Welcome to October, darlings! This is the season of the crone, this is horror movie, sweater weather, apple picking, pumpkin spice, scented candle, new book season. This is Netflix binging, Practical Magic, fun-size Snickers, Hocus Pocus 2, build a fire, ancestor altar season. God, I love this shit.
Well I hope we all came out of Mercury retrograde relatively unscathed, I’m so happy to put that one in the rearview mirror. I am feeling really revitalized. There were a few close calls, and I’m not going to bullshit you, I had a few days where I really was holding on with both hands. This one was not gentle. But as always, there were lessons to be learned. So thank you, Universe for that. Thanks a pantload.
I also want to thank folks for their patience if they sent a message or an email recently. I am playing catch-up right now; I’ve got a lot going on, work has been very busy, but I am going to get back to everyone. I promise.
I want to talk about poppet magick today. And this was a suggestion from a witch, but I can’t remember who it was! I always try to make it a point to give credit where it’s due, but I just jotted the topic on the calendar and forgot to include the name. So I do apologize, but we are going to do basically a crash course in poppet and doll magick today. And it’s a lot, so brace yourselves.
Now, when we think of poppet or doll magick, the mind immediately goes to voodoo dolls, but we aren’t actually talking about voodoo at all today. There may be some incidental crossover, but that’s really just because using dolls in magick goes back a long, long time. In Africa, certainly, but also Asia, Europe, Latin America, Greece, Rome, Native Americans used poppets.
They were sometimes made of sticks tied together, think of like, the Blair Witch Project, those little stick figures that were hanging from the trees. People have used vegetables carved into human shapes, corn dollies, clay. There are recorded instances of dolls being used in ritual as far back as we basically have written records. In particular, the use of dolls or poppets as stand-ins, or as a representation of someone else. The work we are talking about today comes from folk magick, because that’s mostly what I do.
Another caveat right off the top is that I am not responsible for how you choose to use this information. You are. I bear no responsibility for the way in which you use it, and I accept none of the repercussions for any work that you choose to do. A lot of witches are not comfortable with work that seeks to affect other people, and that’s totally fair. We are all entitled to practice the way we see fit.
But if you’re one of those witches, before you skip to a different episode, please bear in mind that this does not have to be baneful magick. Poppets are not only used in curses or hexes, there’s a lot of benevolent magick that we can do with poppets for other people, certainly but also for ourselves. Poppet magick is a great way to help curb bad habits, to help kick unhealthy addictions and to break patterns of behavior. Poppets are also a great tool for healing spells.
Poppet magick is a process that requires some forethought, a lot of preparation, there’s a lot to consider, so it’s going to be something that you will probably reserve for a larger purpose than a more minor intention, something that can be resolved with a simple candle spell. And that makes sense, right? Because usually, when you’re employing a poppet, you’re actually trying to influence someone’s behavior. Even if it’s your own behavior.
And this brings me to the first, and most important part of creating a poppet; you will want to get some kind of personal concern of the person for whom you are creating this doll. The more personal, the better. Hair is always a strong contender, fingernail clippings are a little harder to get, but also extremely effective. Think of it as trying to give the Universe the scent of this person. If you’re not in a position to get something quite so intimate as hair, you will have to just get creative. Something this person uses or has used, like even a pen or a scrap of paper that they’ve written on will do. Handwriting is great. If there is literally nothing this person has touched that you can get hold of, write their full name and birthdate on a scrap of paper and use that. If you don’t know that, you can write, ‘The neighbor in the yellow house with the really loud dog.’ Or whatever. But I’ve kind of gotten ahead of myself.
