I’ve actually posted on this subject before so I am not actually going to get too in depth this week. You can read about my thoughts about poppets and associated subjects by looking at the links at the bottom of this post.
A Very Brief Introduction to Sticking Pins in Dolls
When most people refer to the practice of “sticking pins in dolls” a couple of things spring to mind;
Whilst the practice of using dolls (also called Poppets, Effigies and Images) are a prominent feature in the various traditions identified along side Voodoo it is not actually limited to that one tradition. Similarly their uses isn’t only limited to curses but are used in love and healing spells and rituals. The “doll’ represents an individual through a process of sympathetic representation and anything done to the doll will be translated to their human counterpart. Other uses of dolls include deflecting the maleficum of others away from the human counterpart onto the doll in order to protect the subject from harm.
Examples in English History
The Rise and Fall Eleanor Cobham
Eleanor Cobham was a woman who wanted it all. She rocketed from the position of lady in waiting to Jacqueline, Countess of Hainault and Dutchess of Gloucester, to supplant her, first as Mistress and then Wife of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. This put her in the position of Queen in Waiting for should the young Henry VI die without issue it was Humphrey who stood next in line to his nephew. The path Eleanor took didn’t make her too many friends and when she failed to produce her Lord an heir she turned to Margery Jourdemayne, a wise woman of some repute. Over time her interests broadened into astrology and from there she and her fellows stepped into treason by predicting the death of the king. When she was finally brought to trial she, Margery and others were accused of constructing wax effigies of Henry VI and chanting the ‘black mass’ over them before melting them down. Margery, who already had been imprisoned for Witchcraft previously, was burned at the stake with the astrologer and other men whilst Eleanor was imprisoned in various castles until her death.
For more information on Eleanor and her conviction I recommend this website.
Naughty Nuns of Northampton
There are plenty of naughty nuns to choose from but I’m going to talk about the nuns of Sewardsley, Northampton because as well as the accusation of proliferate and unchaste they were caught up in accused of witchcraft. Again the victim was to be Henry VI, who was briefly returned to the throne between 1470-71. It was the patroness of the house Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford (aka Lady Rivers mother of the White Queen and my all time favourite Cunning Woman) who was accused of causing the creation of “a lead image made like a man of arms . . . broken in the middle and made fast with a wire,”. In addition her accuser, Thomas Wake, alleged that various images of the Lancastrian King and Queen were taken to Sewardsley and used for nefarious purposes before being displayed to persons unnamed. Unlike Eleanor Cobham Jacquetta had friends in high places and when her son in law Edward IV was restored to the throne in 1471 both she and Sewardsley were rehabilitated. After her death and the ascension of the fated Richard III these accusation would be revived and extended to explain how Elizabeth Woodville, a relative unknown, would become the Wife of the Yorkist King Edward with both mother and daughter accused of witchcraft.
The Bouncing Baby of Rochdale
The bouncing baby of Rochdale can be found in the Touchstone Museum located in the Calder Valley. This wax image of a plump, cheerful and seemingly thriving baby would have been placed over or around the cot of a new born baby. This was done in order to protect the infant harm, be it witchcraft or just the common illnesses which were so easily killers in times past, and encourage the development of a happy healthy child.
(My thanks to folklorist John Billingsley for the information on this artefact)
Do All Witches Stick Pins in Poppets
The answer to this question has to be no. Some practitioners are uncomfortable with some aspects of how poppets are used and a prime example of this discomfort can be found in sticking pins in dolls. Many modern practitioners who do use poppets will used them for ‘safer’ subjects such as healing, protection and severing connections, but these subjects that rarely involve pins. That being said there are witches, such as myself, who are more than prepared to use poppets in any manner in which the situation demand. Although wax and lead are not necessarily the go to mediums you can buy candle effigies and there are many patterns for fabric poppets avalible and even kits to buy.
For more of my post of this and related subjects you can follow the below links.