THE RIGHT VOODOO DOLL
A. Pustanio, Photos by Karen beals
of Marie Laveau’s secret voodoo
sosyete are said to follow long-standing
traditions in choosing voodoo dolls for
their personal use.
These traditions, which have been handed
down orally and preserved among the most
devout followers of the original Voodoo
Queen of New Orleans, are looked upon
as a loose set of guidelines to follow
in choosing from among a variety of dolls
charged with a myriad of intents and purposes.
Many old-line New Orleans families pass
down heirloom voodoo dolls through succeeding
generations; but always the original purpose
or connection of the doll is preserved.
In one family, for instance, a voodoo
doll was created by the family matriarch
to keep her son’s philandering ways
in check once he had married a suitable
partner and was expected to act responsibly
both in public and private.
The doll in question is quite elegant,
recalling the young gentleman’s
high-brow upbringing, and even wears a
tuxedo tie and cumberbund. The construction
of the doll is entirely by hand and every
detail is noted, however, this is where
the finesse ends. Artifacts such as magnets,
an unbroken turkey wishbone, mustard seeds,
knotted twine, ribbons, and even little
stones in the doll’s pockets and
shoes (to keep the man it was made of
from straying) have been placed on the
doll over the years until the entire image
is nearly obscured. The people who made
it and the person for whom it was intended
are long dead, and yet, in the tradition
handed down by the followers of Marie
Laveau’s brand of New Orleans Voodoo,
daughters of succeeding generations (it
is always passed down through the female
line) have added to the talismans weighing
the little doll down and keeping it in
place. In this way, the doll takes on
new meaning to each generation and, more
than this, it comes to represent not just
the original man for whom it was made,
but all the other men who have married
into the family.
There are other dolls designed for particular
purposes that are kept as heirlooms and
still emote a strong power even after
so many years. Voodoo dolls created to
increase fertility, perhaps with trappings
of rabbit fur, crane feathers, seeds,
crystals or lodestones, are treasured
by old-line New Orleans families and it
is not uncommon for such dolls to be given
to women in the family who are hoping
to conceive. Another common doll, really
a pair of dolls, is given to the potential
sibling to keep: these voodoo dolls, cut
from the same cloth, often sewn or joined
at the hands or hips and adorned with
lucky items, are meant to attract a brother
or sister into the family. Examples of
these sibling dolls are rare and are seldom
found outside the New Orleans area.
Dolls representing enemies are also often
kept and handed down through families,
especially when there is some long-standing
enmity between two particular families.
In this case, it is not unusual to find
dolls that were made over a century ago,
when the real or imagined wrongs were
still fresh and new, still kept in secure
places by a new generation of the family.
These dolls are kept contained and are
often augmented with additional protective
and peacemaking talismans to assure that
old divisions and enmities do not break
out anew: a voodoo twist on keeping your
The common image of the voodoo doll, as
an object of revulsion and a work of anger
to be abused and, in some cases, destroyed,
is not entirely correct, as is obvious
from the few examples cited above. True
practitioners of vodou know that there
is more to voodoo dolls and hoodoo fetishes
than meets the eye, and that each doll
is unique, having a special place and
spirit all it’s own.
When choosing your own unique voodoo doll
be aware of the purpose you are hoping
this doll will fulfill when it comes to
take up residence in your home or workplace.
Voodoo dolls are highly personal objects
and thrive when they are given a personal
connection to their keeper as well as
his or her family and friends. So long
as the object of your doll is rooted in
positive, focused energy, it can enjoy
many years as a member of your family.
Dolls that are made and/or chosen for
darker purposes, however, should be kept
solitary and away from other family members
or friends and handled as little as possible.
By following these simple guidelines,
your voodoo doll will continue to delight
and serve you for years to come!
To accomplish the placing a curse or a
spell upon an individual, many magic traditions
utilize a wax or cloth image to represent
a hated enemy or a desired loved one.
