USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘dolls’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
Legends
Magic
Protection

Voodles

My informant, JP, is creating voodoo dolls for children.  Literally sewing dolls.  She calls them Voodles, a combination of voodoo and dolls.  When she told me she was making voodoo dolls for children I was surprised.  I explained that I thought voodoo dolls were scary–a part of what my dad calls dark magic.  But my informant explained that voodoo is totally misconstructed by modern day society.  She understands them to be these protective spirits with positive attributes, not negative ones.

She plans to create a number of Voodles.  For example, there will be a doctor Voodle for a sick child.  “Another Voodle has a pocket and if you put a penny in its pocket and make a wish, the Voodle is supposed to help it come true. And each Voodle will come with a legend or story.”

JP’s desire to make a Voodles for children suggests she has a strong belief in voodoo dolls.  It also reveals that she believes so many people believe in voodoo that there is a commercial market for voodoo dolls geared toward children.

Legends

Haunted House in Hesperia

“This one story that happened to my, uh, my two cousins, on my dad’s side of the family, Alicia and Carina. They are very, very, uh, I guess you could say—very easily susceptible to spirit—spiritual, supernatural occurrences. Like, they’re just a magnet to that shit. It’s just, since they were young, that’s how it’s been, you know. It’s kind of, uh, within my own family it’s kind of, we just kind of accept it for what it is. Like, shit, it happens. Um, so they live in Hesperia now. But when they were little girls, they moved into the house they are in now. And they got it for super cheap because they realized, like, after, uh, a little boy passed away, um, in the tub. His mom left to go grocery shopping, like, really quick just to get something and he was, uh, I think he had Down Syndrome, and he passed away. You know this actually happened, like, this is actually, like, a true story: he passed away. Um. So when they got the house there was some furniture some stuff left behind. Uh, and in my cousin’s room there was this doll. This doll, it was just there, you know. And my uncle says like, ‘Oh, I’ll keep this for Carina.’ So once they start moving in, this one night, my uncle and aunt told me that Carina just, they just hear Carina scream. At the top of her lungs, just scream. And they open the door and she’s just, she’s just crying. And they’re like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ ‘The doll was staring at me, was like, looking right at me’ And they’re like, ‘What?’ (scoffs) Like, ‘Oh my God, what are you talking about?’ Like, ‘Just stop. Go to sleep,’ you know? And this, this occurred like throughout a few weeks and almost every night, like, Carina would just, she had, like, no sleep because she would always claim that the doll would, at night, like, stand up and look at her and laugh. And she, her parents didn’t believe her. So this one time, my uncle was just so fed up with it, like, ‘Look, this is not real. You need to stop.’ Like, ‘You’re imagining things,’ you know? They got her a night-light, all this shit. So my aunt put the doll with all the other dolls in this little chest and put—just there, like, he’s not gonna get out, like, relax he’s in there you’re fine. That night, my aunt told me, when she went into the room all the fucking dolls, like, the thing was open and everything was scattered. And the doll was just, like, there. Like just, uuuhhh, just kind of there. Like, looking, like, at the doorway. And my aunt looked at my cousin. And she’s like, ‘Wait, why’d you make this mess?’ She’s like, ‘I didn’t do it. This wasn’t me I didn’t do it.’ And she asked my cousin, like Alicia, my little cousin Alicia,  ‘Alicia’s not—like, she wasn’t even here she was with my grandma.’ So like what the fuck? And my aunt was just, like, you’re being stupid, like, you did this shit. And, uh, this one time my aunt was vacuuming the living room and, uh, they’re have a, like, I guess you could say, like, somewhat of a poltergeist, like, they’ve experience the shit where you see the chairs, like, stacked up Like that’s happened to them. Like, they’ve seen it. And, so from that, they had a priest come to the house and like legitly bless it. You know. Um, so maybe for awhile, things started, like, things were completely fine. And it was’t until there was a barbeque at, they had a barbeque at their house. And my uncle decided, ‘you know what? Fuck it. I’m gonna—we’re gonna take this doll, and I’m just gonna throw it away, like, it’s done.’ You know, uh, so when people were coming, my grandpa at the time, he saw, he saw, like, this doll, perfectly fine on the trash can and he’s, like, why are they gonna throw this away? So he brought it back into the house. And you know from the perspective of everyone who’s outside, you just see a bunch of kids running out of the—outside in the back yard just running, just screaming, like ‘OH MY GOD!’ and my aunt was like what’s wrong, like, what happened? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ They said that—these are like little kids, a like my cousins, who said that, they claim that they saw the doll run across the room like the hallway.  And they all just ran out, screaming. It’s just… what the fuck? So from that they just, they just burned the doll, they got rid of it. They legitly just got rid of it. Um but I could like vouch for that. My brother, like, my oldest brother who’s 25, 26 now, he was a kid when that happened, like he was one of the kids that was there. You know. Like for him, it’s just, like, “Dude, I have no idea what the fuck happened. It was just there.” You know, but, yeah… just shit like that… like, supernatural shit.

