Doll babies and Poppets 

Tapestry doll for love and healing of relationships

       This is by far my favorite type of work in Hoodoo. Dollies are made to represent a person, yourself or another, for many reasons. These fetishes are used to cross someone up, heal a person, get em gone, etc.
They can also be used to store things like worry and dreams. Back in high school, to my surprise, we made a stick-worry doll in English class. Utilizing tooth picks, string, and a large bead for the head, they were they god darn cutest, little things.

Dolls have been paramount in witchcraft for centuries, maybe even millennia. Worked in all the corners of the earth, these dolls were used for more than play. The belief behind them is “like affects like,” basically this doll looks like Bobby, has his real hair and finger nails, so there’s a strong connection for me to affect him in some manner. Stretching from the poppets in European witchcraft to the dolls made by the Kongo tribes in Africa, there’s allot of lore, stories with no start, and plenty of fear surrounding these dolls; as well as dolls in general.

One rule that seems to be universal is that, for the most effective work, the doll needs to look like the target, as similar as you can get it. This will help further the “like affects like theory”, and will have a better impact.

Dolls seem to take on a life of sorts, whether they are being used in work or for play by a child. The attention given to it by human consciousness seems to gather, and you know, give it that creepy feeling you get at night when your trying to sleep but there’s eyes on you. Toy or witchcraft, there’s always the question, “did I sit it in that position?”. There’s been many instances when a doll seems to move. We’ll touch on that later.

While there are many ways to make dolls, there’s a few that seem to work well than others. In this post, we will talk about the many types of dolls used in the Appalachias (Appa-LA-chus) and on the ones borrowed for our Hoodoo cousins further south. I will also give a few practical recipes for working dolls for love, health, protection and crossing.

The first thing you need to do, is get it right inside your skull that doll babies can be dangerous. For example, you always, always, ALWAYS need a direct link to the target. Either their hair, nail clippings, etc. This gives the focal point for who exactly the doll is for. A name paper will work should you not have this, but here’s where the potential danger come in.

Say I’m working on a co-worker who just can’t seem to get some sense and quit gossiping. Now it’s hard to get any personal concerns from co-workers (harassment laws and whatnot), so I decide to use a name paper instead to link the doll to them. Everything is going well, I’m focused, I’m centered on the work being done on her.

Then my husband comes in and we get into a fight (again this is just an example, don’t message me relationship advice), so then I’m pissed at him. I go back to working on the doll, mad as hell at him. You should see two big problems appearing here.           #1: Never, EVER do work while you are mad, unless your anger is for the person you’re working on. #2: this energy is now seeping into the doll I am making. While there’s another persons name in there, my energy overpowers the little piece of paper.

This is why you should always try your best to have a strong link to the target when doing doll work. Because now I have a doll for Bob which will actually affect my husband. Believe me, it’s a mess to clean up.  So always do you work focused fully on the target, of something like that happens, wait until your no longer upset. Wait until you can put your full attention to the job being done. Do this especially when you have no means to get any personal concerns from the intended person.

Found through Google


Naming the doll
 varies from region to region. European witchcraft sometimes calls for elaborate rituals to name and awaken the poppet. New Orleans Hoodoo and Voodou varies from elaborate to simple yet powerful.  In the Appalachias and Ozarks, the process is usually a command for the doll to awaken to life, with a knod to the Maker Upstairs. Sometimes we throw in a baptism or three. What can I say? We’re the biggest notch of baptists’ in the Bible Belt. I’m not. But most are.

In these hills, we have a process most go by when bringing a doll to life. First, you name and baptize the doll. Say a prayer to the Creator and sprinkle the doll with holy water of some sort. Next you will name the doll. If the doll is you, you will give it a secret name that no one must know, and that is what you will address in as when not in the company of others. Afterwards, over the doll for 9 days in a secret spot where it won’t be disturbed. This is its “germinatin’ period”.  Feed the doll baby afterwards with a small offering of food, water and a candle. Then introduce it to family and friends (not by its secret name of course). If the person is you, introduce it as you. If it’s another person, introduce it as a nickname of sorts. Instead of “meet Charles”, use “meet Charlie”. Talk with the doll as normal, telling it to bring you something or the job to be done.

While working with the doll there’s some things you need to know so you don’t get frightened, should the doll be made correctly. This especially happens when the doll is of yourself. So do not be too frightened when the dolls seems to talk back, smile, tilt its head, or twitches its arms and legs a bit. Some have reported they can also “go to bed when you do.”

Now, this part goes for all dolls, of others and yourself. Never, ever lose the doll or let it get stolen; and definitely do not leave it around those you don’t trust. Should you lose the doll, or the doll get stolen. There’s some old remedies for this. Not well know today, but a couple of my elders have sworn by it. This is also one of the reasons you never abandon the doll for long periods of time, because this make you more susceptible to lose it.

