When I was in the 4th grade, a boy challenged me to a drawing contest. I spent a week working on the drawing, referencing anatomy books, having my family pose for me, tirelessly making this the best drawing I or any 4th grader had ever imagined. Well, the day finally came for our classmates to judge the drawings. My competitor revealed his drawing first, which turned out to be a photocopied picture of a horse colored in with highlighters.
It was tragic and as I smugly removed my masterpiece from my purple Jansport, I knew I would win. I displayed it to my classmates with a flourish. Once again my complete lack of humility bit me in the ass.
The boy accused me of cheating! He said someone else must have drawn it for me. Aghast, I insisted I didn’t have help, and so he accused me of tracing it. Everyone agreed and declared him the winner because, even though his “drawing” was terrible, at least it was his own work.
That night, enraged, I made my first voodoo doll.
I’d seen these little dolls in movies before, specifically the Witches of Eastwick, and I used that as my blueprint. My amused mother, ever supportive, let me use a bar of soap to fashion the doll and I drew a face on it with a marker. I had no idea what I was doing, had no plan beyond making it, and in the end, I was so scared the doll would actually work, I solemnly handed it over to my mom, who put it back in the soap dish in the guest bathroom where it couldn’t hurt anyone.
Though my introduction to poppets was clumsy at best, it was only the beginning of a lifelong interest in this fascinating form of magic.
Poppet And Taglock It
A poppet is simply a figurine representing a person or animal. They are typically made from fabric cut into a humanoid form and stuffed with herbs, stones, powders, etc. Taglocks — something connected to the being you’re representing, anything from fingernails to just a photograph — are then added to form a link and voila, your poppet is complete.
If you only went by the movies, you’d believe poppets are for harming another and nothing else. Not the case at all! They can be used for health, protection, love, luck, wealth — anything. You’d also have no idea that the use of dolls to magically represent someone else goes back as far as ancient Egypt and even Greece. Witchcraft cultures all over the world have incorporated dolls into their magic as a way to represent another and either control or make things happen to that individual. And though they are often depicted as fabric dolls or wax figurines, you can make a poppet out of almost anything, fill it with anything, and make it work in many ways.
Uses For A Poppet
Because poppets represent another being, anything you’d like to happen to that person or animal can be done to the poppet instead. Protection, for example. If you know someone making bad decisions, taking a trip, or you’re just a worrier like me, you know that it’s impossible to physically keep that person safe at all times. However, you can make a poppet for that person and encircle it with protective magic. If you want someone out of your life, you can’t push them on a bus to nowhere, but you can make a poppet that represents them and send it down the river. You can create a poppet of the one you love and bind it to you, or make a poppet representing your pet and take it with you when you go out to still feel close. And yes, if someone has wronged you, you can use the poppet as a way to seek revenge. One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is make poppets representing my family and dedicate them to luck and success for the coming year. Truly, you are without limitations and if you’re a crafty witch in general, poppets are a great way to use your imagination.
So You’ve Decided To Make A Poppet
A poppet, like most things in magic, requires specific ingredients for specific intent. Choosing the material with which to make the doll is as important as choosing which tools to use in any other spell, so before beginning make sure all the pieces are working together. If you’re making a poppet for your dog, break up one of his old toys and use that as the base of your poppet and some of his hair for the taglock. If you’re making one for your mother, you could melt down one of her candles, add some herbs to the wax and maybe a strand of her hair, then form the doll out of that. The intent of the doll is to represent someone specific, so not only should you choose elements that correspond with what you want the doll to accomplish, but you should pick things that will make the doll represent the person as best as possible.
Poppets can be made out of food, roots, clay, soap, wax, wood, old clothes, curtains, bedding, mud, paper, etc. Because I like magic where there’s a transmutation, I’ve taken to making poppets out of bread or other dough so that they can bake and “come to life” using elemental change — in this case, heat. These poppets don’t keep, obviously, but I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to watch the birds peck away at a poppet representing a foe. As long as you don’t put anything toxic in the poppets, they can be buried, thrown into water, or left outside to simply rot away. If you want something more lasting, like a health poppet for a loved one, making them out of more stable material is a must. Poppets are a form of sympathetic magic, which means there is a connection between two things, and therefore if you want something to happen, you simply have to create another version of it or imitate it. When something happens to the object you’ve made, it happens to the being it’s connected to. The poppet is an imitation of the person it represents and is connected to the person via the taglock. Therefore it’s best to make this imitation as perfectly as you can to strengthen the connection. They say the more time you spend on the poppet, the more effective it is, so the creation of poppets should be carefully thought out and every step should be symbolic.
Taglocks: The Secret To Success
Here’s an awkward conversation for you: “Hi, can I borrow some fingernails for a voodoo doll I’m making for you? No? What about some bodily fluid?”
The most effective taglocks are said to be things like hair, blood, fingernails, and other pieces from the target’s body. However, and this is especially true if the target is an enemy, these are not items easily attained. Thankfully, there are alternatives when snagging body parts isn’t an option.
Clothing or personal belongings: Slightly more convenient than obtaining a body part, but still not simple. If your poppet is for a loved one, this will make things easier, but if your target is an enemy some cunning may be necessary.
Photograph: This taglock will work very well for your poppet and is far less intrusive.
Name: Simply write the person’s name on a piece of paper and add it to your poppet. I like to add a date of birth as well if possible as a further connection to the target.
Assigning: The other day I witnessed a domestic abuse situation at my neighbor’s house. Three young girls ran into the rain in the middle of the night screaming for help and shouting that their father had strangled their mother. They were quickly swooped up by another of my neighbors, and the police were called. I was furious and wanted to help them in some way, so I decided to make a poppet for their father. Problem was, I didn’t know his name, I couldn’t take a photo, and there was no way I could get any of his hair (though yanking it out by the roots seemed like a great idea). I could possibly have taken some dirt from his front yard, but I wouldn’t want to be caught. So, how could I make a poppet? Simple, I just told the poppet who it was. I waited for the father to drive by and I held out the poppet and showed it who it was, where it lived, what kind of car it drove, and I worked very hard on making the poppet resemble this man as closely as possible. I then bound its hands and held its head in the toilet for a spell. I’m not sure how reliable this method is, but in a pinch and with enough force behind it, it’s worth a shot.
Poppets have an undeserved negative reputation, but like all magic, they’re only as malicious as the intent behind them. They can be used to bring joy, wealth, protection and love just as readily — it all depends on the witch. If you’re new to poppets, give it a try. If you don’t have a target in mind, just make one for yourself and shower it in affection. However you choose to use these powerful little dolls, adding them to your craft makes you part of the rich tradition of witches all over the world who have used poppets and figurines for thousands of years.