Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest Post: Kris Bradley

Note from Anne: Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" It's my pleasure to present today's guest blogger, Kris Bradley.

 Two years ago, Kris created a poppet for Decibel the parrot. At the time, Decibel's condition was very much up in the air. Well, Decibel has made a complete recovery, every last decibel of sound restored and then some. I attribute Decibel's current health to his poppet, which never leaves the vicinity of his cage. I'm so pleased that Kris has offered this overview of poppets and how to create them. Thanks, Kris!

Poppet Magic Primer
Kris Bradley

There are many who still think that poppets are only associated with the Vodou* religion (and we'll get to that misconception in a moment), but poppets go back much further than that, back to the ancient (some would even argue prehistoric) times.  Poppets have been traced to countries all over the world, from Greece and Rome to Africa, and from Egypt to North America.

In ancient Egypt, Ramses III was said to have been plagued by issues caused by wax poppets.  The women of Ramses' harem and his wives, along with several of his enemies, set about causing his death.  According to the Papyrus Rollin, a butler named Mesedure procured a number of wax figures and smuggled them into the harem to use against the King.

In ancient Greece, poppets were called Kolossoi and were used in a wide variety of ways. One of the most common uses was for binding deities.  This could be done for protection from harm, such as binding the god Ares to ensure safety on the battlefield or binding a deity to a specific home or village to bring their protection.  Kolossoi were also used to bind dangerous ghosts or spirits called "Hikesioi Apaktoi" (hostile visitants) and lead them to the Land of the Dead.  The Kolossoi were crafted out of clay, wood, or lead and the shape would often be bound in rope, stuck with nails, then encased in a lead container and buried.  When using these poppets for permanent protection, the Kolossoi would be rebound on a regular schedule, to keep it's powers working. 

Moving forward in time, the English King George IV's wife, Caroline of Brunswick was said to have created at least one poppet of the king, sticking it with pins and thorns, then throwing it into her fire to melt.  The two had a tumultuous relationship, George having little respect for his wife, even writing about their wedding night that their consummation "required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person."  What a peach.  On a side note, Caroline is often labeled a "witch", probably more to do with her outspokenness and "shocking" behavior (such as drinking in excess) than to do with her poppet making skills.

In Central Africa poppets called minskisi (or singularly, "nakisi") were created specifically for spirits to inhabit.  These types of poppets are often referred to as "nail fetishes" because of the nails that are driven into them. The items used to create these poppets were called "bilongo", which translates to "medicine".  Bilongo might include plant matter, bird claws, fabric, cowry shells, stones and/or clay.  A subcategory of minkisi are called "nkondi", female power figures.  Nkondi would be evoked to enforce oaths, to bring justice or to cause or cure sickness.  There was also the "minkondi"("hunter") who was used to go after those who had done the creator wrong.  Minkondi often came in a male/female pairing.

Many Native American tribes have a history of creating poppets.  Hopi tribes created Kachina dolls, carved from cottonwood root. Kachina dolls were thought to embody spiritual beings who would bring good crops, rain or protection during rites of passage.  Ojibway warriors created wooden images of their enemies, and would stab the image with the intent of causing their enemy death.  After the stabbing, the popped would be burned or buried.

Native people of Peru molded their enemies out of fat mixed with grain.  This poppet would be burned in the middle of the road to cause the enemy harm.  This act was called "burning the soul".

What we now think of as "Voodoo dolls" probably (though there are differing opinions on this) did not start in Haiti, where the Vodou religion was born.  Instead they most likely originated in Louisiana, in the New Orleans area, where they still flourish in tourist shops.

In modern days, poppets still have their uses for magical practitioners of all sorts.  Consider the "kitchen witch" which hangs in many homes.  This type of poppet has been used for centuries in Norway (where they are thought to have originated) and are popular still today to bring the home good luck and ward off evil.

Raymond Buckland has quite a detailed section on poppet magic in his book, Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft.  Dorothy Morrison, in Utterly Wicked, teaches us the fun of making poppets with fashion dolls.   I personally create poppets for a variety of positive uses (under the kitchy name of "Voodudes™) including, among other things, healing, fertility, and prosperity.

As for making your own poppet, there are so many crafty ways to go about it.  Pour out wax from a lit candle (or purchase microwaveable soy wax at the craft store) onto wax paper in a human shape.  Before the wax sets, add any herbs, stones or taglocks (items attaching the poppet to its human counterpart, such as hair or nail clippings).  Poppets can also easily be made from scraps of cloth, paper, potatoes or apples (which are great for burying) or even air dry or bakeable clay.

When your poppet is ready, you'll want to connect it to you (or show who you've made it for how to connect it to them).  Simply carry it with you as much as possible for a week or two, and occasionally blow your breath onto it.  You might also say a charm to it, such as "You and me now are we." Many poppets can be kept, recharging them on occasion in the same way.

If you find the need to dispose of a poppet, you'll first need to break your connection with it.  Again a charm can be said to the poppet, such as, "With thanks and love, I sever the link 'tween me and thee."  The poppet can then be submerged into a bath of salt water and baking soda, then buried or simply thrown away.

The following are a few correspondences to help with the creation of your poppet: 

Prosperity: coins, allspice, basil, tiger's eye, garnet, peppermint, ginger, green or gold material.

Fertility: Green material, rose quartz, egg shell, moonstone, rice, any sort of seed or nut.

Love: Red material for adult love, pink for innocent love, yellow for the love between friends.  Basil, rose petals (in same color combinations as material), chili peppers (for lust), heart shapes, calendula, cloves, catnip, amethyst, moss agate.

This is post copyright to the author. It may not be reposted, reprinted or distributed in its entirety without express written permission of the author. Links to the article can be freely shared and are appreciated.  

Find Kris Bradley at and her poppets at

* I use "Vodou" when referring to the religion of Haiti, "Voodoo" when referring to "Voodoo dolls", less of a religious item and more of a Hollywood trope.

Brockway, Allan R. "The Conspiracy Against Ramses III in Dynasty XX" N.p., n.d. Web. 23 October 2013

Sophistes, Apollonius. "Construction and Use of Ancient Greek Poppets." Http:// N.p.k 1996. Web. 23 Oct. 2013
Robins, Jane (2006). Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of 
Revolution. Simon & Schuster

Visona, Monica Blackmun, Robin Pynor & Herbert M. Cole.  A History of Art in Africa: Second Edition.  New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008

Taussig, Michael. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. Chapel Hill: the University of North Carolina Press, 1980.


Vest said...

Live in such a way that you would not be afraid to sell your parrot to the town gossip.

Good post.

Kris Bradley said...

Thanks so much for hosting my post! It was a pleasure!