Voodoo Dolls

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The term Voodoo doll commonly describes an effigy into which pins are inserted. Such practices are found in various forms in the magical traditions of many cultures across the world. Although the use of the term Voodoo implies that the practice is linked to Haitian Vodou or Louisiana Voodoo, it is not prominent in either.

20th-century link with Voodoo

Contemporary voodoo doll, with 58 pins

The link between this magical practice and Voodoo was established through the presentation of the latter in Western popular culture, enduring the first half of the 20th century. In this, the myth of this magical practice being closely linked to Voodoo and Vodou was promoted as part of the wider negative depictions of blacks and Afro-Caribbean religious practices in the United States. In John Houston Craige's 1933 book Black Bagdad: The Arabian Nights Adventures of a Marine Captain in Haiti, he described a Haitian prisoner sticking pins into an effigy to induce illness. Its use also appeared in film representations of Haitian Vodou such as Victor Halperin's 1932 White Zombie and Jacques Tourneur’s 1943 I Walked with a Zombie. Voodoo dolls are also featured in the films Lisztomania and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

By the early 21st century, the image of the voodoo doll had become particularly pervasive. It had become a novelty item available for purchase, with examples being provided in vending machines in British shopping centres, and an article on "How to Make a Voodoo Doll" being included on WikiHow. A voodoo doll had also been included in the 2009 animated Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog.