Reality Meets Fiction: Voodoo Dolls

What do Barnes and Noble, Walmart, and Target have in common? They all sell Voodoo Dolls! And they’re not the only ones. You can buy Voodoo dolls and kits from hundreds of online vendors, and browsing through the many different types of online Voodoo dolls is quite entertaining. There’s the “Mini Office Voodoo Kit” that you can use to put a curse on your boss or co-workers; the “Happy Couple Voodoo Doll Kit” to cast love spells; the “Passion Masters Sex Voodoo Doll” to ‘attain massive, animal-like sex stamina’; and my favorite–the “Photo Revenge Voodoo Doll” where you send a photo of your ex, wait for the doll to arrive, then go to town sticking pins in the doll that has your ex’s face on it.

Those who use dolls in Voodoo-type rituals swear by them, but do they really work? Apparently so. In Connecticut, a Voodoo doll was used to cause the death of two people.

In 2008, John Brightman of New England Paranormal Research was contacted by a woman named Amanda in Westport who was experiencing paranormal activity in her home, such as objects moving on their own, and doors opening and slamming shut. In addition, a deceased family member was reportedly seen in the home.

During the investigation, Brightman learned that three people who had been living in the house had died several months earlier–Amanda’s mother, Esther, her brother, Roger, and her younger sister, Vivian. After the deaths, Amanda inherited the home. When she arrived to clean the house, she discovered a hand-made altar in Roger’s room. Four candles were on its surface, and in the center was a box about eight inches long and four inches wide. Inside was a stuffed doll, and tacked to it were three photographs. One was a photo of Amanda’s younger sister, and the other was of her mother. The third was of a man Amanda did not recognize. Small pins had been inserted into the doll in various positions, and it was charred in several places. The box also contained herbs, and small bottles containing oils and ointments.

Amanda told the investigator that Roger discovered that his sister Vivian had convinced their mother to cut him out of his inheritance. Apparently, he used the doll to put a curse on his mother and sister, and it worked. Esther died shortly after Roger found out about losing his inheritance, and two months later, his sister Vivian died of a ruptured spleen. But it seems that Roger’s scheme backfired because he died a few months later. So, in the end, three people died as the result of using the Voodoo doll.

In order to understand the use of dolls in ritual magic, it’s important to understand the concept of sympathetic magic whereby a magician believes that he can produce any desired physical effect merely by imitating it. In addition, there is the belief that whatever is done to a material object will also be done to the person that it was once in contact with. This is why dolls used in magic rituals are often constructed or decorated with hair, nail-clippings, or pieces of cloth once owned by a person.

The use of dolls in sympathetic magic goes back thousands of years. The melting or burning of ritualistic dolls was written about in great detail in some ancient Greek texts. In ancient Egypt, enemies of Ramses III used wax images of the Pharaoh in rituals to help bring about his death. Greek dolls, known as Kolossoi, were used for various ritual purposes, such as to restrain a ghost, to ward off an evil entity, or as a way to bind lovers together.

Voodoo dolls are the most familiar type of doll used in casting spells and curses, but there are actually a number of different types of dolls used in ritualistic magic and witchcraft. The oldest examples of dolls stuck with pins and used in ritual magic don’t come from Africa or the Carribean, they originated in Britain where during the middle ages, practitioners of magic called ‘cunning folk’–also known as wizards, wise men or women, or conjurers– would make cloth dolls made to resemble a person in the community who was thought to be a witch. The doll would be stuck with pins to do the witch harm, and to help break any magic spells she may have put on anyone. 

If you ever get a chance to visit England, be sure to visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, England. Among the museum’s many interesting artifacts is a curious figure–a small, crudely formed female clay doll stuck with four pins. This type of ritualistic doll is known as a poppet, and this particular one appears to be blackened in places as if it had been charred by fire.

Poppets are made to represent a person and they’re used to cast spells on that person for good or for evil, or to put a curse on the person. They can be made out of a number of different materials such as carved roots, corn husks, a piece of dried fruit, wax, clay, branches, or cloth. Dolls made out of cloth are often stuffed with herbs or other materials thought to have magical properties. Poppets that have a curse on them would be hidden in a home to make sure it is close to its intended victim.