As far as what to use for your poppet, or your doll, it’s really just up to you. I know I’ve said before that it’s nice when you can sew your own mojo bags and so forth because you can stitch your intentions right into the vessel that you’re creating for your spell, and I stand by that. If you want to cut out like a basic gingerbread man shape from two pieces of felt, that is absolutely perfect. Sew up the sides, leaving a small hole so that you can put things inside. But sewing a mojo bag is very different to trying to sew an entire poppet. Bit more advanced. So you know, if you’re not confident about your sewing skills or you just don’t want to, buying a doll is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
However, when possible, it’s a good idea to try and make the poppet yourself. It doesn’t have to look like the person you’re imitating. It really just needs to have a vaguely humanoid shape. Your own imagination combined with your own magick is all that you really need to breathe life, so to speak, into this doll. To make it become the true embodiment of the person you’re hoping to affect. With all that said, maybe you can’t sew for shit, or maybe your imagination struggles with this kind of visualization. That’s a totally fair conundrum.
You can absolutely buy a doll to use. A very accessible way to do this that I’ve seen is to get one of those, like, off-brand wanna-be Barbie style dolls. This is something you’d find at like, the dollar store. It shouldn’t cost more than a couple bucks. And a cool thing about going this route is that you can try to find a doll that shares common features with the person you’re creating the doll to represent. Hair and eye color, body type, that kind of thing. If this person has specific tattoos, you can draw them on with a marker. If this person has a signature hat they wear, you can make a little hat for it. Whatever works best.
Let me reiterate, the doll does not have to look a damn thing like this person and it doesn’t even have to look all that convincingly human. It’s just an effigy. This is a vessel for directing our intentions. We are basically using our magick to tie an ethereal string between this doll and the person who we are targeting, for lack of a better word.
When it comes to the kind of doll we choose, whether it’s homemade or store-bought, the only thing we need to be sure of is that the doll’s body is hollow. Because we’ve got to put its guts in.
The elements we choose to put inside this doll are what will determine its purpose. So we will certainly need the hair, fingernails, used tissue, name paper, whatever. The personal concern of the individual we are mimicking. We will tuck that into the poppet with a bunch of other odds and ends.
And here’s where we get to be creative. We can put all kinds of things into this doll according to its purpose. I have gotten several messages and emails over the past week and a half or so from witches who are in very complicated situations. I haven’t gotten a chance to respond to them personally yet, I really have been so swamped. I’m not making excuses, I just want those witches to know I’m not ignoring your plights and I haven’t forgotten. But several of these folks are dealing with scenarios where poppet or doll magick is going to be the way to go. So as I’m going through different intentions and purposes here for this doll work, bear in mind, if you’ve written to me recently, one of these solutions is probably meant for you.
If we’re trying to impart healing, we might choose to include apple blossoms, lemon balm, eucalyptus, fennel, garlic, mint, oak or acorns, rosemary, thyme, and willow. Crystals and stones we might use include amber, citrine, malachite, if you have a tarot deck you’re willing to use, we might want to put the Sun card in there, too. If part of your intention is to give pain relief, put some aspirin in there as well. A chicken feather or a chicken bone is going to be helpful. And you may put some hospital dirt in the doll, especially if the healing we want to impart is healing from an illness or some kind of medical procedure.
Sometimes the healing we are giving is generalized over the entire body, but if the healing we want to give is targeted to a specific part of the body, like if they just got a knee surgery, we can do a couple things to direct the healing where we want it to go. On the outside of the doll or poppet, we can draw or stitch sigils over the part of the body that is afflicted. We can also anoint this part of the doll with healing oil. And finally, we can bless a pin with healing intentions and stick the pin into the doll where the injury or affliction is, thus driving our intentions directly into the body. Think of it as an antenna for attracting the healing magick.
If we want to give this person courage or confidence, we might include black cohosh, cardamon pods, nettle, ragweed, tea, or yarrow. The Strength card is going to be powerful here. Orange calcite, brown or red agate, and tiger’s eye are helpful. A bit of dragon’s blood resin or a small pine cone too, I would suggest. If you can get one, a bit of snakeskin will also help this person to transform or to evolve into the assertive, confident person we want to help them become.
