebound regularly to protect whole cities and states. For example, Ares was unbound "once a year during a period of general license analogous to the Saturnalia" (Sophistes, 1996), then rebound for thirteen months in a cauldron (as indicated in Book 5 of the Iliad).

Finally, a Kolossus could be constructed and consecrated in response to a particular crisis. It was bound and buried once, and if successful, was offered yearly sacrifice.

African Fetiches

In West Africa, religion is intimately mixed with sociological aspects of family, rights of property, authority, tribal organization, judicial trials, punishments, intertribal relations, and commerce. Native tribal government and religious and social life are inseparably united. The fetich is a particular component of religious worship, and governs the arrangements of all relations.

This authentic African fetish was carved in the Congo from a single piece of Native wood. The costume is woven of straw and then carefully sewn onto the carving. This type of fetish is believed by its creators to have magical powers. It is used in ceremonies (especially male puberty rites) to ward off evil spirits and undesirable women. The male adults dress up in similar life size straw costumes and masks. This fetich is from Voodoo Mama's private collection.


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