“But the way that my family sees it, well my dad, my dad’s like her (the secondary informant) dad, like, “That’s bullshit. Like you don’t pay attention to it. You know, you don give it energy, like it feeds off energy, like it needs to be noticed, you know so if you make that conscious decision, like okay I see it,  I’m gonna acknowledge it, it’s just (snaps), it’s gonna keep coming back, it’s gonna keep coming to you, you know. But for some—like my grandmother, and just this—but it’s mostly with older generations—”

Secondary informant: “They just love it! They just dig it.”

Primary informant: “It’s like older generations, you know, it’s an older generations thing.”

My informant is of Mexican ancestry and his family is very open to the idea of the supernatural. He says that his family frequently shares stories about ghosts, hauntings, and unexplainable occurrences. Although he is more skeptical than his older relatives, the older women are especially into it, he still enjoys sharing the stories he’s heard. He can’t help but believe that there’s at least some truth to what his family members are telling him.

Stories about dolls who are haunted or possessed are very popular within the fantastic genre of literature, art, and film.  My informant’s tale is a unique one and tells of something supernatural experienced by his relatives.

Folk Beliefs
general
Material

Folk Craft/Superstition

“The Worry Doll, well I actually have multiple dolls, probably about 40 in total. They were a gift, brought back for me from El Salvador. The tradition is that the dolls are supposed to be carried by their owners at all times… so I have one in my car, one in my purse, and the rest at home. I tell the dolls my worries, and they serve as protectors and are believed to bring good luck.”

Pamela is a native Californian, though she has traveled throughout the world, and even lived for short periods in other countries like Germany and Japan, she could never leave California. Her mother was born in Arkansas and her father in Minnesota, they raised Pamela and her two brothers in the Hollywood Hills. Because she is my mom, I also have worry dolls and follow the same practice as her. My mother has passed many things on to me but the dolls are definitely a favorite treasure that we both value. Our housekeeper, Gladys, who is originally from El Salvador brings us home Worry Dolls each time she visits. The tradition according to Gladys is that the dolls are handmaid and then given as gifts by their creator, “El regalo… es muy muy importante porque la muñeca es una extensión de la persona.” Although my mom and I don’t make our own dolls, we have still given dolls to close friends to carry on the tradition of the worry dolls.

My mom admits that she occasionally shares her worries with the dolls, but rather she relies on them for protection. She keeps the dolls by her bed at home to also ward off bad dreams. Though the dolls have an intended meaning for Gladys, my mom has adopted many of those uses but has also enacted her own superstitions onto the dolls, like the protection from bad dreams. The dolls are supposed to make life more enjoyable and safer and I suppose their purposes depend on the particular person.

For my mom and I, the doll is a constant, there isn’t a day that we don’t carry dolls with us so I was certain that she would want to be interviewed about them, “They are now a part of my existence, and I have passed them on to friends that I feel need a little extra support in life.” My mom and I discussed the dolls at her home in Beverly Hills. After further investigation of Worry Dolls on the Internet, I mostly found Worry Dolls from Guatemala and have yet to find more information about Dolls from El Salvador.

Worcester News reported on Worry Dolls…

“Worry Dolls Help Neal in His Quest for the Title.” Worcester News 19 Apr. 2007. 24 Apr. 2007.

http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/sport/wnsportroundup/display.var.1342308.0.worry_dolls_help_neal_in_his_quest_for_the_title.php.

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