Want revenge? Why not make a doll in the image of the one you’re after? In this chapter of ORIGINS, we poke around with the roots of Voudon and Voodoo Dolls. With a special reading of Kate Wars’s short story at the end.
Dolls are creepy. In fact, I’ve already mentioned them on a previous podcast, including one of the scariest I’ve ever met: Robert the Doll. But what about dolls that can absorb spells and actually cause physical harm to an intended victim? Add some pins to the mix and you have the classic Voodoo Doll, an effigy of fear and torture. For Halloween this year, I thought I’d become a shattered China doll, but when I saw a costume of a Voodoo Doll, I couldn’t pass it up (plus it was on clearance and it comes with this headband that looks like a pin is going through your head. It’s awesome). What better topic the week before Halloween then the ORIGINS of the Voodoo Doll?
Voodoo is more than magic, but rather a way of life in various cultures that has been twisted into a cultish religion that conjures spells in dolls and resurrects the dead as zombies. Both Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo are the most well-known although the practice is akin to a plethora of cultural elements, such as credo and folk-medicine practices among various people groups. A god named Bondye is the supreme being of Voudon. Believers worship many spirits known as Ioa or Iwa in charge of specific domains of ones life and can even manifest themselves in human possessions. Those practicing Voudon believe the soul can exit the body during these possessions and even during dreams. With roots in South Africa, the agreed upon ORIGINS of Voodoo are in Benin with the word Voodoo meaning “spirit” in the region’s language. Modern day Voodoo, however, was birthed in slave trade. A morphing of the required Christianity of all slaves with their own beliefs brought about a new form of worship, turning Catholicism’s St. Peter into Voodoo’s Papa Legba, the gatekeeper of the spirit world.
While Hollywood has depicted Voodoo as a malicious form of evil (See The Skeleton Key with Kate Hudson for more), the dolls are actually used for purposes of intent. While the religion itself believes in God, the spirits of dead ancestors are the ones communed with in ritualistic practices. With centuries of uninfluenced rites, the heart of Voodoo is pure of its own rights. The dolls were meant to provide a communal experience for the Shamans with the ancestors to ask for favor or advice in areas of love, life, finance, justice, or revenge to name a few. But once it mixed with other cultures through the slave trade, the game changed as did the face of Voodoo. Or the face of the doll in this case.
Let’s start with looking at the particulars of a Voodoo Doll. If I could title this section, it would be ‘What to Voodoo First When Making a Voodoo Doll’. The first thing to consider in creating the perfect doll for your needs is its purpose, for the purpose is directly reflected in the color choice. A stark white doll is used for purification and healing. That’s a positive doll! For those wishing to attract power or love, grab some red paint to get started. Want a baby? Get green, which is also used for growth, wealth, and money. Yellow is not just for submarines or Coldplay songs. In Voodoo, yellow dolls bring about success and confidence, so go ahead and create a doll to resemble your boss and pin prick away! Wait, I might be jumping ahead of myself. That might NOT be the best way to go into a job interview. Continuing on with colors, purple draws you into the spiritual realm to achieve wisdom or psychic exploration, if you’re into that. Blue as you might guess stands for peace and love; nothing but blue skies, baby. Finally, black is negative. Don’t paint that doll black unless your goal is to attract negative energy or inflict it. And just to kick things up a notch, you can grab a set of pins whose heads are in nifty matching colors to jump-start your intent in these areas or mix and match, depending on the season, I guess.
Now here’s where things get tricky and my fear-o-meter hits new heights. To conjure the spirits for specific Loa, or ancestors, you need a token or symbol to share your plea, manifest your desires, and express your wishes. Why not use an old button from grandpa’s shirt? Maybe that tooth you happen to have in a bedside table or a lock of hair you swiped off a sleeping roommate. Not to sidetrack, but I just had a thought: what if a hair salon was filled with Voodoo witches who sold spells as a side hustle? Man, I wish I had the time to write all the stories that pop in my head. Anyway, I digress. Back to the Voodoo that You do So well…
The trick to conjuring the dead and sharing your deepest desires is, believe it or not, location, location, location. Place your Voodoo doll on an altar or hold it in place adorned with your dead loved one’s trinkets, photos, clothing, or locks of hair you’ve attached and stare at that doll in complete concentration. I mean don’t-even-blink kind of concentration. The way you concentrate on Chris Hemsworth or Chris Pratt, or Gal Gadot (who plays the new Wonder Woman), when they’re on the big screen. This should be all it takes to open up the lines of communication for direct texting, voice messaging, and if you’re lucky, video conferencing with the dead. If you’re having trouble keeping or making the connection (like Spectrum has taken over my cable type trouble) add some anointing oils. I’d recommend Doterra. They rock. Other suggestions include candle magic and herbs, such as cedar chips and rose petals to increase the range.
