What Are Voodoo Dolls?
Voodoo is perhaps one of the more famous pagan religions in North America. A mixture of African tribal shamanism and the Catholic beliefs that were forced on the slaves when they came to Haiti, Voodoo has grown and spread over a large portion of the Caribbean and has made its way up into America. Voodoo is famously centered in the port city of New Orleans. Famous for curses, black magic, hexes and the creation of zombies, Voodoo has been used in horror movies and by Hollywood as a scapegoat for so long that almost everything about the religion is misunderstood by the common populace. For instance, voodoo dolls actually come from the European, not the African, side of Voodoo's heritage.
If you've watched horror movies or cheap scare cinema, the idea behind a voodoo doll is pretty simple. You think bad thoughts about a person, collect some of their hair or a personal belonging and put it on the doll, then stick it with pins to create agony or to deliver horrible diseases that medicine cannot cure. If this sounds like an accusation out of the Salem Witch Trials, that's because this sort of magical practice is more on the level with European witches and warlocks. Black magic users, and some who preferred helpful rather than harmful spells, in Europe would create small effigies out of herbs, cloth and some personal part of a person called a poppet. This poppet worked as a conduit through which the magic user could then create effects on the person the poppet was supposed to represent.
The theory of creating a link between you, the spell, and the recipient is actually a long standing tradition in modern magic. If you have a doll that is filled with herbs that are associated with certain actions, like rose petals and incense for a love spell for instance, you have the feeling of the spell. You add to that the person's name, a photograph, or even a bit of their hair or blood to create the link between the poppet and the person. You then perform a spell on the poppet, and because it is a conduit that spell will be transferred to the person. Whether you have the person carry it (for a beneficial spell), hide the item nearby the person (for spells they shouldn't know about), or you leave it on an altar (for when putting the poppet near the person isn't practical), the magic remains the same.
However, for those who are still bent on sticking voodoo dolls with pins, it's important to mention that Voodoo believes in the connectivity of the universe and the idea that what you do comes back to you. Wiccans refer to it as the rule of three, Hindus call it karma, but the basic idea is that what goes around comes around. Doing harm means that bad luck and evil spirits will come to you, while creating helpful situations can only lead to future good in your own future, as well as someone else's.