Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Things That Go Bump in the Night–Voodoo Dolls

A busy time here at Sorchia’s Universe. I’ve missed a couple of letters but plan to finish strong–with a BIG announcement coming soon.

Here’s the thing about Voodoo dolls–they are not really Voodoo after all. Many religions use dolls or human figures in rituals–including Voodoo. The association, however, is mostly pure Hollywood.


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.

Sticking pins in a doll or otherwise torturing it to curse or inflict a specific person actually has its roots with the Celts –and way before that.

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 are fashioned in the image of a person. The idea is that according to sympathetic magic, what happens to the doll will happen to the person the doll represents.

  • 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 of molded 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.voodoo doll joke

Now–none of this precludes the idyllic scene of a Voodoo priestess gouging a sharp pin into a doll while somewhere nearby the victim writhes in pain. All that can happen because Voodoo, like any good religion, uses that sympathetic magic all the time. But it doesn’t take a Voodoo priestess to use a voodoo doll to gouge out your liver.


Tomorrow–W is for Witch

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