The Art of Darkness

DIY Voodoo Kit

May 11th, 2011 by Cobwebs

Voodoo SachetA while back Bonni Reid mentioned this peculiar vintage ad for “voodoo kits” which contained, quote, “Haitian doll, hand-carved mahogany needles to stick in doll, chicken feathers, voodoo dirt, list of awful voodoo curses.” After being rendered momentarily speechless by the ad copy, it occurred to me that a DIY kit would be sort of fun to put together.

Although popular culture nearly always depicts voodoo dolls as being used for evil purposes, actual practitioners generally use them for positive goals such as healing illness or sparking romance. A kit with a doll (or components to make one), pins, and other accessories would be a novel gift to celebrate someone’s new job or other life-changing event. (Depending upon the amount of stock you put in the efficacy of “magic,” you may wish to include a note indicating the belief that using the doll for malign ends will result in karmic backlash.)

Starting with the doll, you can either sew a simple cloth rag-doll or make a more “traditional” one from sticks and Spanish moss.

For the former, either hand-draw a basic human shape for use as a pattern, or look around for simple cloth doll patterns such as this or this. Fabric can be anything from basic muslin to silk brocade, depending on how primitive you want the doll to look and/or the tastes of the person you’re making it for. Add facial features, a heart, and optional “targets” with embroidery or fabric paint, then sew, turn (optional), and stuff. For the one in the photo up there, I wanted a very rustic look so I used a rough natural cotton and ran the seam along the outside so that the edges would eventually fray.

You can simply stuff the whole thing with fiberfill, or fill it partially with scented material such as potpourri. The one I made is stuffed with cinnamon chips, whole cloves, whole allspice, and dried lavender buds for a spicy-floral scent. There are also several plants which are supposedly sacred to the loas, so you can use any of these for stuffing as well:

Angelica
Cinnamon
Frankincense
Grains of Paradise
Honeysuckle
Hyacinth
Lavender
Lilac
Myrrh
Orange blossom
Pine
Rose

Dress the doll if desired, either with simple pants/a dress made from fabric scraps or with a fancy outfit and accessories. In keeping with the primitive look of mine, I left it au naturel except for a bone bead tied around its waist with thread.

For the sticks-and-moss version of the doll, begin by tying two sticks (twigs, dowels, or even popsicle sticks) into a cross using twine or heavy string. Wrap the sticks in Spanish moss (available in craft stores or online): Begin in the middle, wrap up to the head, back down the head and across one arm, back across to the other arm, back up that arm, then back down the “body” stick to the end. If possible, use a hank of moss that is long enough to wrap the doll in one continuous piece, and wrap as tightly as possible. If necessary, you can add a dab or two of white glue or wrap string around the outside to help keep the moss in place.

Next, wrap strips of fabric (1-2″ in width and a couple of feet long) around the doll in the same way that you wrapped the moss, leaving the moss exposed on top of the head, at the ends of the arms, and at the very bottom. Secure in place by running a few stitches or tying yarn around the ends.

Sew on a couple of buttons or beads for eyes, and use paint or embroidery for other features if desired. You can also use yarn for hair, and scraps of fabric to dress the doll if you wish.

Both sorts of dolls can optionally be given meaningful accessories such as a broom, a hat or head kerchief, or various charms to ward off evil or attract luck. You can also attach a burlap pouch to the doll to hold additional magical bits like herbs or hair.

In addition to the doll, you’ll want to supply pins. You can use something as simple as straight pins, but if you’re going to the trouble of making a doll you might as well do something special with the pins too. It’s easy to find pretty corsage pins, or you can get some hatpin findings from a craft or jewelry-supply store and decorate them with beads or charms (these bone beads look nicely rough-hewn).

You might also consider using colored pins, since in the Louisiana flavor of voodoo various colors are associated with desired outcomes:

Black – Repels negative energy, sickness, and death
Blue – Love
Green – Money or tranquility
Light Blue – Family
Purple – Spirituality
Red – Power
White – Positive energy and good karma
Yellow – Success

(There’s also Pink, which is supposed to bring death, if you feel like including it.)

The corsage pins can be purchased in various colors, but you might also dip the white ones in glue and roll them in glitter or colored sand. If you want to stick with a spooky voodoo/skull theme, these colored skulls are quite arresting.

If desired, you can add other elements to your kit: Candles, incense, a gris-gris bag, little silver charms, scented oils, and so on.

Package everything up, perhaps in a pretty cloth pouch or decorated box. Include instructions for using the doll in positive ways (such as attaching a photo, hair, or small personal effect of the intended “target” to the doll), and add a descriptive label if desired.

Bonus idea: Stripped-down minature versions of the kit, containing just a basic doll and some pins, would be an extremely cool invitation for a New Orleans-themed party.

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