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By Murtagh A. anDoile and Maire A. ni Morgan
Candles flicker in the temple. Incense wafts to the vaulted ceiling. The moon's silvery light streams onto the dancers moving serpentlike. Shadows dance upon the walls. The priestess dons her crown to summon the Ladye into the circle. The priestess stretches out her hands to the Moon, speaking the ancient words, calling the Ladye to descend into the receptacle prepared for her initial entry. At the end of the chant, the vessel glows with a silvery blue radiance, seen by those with the sight in the circle. The Ladye has arrived.
She looks at us through the floral homage, over the shining points of candle light. Her unblinking eyes, once lifeless, capture our every movement. Her unhearing ears, shell-like, capture our every sound. The priestess reaches out and encircles Her. The priestess embraces the doll as gingerly as an infant, holding it to her bosom. And the Goddess' energy arcs into her human daughter from the once lifeless plastic. The Drawing Down is complete, the earthly lady is now the Goddess. She holds the again-dormant doll, which still radiates with power, the doll which now waits to be the conduit for the Goddess' eventual departure.
Goddess? Doll? A doll as a repository of the Goddess, of Her energy? A chalice to be filled with the essence of the Moon? A physical representation of the Ladye or an idol?
Besides the fact that we have used dolls as repositories for energy, and spirits, the above ceremony is a compilation of several different rites using a doll (oh my goddess!!! Barbie...TM by Mattel). This piece is about dolls, and the witch's poppet. It is a speculative piece on how we can utilize them in both religion and magick, in a "positive" light. In the past, if you talked about using dolls, it conjured up images of coercive and manipulative magick, images of baneful and sympathetic magick, so called "voodoo" dolls, to hurt or kill.
Our inspiration for writing on doll magick was inspired by two exhibits in the last year, shown at the Fowler Museum of Anthropology at UCLA. One was called "Voudou: the Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodoun," the other "Isn't S/He a Doll?: Play and Ritual in African Sculpture." In the voudou exhibit, there was a photo of a mambo (priestess) holding a doll which represented the lwa (loa) Erzili Danto. This reminded us of the use of dolls or other images in stone, clay, wood, or wax , which have been used through the centuries by various peoples to represent goddesses or gods. Since our main altar is adorned with three dolls, representing various goddess aspects, we thought maybe it was time to bring the doll back into a positive light.
The image, made from wax or clay, played its secret part in spells. It is like the burning of incense, the drawing of magical circles, and the practice of divination, part of the general heritage shared by witches and magicians all over the world. 1
It must be remembered first of all that dolls represent human beings. By their nature, they always represent humans and can be played with or used by a single person. Doll play, world-wide, is spontaneous. Puppets are differentiated from dolls in that they can represent an animal as well as a human. Puppets usually are group-orchestrated play. For the sake of this essay, we will use the word poppet in the magickal sense, as distinguished from puppet, to denote a human figure, and as another form of doll or image to be used in magick. For those who may think that "dolls" are primarily play or ritual objects for those of a female gender, the U.S. government has ruled (for import and tax reasons) that "action figures," a provence of the male gender, are dolls. But we will give that dolls have been used more in women's rituals the world over. (But then, some males have a proclivity to play with large plastic or rubber female dolls in various bedroom or fetishistic rituals.)
Dolls can be made of a variety of materials. They can be so stylized, like some of the African fertility dolls, that Westerners may not realize at first that is what the image represents. Dolls are made of clay, wood, yarn, cloth, wax, and, recently, plastic. The major factor here is that the material they are made from is inanimate. And from its inert substance, life is magickally created. Like any number of god/desses creating humankind in myriad creation stories, we breathe a "form of life" into these created bodies' shades of the opening scene in the movie, Weird Science, where the two teen heroes construct a woman using a Barbie doll and a computer.
There has been very little written of the positive use of dolls in magickal literature, even though they perhaps have been used since the earliest times. As portable art in the Upper Paleolithic, dolls of stone may have been early images of the Goddess used for fertility and earth magick. M.G. Lord , in Forever Barbie, sees the modern fashion doll as a space age fertility symbol based on prehistoric icons, such as the Venus of Willendorf (in a negative sense, but with the same pronglike feet and pronounced breasts) and later Greek Cycladic statues. Barbie herself was based on a German doll called Lilli, sold in the 1950s, who was based on a comic strip gold-digger, "exhibitionist, and floozy, she had the body of a Vargas girl...and the morals of Xaviera Hollander."2 The ushabtis of ancient Egypt,3 Hopi Kachina dolls, 4 and the waka sran, akua'ba, and ere ibeji dolls of Africa are examples of dolls used cross-culturally as both ritual and/or play objects. "The idea that by means of an image or likeness, the person or animal that image represented could be influenced, has been one of the fundamentals of magical belief."5
The use of dolls is a form of image magick. The image works on the principles of imitative magick. "The use of images and imitations of real things in order to affect them. Any ritual can enact symbolically what is desired to happen in real life. It has both positive and negative sides."6 Images can also operate via the laws of contagious magick, if the doll has a physical link to the person or entity it is used to influence. Once something (be it hair, fingernails, etc.) has been in contact, the links are maintained forever. We are familiar with this type of magick from numerous horror novels, films, and pulp fiction. The poppet or doll is solely a way to concentrate the power, for good or ill, of the magick worker's thoughts and energy to cause change. As noted above, we usually think of doll magick as a means to control or harm people, and we have seen it used for this purpose even in this enlightened day. But, it can also be used to heal and help.
Sometimes a love spell is attempted by this means; and [Doreen Valiente has] seen an image successfully used by a present day witch, for the purpose of healing someone with rheumatic pain. Of course, images of this kind would be the subject of a very different ritual for those used in witchcraft of the darker side. But the force behind the rite is the same: the power of the witch's concentrated thoughts.7
This is a sample of Creature of Plastic, Creature of Wax from issue No. 3 of Obsidian.
Murtagh Adamh anDoile (aka Tagh) feels like a character out of H.P. Lovecraft. A Drui of the Tuatha De Danann tradition (NECTW), he's worked as a film researcher, private investigator, anthropologist, comicologist, dancer and magician. Tagh spends most of his time in Southern California with a high maintenance "ayami" (whom he tries to keep in a doll), several non-physicals, a cadre of pagans from Portland, OR, and the ladies of the Amazon Brigade. He is working on books on the Celtic Mythos, and Eonistic Shamanism.
Maire Aislinn ni Morgan is a professional mannequin (i.e., model) who resides between New York and Los Angeles, the Far East, and Europe. A natural sibyl, her priestess craft is attributed as much to heredity (her parents are Gaelic and Gallic) as training. She drives a raven-black Porsche, and gets upset when people mistake her "Barbie as the Morrigan" doll for Xena: Warrior Princess. She is the founder and current head of the Amazon Brigade.
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