In more popular terms, Voodoo Dolls are used for revenge. Voodoo curses are among the scariest forms of magic I can think of. It’s like the Thinner kind of curse, you know, with gypsies and all, but Voodoo seems so bad I can’t think of anything worse. Why? Because Voodoo is said to be a lineage curse meaning it doesn’t just bring you bodily harm but it can spread through your family tree like a fungus taking out your kids, your grandkids, and even your great-grandkids, the way old testament curses were spoken of in the Bible. Basically, the fundamentals are that the mind is strong and powerful, especially when conjured with emotions. Anyone is capable of placing a spell on someone else, using the power of their tongue. Not for nothing, but words do hold power and the adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is a bunch of hooey, and we all know it. Some websites even mention protection curses as a defensive assault against “just in case” Voodoo, where pentagrams, crosses, and even sun and moon charms worn at all times can ward off powerful spells.
So how does one go about using a Voodoo Doll? I thought you’d never ask. Believe it or not, there are a plethora of “how-to” websites dedicated to the craft and skill of creating your very own Voodoo doll. I’m wondering why Mattel hasn’t cashed in on this apparently lucrative business with their own line of Barbie type Voodoo Dolls. At any rate, the basic key to a good Voodoo doll is to stir in a whole crapton of hatred. Just double it up and focus it into the heart of that twig or twine hand-sewn doll you’re holding in your hands as you think of whoever it is you want to wreak havoc upon. For most, their own hatred just isn’t enough. Shamans rely on outside energy sources to really build on the emotion they want to leave behind in their dolls, namely by calling on the spirits of old. In dark Voodoo, energies built to respond to such callings appear as spirits known as Petro loas. They are angry, aggressive, and should be treated as armed and dangerous. Luckily, the truth of Voodoo is that if you don’t believe in it, the hex against you won’t work. I hope…
One site I found particularly intriguing offered a step by step spell and ritual. I thought I’d give a whirl. First, I placed my doll in a circle. Then, I chanted their suggested spell while placing something personal of someone I wanted to hex on my Voodoo doll. As I finished the chant (which I won’t recite here in case that person is listening), I stuck various pins into the doll knowing my enemy wouldn’t be killed, but they would feel a sharp prick. So if you’re listening, and you felt a sharp pain in your upper right thigh, lower left arm, and the small of your back, that was me hexing you. For the rest of you, you’re okay.
One legend goes that a grandfather cast a Voodoo doll in the likeness of a man. He carefully chose a burlap sack to build the skin, a skeleton of bird bones from a previous meal, and button eyes from his own jacket to complete the hex. The doll, sewn and stuffed, was ceremoniously baptized and cleansed for the ritual. The man desired above all else for worldly riches. His cost was his soul, sold to the Devil with one condition. The grandfather’s soul was to be returned upon the end of his life. For payment, an annual gift was delivered to the devil through a collection demon. The grandfather agreed, living one-hundred years in a life surrounded by the mountains and valleys that his wealth provided. In the end, his soul was returned to him, though the grandfather did not read the fine print. Although the contract had been fulfilled on the grandfather’s end, the Devil still expected payment each year, so the grandfather’s family was forced to continue to pay the collection demon until bled dry and forced to sell their own souls to the Devil, to stay alive.
I’m Jaimie Engle, and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet; written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle of The Write Engle. If you like stories with a supernatural slant, I happen to write them. You can learn more about my books, read show notes, and study this topic through provided links by visiting podcastORIGINS.com. Please follow on all social media @theWRITEengle. I follow back. As always, subscribing, liking, and sharing this podcast is your greatest compliment. Thank you. I’ve also opened a Patreon account. If you like what you hear, consider donating a buck a month to say thanks. And finally, stick around and be dazzled by a short story from my book The Toilet Papers titled “The Devil’s Strings” about a man who sold his soul to the Devil and what it cost him in the end, plus another short by the award-winning Kate Wars titled “Mera’s Prince” about the ORIGINS of zombies.
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Music by Ben Sound http://www.bensound.com