Herbs and Poppet Magick

Herbs and Poppet Magick
Poppet, or Doll magick, has been practiced by many different Pagan spiritual systems and folk magick traditions. Many people tend to think of Voodoo as a system that uses this type of magick extensively, but this is something that is a 20th Century invention. It has its roots in Western popular culture in the form of books, and films from the 1950's such as "I walked with a Zombie". Talking with a Witch friend of mine we thought that the belief may have arisen from the West African indigenous practice of N'kondi. Which is driving iron nails into a wooden Fetish, an inanimate object that an Elemental or thoughtform has been bound to, in order to seal an oath or program the occupying entity to protect items or seek out thieves and wrongdoers. Since many of these Fetishes are carved into a human-like form someone unfamiliar with the practice might well think a curse of some sort is being cast if they see this being done. Especially if they see someone driving a nail into what looks like a human figure whilst in a ritual setting, as many N'kondi empowerments are.

Even the film "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" featured a "Voodoo Doll" as part of the plot. This is a bit more accurate as the traditions of the Indian Subcontinent, particularly the areas of Odisha on the East coast, the neighbouring inland province of Chattisgarh, and West Bengal to the north, do have a tradition of doll magick. During the time I lived in Mexico City I knew of a practitioner of this style of magick in their shop at the "Witches Supermarket"(Mercardo Sonora). The materials they sold to make these dolls, and the nature of the spellcraft commissions they undertook for clients suggested that they were used primarily for negative purposes. Although not as dramatically as in the film!

However, the main area for the use of poppet magic is in Europe, especially the UK where they were used to encourage both positive and negative outcomes. There is evidence that the Celts used dolls in rituals, particularly in working with the Divine, or the energies of nature. Two of the main poppet-related rituals that have survived to modern times are the making of the "Corn Dolly" out of the last sheaf of wheat cut during the harvest, and the making of a Brighid's Cross at Imbolg. In the case of the corn dolly the spirit of the corn was believed to over-winter in the Dolly, which was then ploughed back into the ground in the first furrow when preparing the ground for planting began in February.

February was also the month that the Brighid's Cross was made from rushes, reeds, or corn* depending on the area in which it was made. Brighid was a Solar Goddess popular amongst the Celtic tribes, who were spread over most of Europe. She had dominion over farming, blacksmithing, healing, poetry, and fertility, and was a very popular Goddess. Brighid was so popular that instead of being banned outright by the Christian religion She was made into a saint in about 450 CE and renamed St. Brigid of Kildare. The most cited evidence for this is that the saint's "Birthday" is the same day as the Goddesses which is Imbolg, a Pagan festival held on the 2nd of February. The cross itself is an equal armed "Solar Cross" made by folding straws over each other, turning the cross ninety degrees every two or three straws. There was also a three-armed version in earlier times celebrating Her as maiden, mother and crone. Displaying the cross above the hearth, or over a doorway is alleged to bring fertility, prosperity, and protection to the home or room.

Both the Corn Dolly and the Cross were made with wheat, which is associated with the Element of Fire, and has the Sun as its ruling planet, which fits well with the intents of the Corn Dolly and Solar cross. From these associations it is easy to see how doll magick might have been used by the Celts for more personal reasons. Then, as now, the main techniques probably would be variations on the theme of sympathetic magick where dolls would be made that looked like the person the spell was being placed on, or for.

In modern times doll magic is usually associated with so-called "Black" magick, where it is used to manipulate someone or events around them and so it has fallen into disuse. Many Pagans today believe in the "Rule of threefold return" that limits what they can do magickally . But this is a piece of modern lore, designed to stop people using their skills haphazardly before they have gained sufficient self-knowledge and discipline, as you can learn from the link below. But some practitioners are realising that they can cast positive spells for themselves using doll magick, and not have to worry about this. The most successful method I have seen for doing this involves the use of colour, herbs, and sympathetic magick. For example, someone who wants to improve their finances could sew a poppet made out of green cloth, the colour both symbolising fertility/growth and associated with the Goddess Venus who influences money matters. This is then personalised by the spellcaster, either by writing their name on the front of their doll in a magickal script, or the astrological sign of their birth, plus their rising and moon signs.

Then their connection is strengthened by adding hair and nail clippings along with the appropriate herbs and other items. In the case of the wealth doll the herbs might include cinnamon, cloves, vervain, and mint. If the spellcaster's astrological energies are the same as the one in the herbs used, this too can enhance the spell. Finally, in some countries small denomination currency notes might also be added to the poppet stuffing to symbolically suffuse the doll with wealth.

Once the poppet is finished it can be empowered by any method favoured by the spellcaster. Some people like to call on a particular God or Goddess appropriate to the task for which the poppet has been constructed. A simple cleansing of the doll, followed by empowering it for its purpose, is the most common way of 'activating it. But other rituals can be very elaborate, with the items used to make the doll being individually cleansed and empowered within a cast circle before the doll is made. More elaborate isn't necessarily better, and it comes down to the person casting the spell to decide what is right for them. After the spell has been cast it then has to be earthed in practical action, be it looking for ways to improve income, in the case of the wealth magick poppet, or using other, appropriate earth plane efforts to support the chances the poppet magick will open up to you.

*Also known as ‘grain’ in the US

You Should Also Read:
The rule of threefold return
Castin an Effective Sphere
Voodoo- History of the Arte

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