You’ll need to do some pondering about what kind of courage or confidence you are specifically trying to impart so that you can personalize this work. If this person is struggling professionally, you’ll need to figure out how to draw success to them. Bay laurel is a great tool for this, incidentally, especially as you can just write your exact intention directly on the bay leaf and tuck it right in the doll. High John the Conqueror root is super powerful for confidence work.
For a love spell, an avocado pit, carnation, catnip, chamomile, cinnamon, dill, ginger, poppy, rose, strawberry, and vanilla. Rose quartz, obviously, will be right at home in this work, so will a bit of lodestone, as we are trying to draw love in, and also, maybe turquoise too. If you’ve got a small piece of copper, that’s a great metal for love workings.
For bindings, ivy is naturally the first thing I will suggest. If you can find an old cobweb, put some gloves on, collect it, and put that in there too. You may also write down this person’s name on a small scrap of paper, roll it up tightly, and tie it with a string and put that inside the poppet. Write specifics on the paper about what this person is not allowed to do. Write ‘Jane’ is bound from harming me, or ‘Jane’ is bound from interfering in my relationship, or whatever. Just be very specific. You will also want to tie the doll, too. Tie its hands behind its back, tie its legs together, put a gag over its mouth if this person has been spreading nasty lies or is trashing your reputation or turning people against you.
If we are hoping to help someone kick a bad habit, we will want to use items that correspond to the specific habit. We can also write a petition paper specific to kicking this habit, so if this individual is a smoker, we might write, every time you smoke a cigarette, you feel sick, or every time you smoke a cigarette, you choke. And so in that example, we might also wrap the doll’s neck with a wire or a string while we repeat that invocation, ‘every time you light a cigarette, you feel like you can’t breathe’.
For justice, or if you’ve got a legal matter coming up with a particular person, get some courthouse dirt.
To impart kindness in someone who’s making your life hell, honeysuckle, jasmine and rose.
If there’s someone who’s making your life miserable or who’s kind of out to get you in either your social circle or in a professional setting, we want to do work that makes their bullshit harm no one but themselves. So use pieces of a broken mirror (please be safe and don’t cut yourself). To cause nightmares, nightshade is the herb you’ll want, and if you can get some datura, that will definitely do the job. Also wormwood and/or pepperwort. If the target is someone who’s been interfering in your life, in your relationships, you can add some graveyard dirt and some calamus root, because we want to bury this person’s influence and their reputation. Knotgrass or buckwheat are good for this. Cardamom and rue are going to be great for causing confusion and a muddled mind in this individual. They’re going to really start to make themselves look bad.
To banish someone, definitely pour some black salt into the poppet. If you go on the website, middleagedwitch.com and type black salt in the search bar, you can find instructions for how to make it. Basil is an excellent exorcist of both demons and shitty, unwanted people, so add some of that in there too. Mistletoe, stinging nettle, and frankincense are good choices, along with anything else that you might happen to know is repellent to this person. Something to drive them away. Like if they hate spiders, put a dead spider in the doll. And because we want them to leave, we want them to stop being so comfortable around us and our loved ones, we are also going to push thorns, tacks, or rusty nails in the feet of this doll. We’re trying to get them to go.
Graveyard dirt is something that we might want to add to this, if we can get some ethically, the purpose being to make it so this person is dead to you. By ethically, I mean that it’s preferable to collect this dirt from the grave of your personal ancestor. You can certainly get dirt from the grave of someone you do not know, but you will want to pay a tribute. Leave an offering at the entrance to the graveyard or cemetery itself, and you will also need to leave a separate offering at the grave of the individual whose dirt your’e actually taking. What you leave is up to you, but flowers, spirits, and tobacco are customary. For banishing a bad neighbor specifically, along with everything else, we also need some dirt from their yard, and probably some broken glass, rusty nails, and cayenne pepper.
So you can see the different ways to personalize this work and to make your intentions so specific and so precise. This is part of why this work takes more time than other forms of magick. As always, please take liberties and use elements that feel right to you, or that you feel are going to be effective in the work that you do. There is no one way to do any kind of magick, not really. So as long as you are putting your heart and soul into these workings and you are listening to your own intuition, your guides, this work is going to pack a hell of a punch.
