When people hear about voodoo dolls, the first association that comes to mind is a scary shaman that puts needles inside the body of the doll and causes horrible pain to the victim. Others consider it as black magic that is summoned to do harm to others. In reality, these perceptions are far from the truth.
Although there are some practitioners that work with dark spells and magic around the world, and they use dolls in their rituals which have quite some features in common with voodoo dolls used by Haitian voodoo priests. However, the original and primary use of voodoo dolls is precisely the opposite: getting rid of negative energy, search for love, invocation of good luck, improve wellbeing, healing serious diseases and so on.
In essence, voodoo dolls can be considered a form of gris-gris (the so-called charms that protect the owner from evil spirits and bring luck, often in the form of bags filled with dried herbs, stones and other objects). Amulets in the form of small, brightly colored dolls were hung above the wall, as it was believed that they held unwanted energies away from the home. Talismans in the form of a black cat (voodoo practitioners used the image of a cat quite often) were believed to bring good luck in sports and gambling (especially lottery and card games).
Often times voodoo dolls were passed by heritage and became family heirlooms. Naturally, these dolls kept all the energy of past generations inside of them. A lot of modern families keep voodoo dolls in their houses, that served the first immigrants from Africa in the beginning of the 18th century.
Fertility dolls were especially often passed by heritage, as they contribute to the continuation of the family. Dolls were used for protection against enemies and rivals.
It is accustomed to gift two voodoo dolls with needles inside of them in weddings in Louisiana. Before the dolls go to their newly wed owners, they go through the hands of all guests present at the wedding. Each guest sticks a specifically colored needle inside the doll. If the guest wishes long and strong love between the couple, he will stick a red needle in the heart area of the doll. Should a guest wish for many children, he will stick a needle in the groin area. A needle in the bride’s heel symbolizes the unbreakable marriage. The dolls then go to the possession of the couple. When coming home, the couple must place the dolls in the most visible location.
Differently colored needles, each with its own symbolic meanings, are used in rituals with voodoo dolls. As opposed to the doll’s clothes, the needles come in only seven main colors. Yellow symbolizes success, red is power, purple is spirituality, blue is love, green is wellbeing. White color brings positive energy, while black color gets rid of negative energy.
It is important to remember that with the creation of a voodoo doll comes personal responsibility. If you practice the arts of voodoo and learn how to create dolls – never use your knowledge and experience to cause harm to others.
About Mambo Ava Marie
Ava Marie has spent most of her younger days in Haiti, studying and understanding Vodou from the highest ranks. She has years of experience and has joined forces with us to write and share her insights.