Poppets – What Are They?

Poppets, a magical doll used to represent a particular person during spell work and ritual magic. These dolls have been much maligned and misunderstood over recent decades mainly due to the media of film and TV portraying the popular image of a doll stuck full of pins in an effort to maim or curse.. Whilst it is certainly true that what has the power to heal has the power to curse, the poppet doll is a wonderful tool to engage the positive side of magic.

Poppets have been used throughout the ages for all kids of purposes and have firm links to Voodoo, although they are popular to many cultures. They can be made from all sorts of materials, clay, wax, mud, and cloth, in fact anything that can be moulded to represent a person and these dolls have been used for both malignant purposes as well as benevolent. It is a magical doll that has been made for a magical or a ritual purpose. The doll is made to represent and therefore substitute the person for whom the doll has been made. The making of the doll itself is most important and will usually take much concentration and focus of intent. Ideally the doll will have items belonging to the person it is intended for and these would be worked into its making, for example, it could be made from material belonging to a garment that has been worn by the person, hair and nail clippings can be used, even bodily fluids such as blood, semen, saliva, have all been used throughout the ages. The important thing is to link the poppet to the intended person as thoroughly as possible. Once the doll has been created to the makers satisfaction life is “breathed” into the doll by blowing the breath into the poppets “mouth”, this is traditionally done by blowing through a drinking straw. The poppet is then “named” and is from then on considered to be the person it was designed for. The poppet is then looked after with great care until the spell is done and then destroyed completely, destroying the link between it and its human counterpart.

These magical dolls are a wonderful example of Sympathetic Magic which is one of the oldest and most commonly performed magical arts, particularly in modern day Witchcraft. Sympathetic Magic works on two principles or “laws”, these being the Law of Similarity and the Law of Contact and the poppet illustrates these beautifully. The Law of Similarity states that like produces like, which means that the Witch or Magician can produce a desired effect simply by imitating that effect, so a poppet is made to represent and therefore substitute a particular person. The Law on Contact states that whatever is done to an object will equally affect the person to whom the object once belonged or has had contact with. We use this principal in poppet magic by obtaining something that either belonged to or came from the person for whom the doll is intended as outlined in the paragraph above.

Finally it is the magical intent that “feeds” the spell being created, this forms the link within the ether between the poppet and the intended recipient and is created by the will of the practitioner. In the end it is the intent, will and magical ability of the practitioner that brings it all together and finalises the outcome.

Poppets are a very versatile form of spell craft and can be used with great success in all areas of magic, the most common being in healing, love magic, protection, banishing, prosperity and of course hexing and cursing. Another use of the poppet, however, is in Ritual where the dolls are used to represent aspects of the God and Goddess and can also be used to tap into certain energies. A good example of this would be the Bridie Doll, traditionally used at Imbolc (Feb.1st) to honour the Goddess in her maiden form, to welcome in the spring and to celebrate the fertility of the land. Another form of poppet that many of us have made as children is the corn dolly, made to represent the Goddess in all her abundance or made to represent the Sacrificed God, or John Barleycorn the spirit of the corn itself.

The Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle in Cornwall has an excellent collection of Poppets from all across the country representing both the benign and malignant use of these magical dolls. The display shows that this was a popular form of magic used throughout the ages by people from all walks of life and for many diverse reasons. The Museum is well worth a visit for this collection alone.

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