Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

P is for Poppet

Poppet comes from the Old English popet meaning a small doll or person which, inevitably, came from a Latin word pupa for girl. It can also refer to a small and dainty person. Poppet is a chiefly British term of endearment, especially for young girls.
Somewhere around the 13th century, poppet also came to mean a doll or image used in witchcraft. In witchcraft, poppets could be fashioned in the image of a person. The idea was that according to sympathetic magic, what happens to the doll will happen to the person the doll represents. The result could be one of healing or destruction. Back in the day, poppets were used to heal at least as often as to curse. A dolls mouth might be sewn shut to prevent the subject from gossiping. The arm might be bandaged to aid healing. Poppets can be made from roots, twigs, twine, and hair or carved from potatoes or fruit. They can be bits of cloth stuffed with herbs or molded of clay.
During the witch trials of the 17th century, owning a poppet was enough to get you hauled before the court on a charge of witchcraft. After the appropriate persuasion, some even confessed to using dolls to cast curses by sticking thorns into the doll or burning it. True or not probably didn’t matter at the time.
The common idea that poppets are somehow connect to Voodoo is not accurate. Ancient Greeks called them Kolossoi, and used them to protect a village by binding the deity and preventing harm from that source. Native Americans and other agricultural cultures fashioned dolls from corn during the harvest. The dolls were ritually burned and then buried in the field to ensure a good crop next year.
Many religions used poppets for various purposes. The popular conception of the poppet/ voodoo doll was invented in Hollywood. Like most things in that part of the country, the image bears little resemblance to reality.
Hang on for V-day during this A-Z Blog when Voodoo will be the topic.