To properly effect such a spell or curse,
it is generally required to obtain some
personal bit of the object of one's intentions,
i.e., nail parings, hair, excrement, saliva;
and mix this in with soft wax or sew it
in the cloth. Once this has been accomplished,
the wax or pieces of cloth may be shaped
into the form of either a male or female
In the popular mind the so-called voodoo
doll is the most well-known of such effigies,
and many tourists have brought such souvenirs
home from their visits to New Orleans
or Haiti where Voudun (Voodoo) is practiced
as a religion. Over the years, the portrayal
of a voudun priest or priestess sticking
pins into a doll that represents someone
who has incurred their wrath has become
so common that such effigies or puppets
are known collectively as voodoo dolls.
Actually, such figures have no role in
the religion of voodoo, and the practice
of sticking pins in dolls or poppets (puppets)
is a custom of Western European witches,
rather than the Haitian or Caribbean practitioners
of voudun. Perhaps the misunderstanding
arose when outsiders who witnessed
One method of effigy cursing calls for
the magician to fashion a wax or cloth
skeleton and to inscribe the name of the
intended victim on its back. The image
is then pierced with a thorn or a sharpened
twig in the area corresponding to the
victim's body part that the sorcerer desires
to inflict with pain. Once pierced, the
skeleton is wrapped in a shroud and prayed
over as if it were a deceased person.
When the death-rites have been accomplished,
the effigy must be buried in a spot over
which the intended victim is certain to
Waxen and cloth images may also be used
to bring about unions of love, as well
as terrible deeds of hatred and revenge.
In order to weave a love spell with wax
effigies, the magician fashions two hearts
of wax, baptizes them with the lovers'
names, and then joins the hearts together
with three pins. The images are then given
to the one who desires such a union so
that she or he might press the wax hearts
to her or his own heart.
When magicians are convinced that they
themselves have been cursed, they might
form an image, or puppet, to represent
the one who has cast the malign spell.
Once the magicians have fashioned such
a puppet, they bury the box containing
the puppet under a thin layer of soil.
Over the soil, they light a bonfire and
chant their wish that the curse set against
them will be consumed along with the flames
that burn the puppet representing the
one who cursed them.
VOODOO DOLL LOVE
The expression "tying the knot"
when one speaks of the marriage vows seems
to have almost universal meaning. New
Orleansians tell of similar " Voodoo
doll knot-tying" love spells . Somehow
it seems the most natural kind of symbolism
to visualize the binding of one's self
to the object of one's love while the
fingers weave the knots and the lips chant
a soulful litany. Here is how the New
Orleans Voodoo knot doll love spel was
The Vodousi in The socyete of Marie Laveau
alone would take a length of cord or ribbon
that would sustain seven knots strung
out at a distance of about an inch from
one another. According to the Marie Laveau
ritual, the first knot was to be tied
in the middle of the cord with the admonition
that the two lovers remain bound to each
other from that moment and that their
love was in the circle that bound them.
At about the distance of one inch, the
hoodoo conjurer formed the second knot
to the right of the first, telling the
lovers that their love would endure with
the strength of steel. The third knot
was tied to the left of the first knot
and the lovers were told that they would
not be able to break away from one another,
even though from time to time their passion
might waver. The fourth knot was placed
to the right with the message that all
good spirits and the Holy Light would
always keep the image of the other in
the lovers' mind. The fifth knot was done
to the left, assuring fidelity throughout
their lifetimes. The sixth knot was bound
on the right, binding the exclusivity
of their affections, one to the other.
The last knot, the seventh, was secured
to the left and the officiator declared
that the two should stand always within
the circle of their love and happiness,
unable to be separated by any power of
The incantation completed, the maker
of the ritual would then bind the two
ends of the cord together and wear it
in the manner of a binding around the
doll or dolls never to be untied. The
"knot-love-DOLL" was to be placed
under ones bed for seven nights. Upon
the seventh day, the charm was either
to be burned in offering to good spirits
or to be hidden in a secret place never
to be touched or found.
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