Voodoo dolls are an often misunderstood tradition associated with the Voodoo religion and forms of Hoodoo magic. They are popularly portrayed as revenge items, used to cause pain to an enemy. Instead of stemming from the traditional Voodoo rituals as found in Haiti and nearby areas, the dolls originated in part from the New Orleans, Louisiana area in the early 20th century.
In fictional portrayals, a Voodoo doll is used to curse an enemy. According to popular fictional lore, wherever someone pokes the doll with a pin or needle, the focus object will feel pain or have an illness. For the most part, these portrayals are misconstrued or completely invented.
Many cultures use dolls as a focusing point for spells and blessings, but the use of revenge dolls did not come from Voodoo. Medieval European folk magic involved the use of poppets, effigies of specific people, that were used to place curses. Some Western African religious practices also used similar devices called nkisi. It's possible that the misconceptions about the origin of the dolls comes from the Haitian Voodoo practice of nailing puppets to trees in graveyards. Rather than being used as a curse, however, these dolls were meant to be messengers to the spirit world, to contact dead loved ones
The doll is not used in Voodoo practices in Haiti, but rather as part of the complicated melting pot of traditions in New Orleans and the Louisiana delta areas. The Louisiana Voodoo practices combine the spiritual elements of the Haitian religion with the magical beliefs of Southern United States hoodoo. In the first decades of the 20th century, Voodoo dolls are believed to have been used to cause sympathetic magic on the desired recipient, sometimes in painful ways. The use of pins was not meant to cause pain in a particular area of the real person, but rather to reinforce the spell being cast.
Modern dolls are still sold as focal points for spells, but usually with the intention of creating positive effects. Many have specific concentration points for wealth, love and financial success. To use the doll, a person must call upon the powers of the Loa, spiritual beings somewhat similar to saints in Catholic practices. Spells cast are meant to be spells of love or blessings, rather than revenge or pain.
Voodoo dolls are often sold as pranks or gag gifts and novelty items. Boyfriend/girlfriend dolls, boss dolls, and even Osama Bin Laden dolls are meant as harmless joke gifts rather than spell-casting items. Even virtual ones are available to enact revenge by computer. These items are meant to be amusing and often succeed, but they undeniably promote misconceptions about Voodoo practices that are offensive to some.
Traditional dolls are available for purchase from Louisiana-based websites and stores. Many of these claim to be blessed by local Voodoo priests, and are made from traditional materials. Some kits include instructions for correct blessings and rituals to enact good health, wealth, or success in ventures.
Thanks to popular portrayal by Hollywood, voodoo is perhaps one of the world’s most misunderstood religions. Most depictions of voodoo show a dark, mysterious religion that revolves around animal sacrifices, casting harmful spells, and using dolls to hurt others. That’s about as far from the truth as you can get, and the real stories behind voodoo are proof that you can’t believe everything you see on television.
There are three main types of voodoo, each drawing their sphere of influence from a different place. West African voodoo is still practiced by around 30 million people, particularly in nations like Ghana. Rituals and beliefs are extensive, and largely untouched by the outside influences that have shaped other types of voodoo.
Louisiana voodoo is a unique brand of voodoo practiced, as its name suggests, mainly in Louisiana and the southeastern United States. Though brought over from West African voodoo, this form as been heavily influenced by the practices of Spanish and French settlers, as well as the creole population. Haitian voodoo, practiced in Haiti, has been largely shaped by its French influence as well as Christianity.
Voodoo dolls are more complicated than they’re usually portrayed. A voodoo doll doesn’t actually symbolize a person in the respect that what happens to it, happens to the person. Instead, a doll is only associated with the person in question—usually by attaching a picture of the person, or something that was in intimate contact with them, such as a lock of hair (attaching this personification is actually the purpose of the voodoo straight pin usually seen in a voodoo doll, which is commonly believed to be an instrument of pain).
Other things are usually added to the doll, and these vary based on the intended purpose. Garlic, flower petals, perfumes, or even money can be added—not as a direct message to the person, but as an appeal to the spirits to open themselves to the doll and the wishes of those involved. The voodoo doll can be used for a huge variety of purposes, and most are benevolent. The voodoo doll in itself is not an evil or dark thing, but, like many religious and secular symbols, it can be made dark by the person who wields it.
You can have fun with our novelty voodoo dolls that come with pins. Our item number is JN112