The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Tools of Witchcraft
The archaic word used is “poppet” but that obscures the identity of what are plainly dolls. “Poppet” is related to “puppet.” In English that implies that a puppet-master manipulates the puppet. (The French word for “doll” is poupée.) Puppetry derives from sacred ritual and is still used so in traditional Indonesia. In Japan, as elsewhere in East Asia, dolls serve as oracles; legends describe some very special ones that actually literally communicate prophecies.
Traditionally dolls are handmade, however commercially manufactured dolls may be embellished for magical purposes. Dolls are crafted from bone, clay, cloth, wax, wood or any other possible substance.
Among the evidence brought against Bridget Bishop at the Salem Witch Trials was that several rag poppets were discovered in her former residence pierced with hogs’ bristles and headless pins.
The most famous dolls are those made for harmful magic but that’s partly because people like discussing the titillating, scandalous aspect of magic. Doll magic is also used for healing, romantic spells, protective spells, and especially fertility spells. Dolls were once used to stimulate pregnancy virtually around the world including indigenous North American traditions, Italy, and China. The tradition remains vital in sub-Saharan Africa. The most famous African fertility doll is the Ashanti Akua’ba, so prominent it has been featured on Ghana’s postage stamps although it has now somewhat devolved into a tourist’s souvenir.