Now let’s get one thing straight, Voodoo has very little to do with so-called Voodoo dolls. In fact, the name Voodoo isn’t even the actual name of the religion. Vodou (the proper spelling and pronounced VOO-dow or VOE-do) originated in the 17th century French colonial empire among enslaved West Africans. An 1685 law required all slaveholders to Christianize slaves within eight days of their arrival, and this was often Catholicism. Over time, the slaves combined elements of their religious beliefs with Roman Catholicism. Because they were forced to adopt Catholic rituals, slaves gave them double meanings and in the process, many of their African spirits became associated with Christian saints.

Vodou is a fascinating and complex religion, and although dolls are used in Vodou, they are usually used for good, or for protection against evil, similar to the use of religious statues in churches and homes. Dolls are used for a variety of purposes such as love, healing, guidance, fertility, and empowerment.

When West African slaves were brought to the United States, they retained their religious practices of using dolls. One type of doll that they made was called a fetish which was thought to be possessed by spirits connected to the doll’s owner. The fetish would be worn for good luck, or to access magical powers. Fetish dolls are also used to create a bond between the physical and spiritual worlds. They are also known by the names ‘juju’ and ‘grisgris’. The term ‘grisgris’ also refers to charm bags filled with magical powders, roots, herbs, bones, spices, stones, feathers, and so on. So, grisgris bags are actually a type of magic potion–a combination of ingredients designed to produce an intended outcome. The bags are usually worn by a person, but they are sometimes tied to fetish dolls as part of a spell.

Psychologists say that Voodoo dolls work only if you believe in them, and that there is a real psychological benefit to getting your frustrations out on another person by sticking pins in their effigy.  But as we’ve seen, you don’t have to believe in a curse to be affected by it. In fact, you don’t even have to be aware that you’ve been cursed for the curse to take its toll.

If you’re interested in experimenting with Voodoo dolls, I would advise you to keep the Wiccan “Rule of Three” in mind. The rule of three states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it for good or bad, will be returned to that person three-fold. So, using a doll to help heal or to bring joy and happiness to someone should bring you a handsome reward. But be warned–before you go sticking black pins in a doll made to resemble your worst enemy, keep in mind that, in the end, the person you’ll be hurting the most is yourself.


UPDATE: Due to lack of reader interest, Reality Meets Fiction will be ending in two months. That means, just two more stories will be published (October and November). If you’d like for the series of paranormal investigation stories to continue, please let us hear your voice in the comments.

“Reality Meets Fiction” is a series on non-fiction, real-life stories as experienced through personal accounts and investigations conducted by Barry Pirro, a paranormal investigator known as the Connecticut Ghost Hunter. Barry has over a decade of paranormal investigation experience and will share his stories every 4th Friday of the month. Don’t forget to catch his next article on September 24th. To learn more about the Ghost Hunter, visit http://www.connecticutghosthunter.com/.

READERS: Have you used voodoo dolls or have heard stories about them? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Better yet, write your non-fiction story and send it to us: darksiremag@gmail.com (subject: Voodoo Dolls). Your story may be picked to appear on our blog as a follow up to Barry’s.

WRITERS: Use Barry’s real-life story to inspire your creativity! Write a story using voodoo dolls and then submit it to us for publication consideration: https://www.darksiremag.com/submissions.html.

As always, thanks for supporting THE DARK SIRE! If you’re not following us, please do. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram under @DarkSireMag. And, of course, you can pick up a digital copy of our issues on the TDS website or paperback copies through AmazonThe Bibliophile Bookstore (Dover, Ohio), and now Poe’s New & Used Bookstore (New Berlin, Pennsylvania).

Until we meet again, take care!

Published by darksiremag

The Dark Sire is a quarterly literary magazine that specializes in printing short fiction, poetry, and art in the subgenres of Gothic, Horror, Fantasy, and Psychological Realism.

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