I absolutely love incorporating my crafty side into my witchcraft or devotional practice. I’m always finding ways to make a spell into a work of art. One fun and crafty way to do so is to use poppets and spirit dolls. I recently got Silver RavenWolf’s Poppet Magick, and though I have had the book less than three months, it’s already loaded with sticky notes, highlighter marks, and the spine is well-creased- the way books should be. The magical animals are great for little ones – the first thing I made was an animal to keep in my son’s backpack to protect him at school. The next doll I made was for myself, and while I cannot reveal what it is without giving away the intention, I will say it has been a highly treasured addition to the décor in my bedroom. Today I will take you for a little adventure, from an island in South America to the comfort of your home, to learn about poppets and have a stitching good time!
Isla de las Munecas
I first delved into poppet magick after watching Destination Truth with Josh Gates. I was at my mother’s house, and she put on the episode where Josh Gates and his team travel to Isla de las Munecas, the Isle of Dolls. A long time ago, a little girl drowned in the canal that flows through the island, and the caretaker was terrified of her ghost. To appease her, he started leaving dolls as offerings. The legend is that the dolls are haunted, and the little girl will lash out if she is not pleased with the doll you offer her. The first caretaker drowned, in the same place the little girl did, so his nephew, the new caretaker, told the team they had to provide an offering lest they want to meet the same demise as his uncle. Josh Gates and his team went to a market on the mainland before travelling to their destination for the night and purchased a doll, candles, and other trinkets recommended by the locals. They performed the ritual as the locals instructed, hanging the doll, lighting the candle, and asking the little girl if they can visit the island and leave safely. It was a spooky episode – at one point a doll opened its eyes, and I’m pretty sure Josh Gates peed his pants because he was standing about a foot away from it. My mother and I rewound and replayed the scene a dozen times, and I scoured the Internet trying to find out if this was a hoax, and it seems that the doll really did open its eyes on its own accord.
Who uses dolls?
Despite being creepy, the idea of using dolls got me thinking about poppets. I knew very little about the practice, as I assumed it was something unique to Vodou. I got Ravenwolf’s Poppet Magick and found out I was very wrong.1
Poppets- effigies- dolls- idols…the practice of using doll magick has weathered the rise and fall of politics and religion, surfing the waves from culture to culture, travelling with the ebb and flow of humanity across the globe.
RavenWolf certainly has a way of painting with words! Anyways, her introductory sentence eloquently tells us that doll magick is not unique to any one culture but has been found in cultures all over the world for centuries. They have been made from a variety of materials: Wax, clay, cloth, animal fat, bread dough – if it’s malleable, then it’s likely to have been used to make a magick doll.
Poppets fall under the category of sympathetic magic. According to Patti Wigington’s article “What is Sympathetic Magic?”, Sir James Frazer (the author of The Golden Bough and the man who defined the laws of magick we follow to this day), sympathetic magic can be simplified as “like produces like”. When you use herbs that correspond to an intention, you are using sympathetic magic. With poppets, you will use herbs and crystals, colours, and even numerology if you wish. The idea is to use things that correspond to your intent.
A poppet or spirit doll is, as RavenWolf puts it “…the bond (the marriage) of the mental and physical.”((pg. 15)) As long as your intention is clear and you have established a strong connection with the network of creation – the force that flows through all life – then your doll will work. Dolls can be made for all sorts of intentions, such as:
- Prosperity/ Wealth
- Good Luck
- Sweet dreams
- Prophetic dreams
When you make a poppet or spirit doll, you are surfing the network of energy creation: every doll becomes a memory of a moment in time that blends your materials, your emotions, your intent, and your will into the desired result. Every doll, then, is completely individual and unique.
Here is a basic outline of steps you can take to make a doll:
- Set the intention.
- Consider magical timing.
- Gather materials
- Determine if the doll will be permanent or temporary.
- Consider the method of deconstruction if the doll will be temporary. If you plan to bury the doll, then be sure to use biodegradable materials that will not harm any animals should they dig up the doll.
- Decide on the shape of the doll. You could purchase Poppet Magick, which has a number of templates, or you can check out Witch on a Budget for templates
- Gather ingredients corresponding to your intent.
- If you wish, perform a cleansing ritual to clear the energy and charge the materials and ingredients with your intent.
- Assemble the doll.
- Add embellishments – just because this is a spell does not mean it cannot be pretty!
- If you wish, perform a type of birthing ceremony. I will wrap a newly made doll in black cloth, and put it in a wooden box for three days, mimicking the human gestation period. Then I have a birthing ritual, where I remove the doll from the ‘womb’, bless it, and then name it and tell it the intention. I will then put the doll somewhere safe, or if it’s a gift, give it to the person with instructions for keeping the doll.
Stitch it closed
Making dolls is a fun, versatile way of doing magick. I love making dolls for devotional purposes, fashioning the doll in the likeness of a deity, filling it with herbs and crystals the deity is partial to, and offering the doll as a token of my appreciation and respect. Since my son is too young to wear or keep a charm, making a doll is the perfect alternative to keep him safe, keep bad dreams at bay, and help him sleep peacefully. The process of making the doll is quite therapeutic, for me anyway, and so I will often opt for doll magick when I need an anti-anxiety charm. Doll magick is what you make it, literally. Happy stitching!
Image credit: Amanda Wilson
- Silver Ravenwolf, Poppet Magick. Llewellyn Publications. p.5 [↩]