Friday 9 August 2019

Witchy Craft: How to Make a Sewn Cloth Poppet

Poppets are magical dolls that use the tradition of sympathetic magic in witchcraft. They can represent people in spells to help and heal, even if the horror movie image of them usually shows them being used for harm. The word 'poppet' comes from a Middle English word spelled ‘popet’, meaning a small child or doll. Since medieval times, that could refer to a small human figure used in witchcraft as well as for children’s toys

The most popular way of making poppets today is using cloth to sew a doll stuffed with herbs, then enchanting it for its intended purpose. I tend to make them small so they can easily be carried around in a pocket or bag, like a lucky charm, amulet or a talisman.

For the body of the doll, you can upcycle an old garment worn by the person the poppet will represent, to give it personal connection. Old T-shirts are ideal, but other items can be used for their associations (lucky socks or sexy undies anyone). Alternatively, use new fabric in a colour that ties in with the purpose of the spell. Felt is particularly easy to sew and doesn’t fray.

Cutting out the Shapes
You need to cut out two identical doll shapes from the fabric, one for the front and one for the back. The easiest style is gingerbread-person type shapes. If you feel artistic, you can draw a pattern yourself on a piece of paper by folding a piece of paper in half down the middle, drawing one side of the doll against the fold and cutting it out so that when you open it up you have two symmetrical halves joined in the middle. Or, you can draw around a gingerbread person cookie cutter.

Stuffing and Filling
The main filler should be dried herbs that have the appropriate magical association for the poppet's purpose. You might want your poppet to have a symbolic heart or a brain, or a womb or whatever. You can cut shapes out of fabric or paper, or you can use dried berries, nuts or seed pods. If the spell is intended to affect a specific body part – to heal an injury, for example – you might make that bit of the poppet as realistic as possible.

The second type of filler is components that physically link the doll to the person represented. You can put a few strands of hair inside like we did earlier. Witches sometimes call these types of things taglocks – which traditionally means a matted knot of hair.

If the doll needs more stuffing than you have herbs and hair, then you can pad it out with the offcuts of fabric you used for the body. You will need to cut these up into tiny pieces first.

You don’t have to be good at sewing to make a poppet. If you are using felt, which doesn’t fray, there is no need to do neat seams or to use a blanket stitch, unless you want to and feel confident. You can just do a simple running stitch about 1cm or just under from the edge of the fabric. Do keep the stitches reasonably small and tight so the stuffing doesn’t fall out of the poppet, but it doesn’t have to be neat or even.

Features and flourishes

Eyes and other features can be drawn, sewn or stuck on afterwards. Simple crosses, circles, beads or buttons for eyes and a line for a mouth are okay. It doesn’t have to be realistic, most poppets are stylised and that’s fine. Eyes are a good idea for poppets as they are the window to the soul, but add as many other features as you want.

More symbolism can be added afterwards as clothing, accessories and other adornments. You can attach ribbons, beads, buttons, strips of fabric, jewellery or small charms. You can write or embroider words onto your doll. This could be its name, or you could write your wish.

You can draw or embroider symbols. Obvious examples might be hearts, stars, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes or bells. If the symbols of astrology, tarot, planetary magic, the elements or other esoteric traditions are meaningful to you, then you can use them.

You should then do a ritual to bring your poppet to life and enchant it. Without enchantment, a poppet is just a doll. It might look the part, it might be full of correspondences, symbolism and connections, but the magic isn’t complete. The essential magical part of linking a poppet to the person it represents is naming it. You can just give the doll the same name as the person it has been created for. The easiest and quickest way to name your doll is to pick it up in your hands and say three times: ‘I name you XXX.’

You can also blow gently onto your poppet to represent bringing it to magical life and infusing it with spirit. Then charge it with its magical purpose - be that to bring you health, wealth, love or luck.

That's just a simple ceremony, but you can do a full ritual, present your poppet to the elements, to any deities you honour and then name it and  charge it if you want to. Some people like to baptise their poppet with blessed water too.

My book Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls has lots more information on the subject. You can view Poppets and Magical Dolls on Amazon or order it via publisher Moon Books. Note: I earn commission from some links. This helps subsidise my blog at no extra cost to readers.

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