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Voodoo doll

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A humanoid figurine with pins stuck into it: this was one method by which cunning folk battled witches using magical means. Artifact at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, England

The term Voodoo doll commonly refers to an effigy that is typically used for the insertion of pins.[1] Such practices are found in various forms in the magical traditions of many cultures around the world.[1]

Despite its name, the dolls are not prominent in Haitian Vodou and not used in Louisiana Voodoo.[1][2]

The practice has been denounced and declared irrelevant to Voodoo religion by those in High Priesthood of Louisiana Voodoo.[3]

Depictions in culture[edit]

20th-century link with Voodoo[edit]

Contemporary voodoo doll, with 58 pins

The link between this magical practice and Voodoo was established through the presentation of the latter in Western popular culture, enduring the first half of the 20th century.[1] In this, the myth of this magical practice being closely linked to Voodoo and Vodou was promoted as part of the wider negative depictions of blacks and Afro-Caribbean religious practices in the United States.[4] In John Houston Craige's 1933 book Black Bagdad: The Arabian Nights Adventures of a Marine Captain in Haiti, he described a Haitian prisoner sticking pins into an effigy to induce illness.[1] Its use also appeared in film representations of Haitian Vodou such as Victor Halperin's 1932 White Zombie and Jacques Tourneur’s 1943 I Walked with a Zombie.[1] Voodoo dolls are also featured in one episode of The Woody Woodpecker Show (1961),[5] as well as in the British musical Lisztomania (1975) and the films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998).

By the early 21st century, the image of the voodoo doll had become particularly pervasive.[1] It had become a novelty item available for purchase, with examples being provided in vending machines in British shopping centres,[1] and an article on "How to Make a Voodoo Doll" being included on WikiHow.[6][1] Voodoo dolls were also featured in the 2009 animated Disney movie The Princess and the Frog,[1] as well as the 2011 live-action Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

In 2020, Louisiana Voodoo High Priest Robi Gilmore stated, "It blows my mind that people still believe [Voodoo dolls are relevant to Voodoo religion]. Hollywood really did us a number. We do not stab pins in dolls to hurt people; we don't take your hair and make a doll, and worship the devil with it, and ask the devil to give us black magic to get our revenge on you. It is not done, it won't be done, and it never will exist for us."[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Armitage 2015, p. 85.
  2. ^ QI: Quite Interesting, Series D, Episode 10: Divination, BBC, BBC Two
  3. ^ a b New Orleans Voodoo (A Virtual Tour), retrieved 2022-10-06
  4. ^ Armitage 2015, p. 86.
  5. ^ Hannah, Jack (1961-08-14), Voo-Doo Boo-Boo (Animation, Family, Short), Walter Lantz Productions, retrieved 2022-04-22
  6. ^ "How to Make a Voodoo Doll".


  • Armitage, Natalie (2015). "European and African Figural Ritual Magic: The Beginnings of the Voodoo Doll Myth". In Ceri Houlbrook; Natalie Armitage (eds.). The Materiality of Magic: An Artifactual Investigation into Ritual Practices and Popular Beliefs. Oxford: Oxbow. pp. 85–101.
  • Faraone, Christopher A. (1991). "Binding and Burying the Forces of Evil: The Defensive Use of "Voodoo Dolls" in Ancient Greece". Classical Antiquity. 10 (2): 165–202. doi:10.2307/25010949. JSTOR 25010949.