In the event that any of the above happens, you need to disassociate yourself as much as you can from the doll (should it be in your image). This includes cutting our hair or shaving your head, shaving all body hair, cutting your nails, changing perfumes or cologne for a while, rinsing your mouth with moonshine or whiskey, and adopting a nickname for a while. Anything you can think of to separate your connection to the doll. Just wanted to put that here, first and foremost. Now let’s move onto working the doll.

Should the doll be of someone else, with a specific intention, they will need to do the same. If they are unaware of the doll, pray your ass of that its okay. Unless of course the intent is for it to not be okay. This is the reason I never make and send a client a doll that is someone other than themselves.

Kitchen doll to keep food from burning, pots from boiling over, and to help cakes and bread rise properly. By Haley Sindel

There are many ways to work a doll. You can bind them with yarn to tie a person down, nail to a tree for much darker works, you can show the doll love for love work, the list goes on and on. There’s no set way of working the doll. Some people use pins and needles to “focus energy”, but that’s not done in the mountains unless you’re causing ruckus for a persons life. Sometimes when we’re really on budget we’ll use old nails or thorns (hawthorn and locust are the best; about 2-3in long and they hurt like hell).

I have found my own way of working a doll. If for love work, I’ll place the items in the heart area while crafting it and dress it with flowers and perfume/cologne.

For commanding work, I put my receipt (petition) into the head, wrapped in patchouli root. This kind of makes the “brain” of the doll, with the thought (petition) inside it. For those works I’ll squeeze the head while tellin em what to do. Even squeeze the hell out of it when they’re being stubborn. With healing dolls, I make a bed from the left over materials and care for the doll. You get the picture. Now let’s talk about the many times of dolls that are utilized, not only in these hills, but everywhere in American folk magic.

Yarn Dollies by Caiza Delashadeo

We’ll start with the different types of dollies worked within the Appalachian Mountains.

The first, and simplest, is the stick doll. For this you’ll need two sticks of either oak (power), willow (love and healing), or walnut (crossing). Make a cross with the stick, creating a notch in the middle of each before hand so they fit like a puzzle piece.

Next you will need to make the head. This can be made of fabric and stuffed with your herbs and moss, it can be sculpted from clay or mud, or made from a dried apple. Google instructions on drying an apple head if that is your choice. Mama Starr gives some good instructions in her book Working the Root. Depending on the size you plan for your doll baby, you can even use a large bead as the head.

Next you will need to make the body. This can be done many ways, depending on the workers preferences. You can wrap the stick frame with yarn or twine, glue moss or cotton to the stick which will then be covered with clothes matching closely to the fashion of the target. If you chose to go with yarn to make the body, you can wrap the personal concerns in with the yarn as you go. If you decide on putting padding on the frame and dressing the doll, you can mix the personal link in with the padding, by either gluing it directly or making a small pouch for it and then glueing the pouch in as well.

For doll baby clothes, we hill folk like to keep them clean from dirt and grime once the doll is made. There’s not enough room here to give instructions on making clothes for the dolls so just Google and or find someYouTube videos. Once you have the clothes for the doll, soak it in sugar water and dress the doll while it’s still wet. The sugar water makes the clothing stiff, so position your clothing while it’s still wet and leave it to dry and harden.

Apple head doll found on Pinterest. Artist Unknown.

This next one will be the last for this post, as it is getting extensive. Plus I like the suspense 😉. The next simple way to make a doll, is a rag doll. Up in the mountains, these were made with old fabric they had on hand. I still do it this way from fabric scrapes if I have them. This is the most common doll, made simply from two fabric cuttings shaped like a person and sewn together with an opening left for the stuffing and ingredients.

Clothes can also be added and sewn into these dolls. If the personal concerns you have of the target is hair, you can sew this into the head. If it’s fingernail clippings sew the ones you have onto the hands, assuming your doll baby has fingers. If not just sew them on in the like-placement of fingers. If the intention is love, place the items and personal concerns in the heart area. If your tryin to get a pesky bastard to leave you be, put the concerns in the feet with some hotfoot powder or hot peppers.

Also found on Pinterest. Artist unknown

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Author: Jake Richards

Jake (Dr. Henny) follows family practice as a Yarb Doctor and Conjure man in the Appalachian Folk Magic tradition. He follows the legacy of his mother (a seventh daughter), that left behind by his grandfather, a baptist preacher who was a blood stopper, wort doctor, and thrush doctor; his grandmother, who was a knowledgeable woman in these works before Alzheimer’s set in; his great, great grandfather who witched for water in Washington County and his great grandmother who taught and worked from her roost at the foot of Devil’s Nest Mountain. Jake is the author of Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure & Folk Magic from Appalachia, available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. When he's not writing, blogging, reading the bones or trying for clients: he is either traveling, gardening, sewing, book binding, reading, or sculpting. For questions, readings, recommendations for future posts, interviews and the like, you are welcome to email him below: Littlechicagoconjure@yahoo.com

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