[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#2575: Dolls in Vodou : Craig comments


    It's interesting to me that the use of dolls in Vodou hasn't been 
explored, or at least written about, with any real depth by scholars who 
study the material culture of this religion. What's odd to me is that, though 
dolls are, in fact, used in a variety of  religious and magical  contexts in 
Vodou (as well as other New World African based
religions), serious scholarship has ecshewed  this obviously fascinating 
    Scholars such as Karen McCarthey Brown, Suzanne Preston Blier, Robert 
Farris Thompson and, I believe, Marilyn Houlberg, have all touched on the use 
of dolls but no one that I know of has really delved into the topic. Even in 
light of the vast information provided to us on  Vodou's material culture in 
the Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou exhibitition and its amazing catalog, dolls 
were not discussed in any depth. I have video footage of Donald Cosentino, 
one of the curators of that exhibit, denying the existence of the"voodoo 
doll." And he wrote the book Vodou Things about the late Pierrot Barra and 
his doll assemblages!! The topic seems strangely taboo.
    I realize that the "voodoo doll" has alot of terrible hype  surrounding 
it and that it is, in fact, the icon most commonly associated with all of the 
racist misconceptions and misinformation about Vodou. Still, the doll is a 
reality in Vodou and I wish that  there was some concensus about this amongst 
scholars and that more information was published  about their true function 
within the religious context. 
    In regards to dolls with pins jabbed into their bodies, I will suggest 
that, more likely than  European witchcraft sources,   these "charms" are 
derived from Dahomean Bocio forms ( see African Vodun by Suzanne Preston 
Blier) and from Kongo Minkisi charms and Nkondi figures (see Robert Farris 
Thompson's Flash of the Spirit and Wyatt McGaffey's Astonishment and Power) 
which all have sharp pegs or nails driven into their surfaces to incite 
and/or placate spiritual forces. 

Alison Laird Craig