The next part of this work is to actually consecrate this doll for its purpose. So far, all we’ve done is collect items to make a doll and that, in itself, isn’t going to affect the person in the way that we want. So gather just a few other items, you will want a candle in whatever color matches your intention, or as always, just use white. You’ll want some holy water or moon water, and some plain salt. You will also want some incense, and I’ll explain why. When we consecrate this doll to act as an effigy for the intended target, I hate to use that word, but you know what I mean, we are going to breathe life into it as part of the ritual. Now, if you’re making this doll for yourself, feel free to use your own breath. But if you’re making it to represent someone else, especially if the purpose of the doll isn’t benevolent, you might prefer to use incense to act as that breath of life. You’re probably not going to want to use your own breath.
So, arrange your doll on your altar or work surface, along with your candle, water, salt, and incense, if you’re using it. Cast a protective circle, light your candle, and focus your energy on your intention. What we do next is to tie this effigy, this poppet, to the person it’s meant to emulate. So, we get our doll or poppet, obviously, make it by hand if that’s how you’re rolling, buy it from the store and slice a hole in its torso if that’s how you’re rolling, and go ahead and fill it with everything you’ve collected.
You will say something along these lines, and you can and should adjust the verbiage to suit your needs:
Sprinkle your doll with the salt, and say’ “I consecrate this doll by the power of earth. Everything I do to this doll, I also do to [Jane].”
Sprinkle the doll with holy water or moon water, say, “I consecrate this doll by the power of water. Everything I do to this doll, I also do to [Jane].”
Pass your doll over the flame of the candle, “I consecrate this doll by the power of fire. Everything I do to this doll, I also do to [Jane].”
Finally, you will pass the doll over the smoke of the incense, or, if you are going to use your own breath, breathe into the doll’s face and say, “I consecrate this doll by the power of air. Everything I do to this doll, I also do to [Jane].”
“Through these ethereal ties, you are linked.”
Now your doll, your poppet, is activated, so to speak. If you’re going to draw or sew specific symbols into this doll, do that now. If you’re going to use pins, string, if you’re going to tie its hands, cover its eyes, stick tacks in its feet, whatever, you’ll do that as well. Put any final finishing touches on it. Lastly, sew up the opening through which you stuffed all your items, or tape the opening closed on your store-bought doll, because we don’t want the guts falling out, and then seal the opening closed by dripping wax from your candle over it. Finish your ritual and close your circle. You’ve got yourself a poppet.
What you do with the doll next is entirely up to you. If you’re doing benevolent work, healing work, work to encourage this person, you may keep it on your altar and speak affirmations to it, you may anoint it with oil, whatever you want. If you’re doing not-so-nice work, you will probably have all kinds of ideas about what to do with it. In the case that you’re doing baneful work, I wouldn’t keep it on your altar. I’d keep it in a box in a cabinet somewhere. If you want to take it out and poke from time to time or whatever, that’s your business.
Once your work is finished, you’ve gotten the results you wanted, you’ll need to dispose of your doll. If you made your doll and all of its contents are fire-safe, burning it is my personal preference. You may also bury it. This obviously will not work for a plastic doll, or for anything inside the doll that isn’t fire safe or biodegradable. In this case, you’re going to have to unconsecrate it, and then throw it away. To remove its ties with the person it was intended for, you may sprinkle it liberally with salt while you announce that it is no longer tied to its target. You may also choose to thank it for serving its purpose, that is up to you.
And that’s kind of all there is to it. It’s very creative spellwork and it’s very involved. This isn’t simple magick, but it is completely doable. It should not be intimidating at all. I hope you’ll join me next week when we talk about spell jars and mojo bags, which should be easy-peasy after this week. Please have a lovely week, and we’ll talk again soon. My name is Eli Ro, and this is the Middle-Aged Witch podcast.