The central debate within the Voodoo fraternity concerns the preference for the wax doll or the cloth puppet. Smaller specialist groups also favour wood-carved effigies or plaster or china mouldings. It can be shown, however, that the physical nature of the effigy is of relatively little importance in that the central effect depends on the degree of personalisation and above all the intent of the operator. Students are therefore advised to determine which modality is best suited to their own temperament and to seek facility in their chosen area.
Voodoo is sympathetic magic, based on the Law of Sympathy and the Law of Contagion (infinitesimals) as first applied to medicine in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann. The theory was fully elucidated and explained by James Frazer in 1890. Students are urged to familiarise themselves with the appropriate passages from Frazer's works (especially chapter 3 of The Golden Bough). Essentially, as 'like affects like' (similia similibus), operations performed on a suitably constructed doll, puppet or effigy substitute for operations performed on the patient (Law of Similarity), with all the attendant advantages of safety, economy and specificity. The addition of ousia, items once in contact with the patient (Law of Contagion), enhances the similia similibus properties of the image and hence strengthens the healing power.
Voodoo is a natural, gentle, safe and kind therapy. As such it is essential that all materials used in connection with animal treatment are wholly natural, completely organic and GM-free. This includes paints and dyes as well as wax, clay, wood and cloth.
In common with all paranormal therapies such as acupuncture, homoeopathy and biodynamic agriculture, yì (intention) is the most fundamental prerequisite for therapeutic effect. This consideration, which will be discussed in more detail in the Pharmacology module of the course, has important implications for the efficacy of different forms of effigy production. The essential point to remember is that it is not strict physical likeness to the patient which is important, or even artistic merit, but the degree to which the image is identified with the patient in the mind of the operator.
Mass-produced dolls. These may be purchased from a variety of sources, but serve only as a basis for the personalisation of the model. This type of effigy may be perfectly adequate for minor or self-limiting aliments and possibly for routine healthcare, however see below as regards the desirability of fully-personalised effigies for regular patients. The most effective use of this type of doll is to make the initial purchase with the patient in mind, as for example choosing a Labrador or a Westie model from a china shop specifically for a named patient. However, if a stock of models is purchased for later allocation, it is important to have the identity of the patient clearly in mind at the moment of selecting the appropriate model.
The personalisation of the model is of vital importance, and must involve some permanent alteration carried out with vocalisation of the invocation, as described below. Paint is the most widely-used medium, either to apply markings similar to those of the patient or to colour the effigy similarly to the patient. Dyes are also useful in certain circumstances. At this stage the addition of ousia should also be considered, and the use of a clipping of the patient's own hair to further personalise the appearance of the effigy allows the incorporation of the contagion principle into the exercise.
Malleable templates. Wax is the most common medium for this type of effigy, but wood (preferably softwood) may also be employed. The principle is that a stock of basic animal shapes is laid by, and fundamental alterations are then made to the dimensions of the model at the time of personalisation. Wax may be softened and remoulded into a shape more closely resembling the patient, or more detailed carving may be applied to wooden figures. This is a significantly more powerful manipulation than a simple alteration in colour, and is preferred for more serious conditions. Once again, ousia may be incorporated in the personalised figure.
Individual effigies. These may be of either wax or cloth, or occasionally wood if the operator is practised in carving skills. This is the preferred approach for life-threatening or intractable conditions of any description. The essence is that the effigy is formed from the native substance with the patient's identity clearly in the mind of the operator throughout the entire procedure, and thus holds more healing power than an item taken from stock.
When a regular client employs the voodooist as primary healthcare operative for his animals, it is advisable to prepare individualised effigies of these animals from the outset. Not only does this save time and effort if such a patient presents with a life-threatening condition, repeated identification of the image with the patient in repeated invocations over a number of years strengthens the similia similibus bond and enhances the efficacy of all procedures. Such images may be stored in the surgery premises, in designated racks, and it is good practice to go over the contents of the racks at regular intervals, mentally reinforcing the identity of the effigies with the appropriate patients.
This aspect is discussed more fully in the Surgery notes.
Many voodooists make use of the skills of lay staff in the construction of effigies. Some employ specialist sculptors, handcraft workers or wood carvers, while others maintain that only a fully- qualified voodoo nurse should be entrusted with the task. Whichever view is taken it is undoubtedly the quality of the visualisation which has most effect on the efficacy of the procedure. It is beyond question, however, that personal construction by the voodooist himself, with appropriate visualisation, is the most powerful technique and to be preferred for all serious and chronic presentations. As stated above, strength of visualisation is much more important than technical or artistic merit, and in this area the experienced voodooist will always prove superior to the lay operative.
Ousia is the term given to personal items taken from the patient and incorporated in the effigy. While the Law of Similars is of course the over-riding principle of voodooism, the introduction of appropriate ousia allows the concurrent operation of the Law of Contagion and so strengthens the procedure. Hair is of course the most commonly used ousia material, and this may be incorporated into the effigy to enhance its similarity to the patient and so perform a dual purpose. However, one should not overlook the usefulness of faeces, claw clippings or even a fragment of a favourite blanket or toy. Blood is of course the most powerful ousia available, but its very power means that it should be employed sparingly, and only by the most skilled and experienced operators.
Ousia of any description may be placed in a vial attached to the effigy, usually by means of a collar or necklace. Alternatively, materials such as faeces or blood may be smeared on the image. Hair, of course, may form part of the image itself, usually making up the tail. Insertion of ousia inside a cloth puppet is quite simple, but some work has also been done on the incorporation of a cavity in wax or wooden models to enable the same effect to be achieved with these modalities.
Conscious identification of the image and the patient by the operator is at the heart of voodoo medicine, and this is best achieved by a vocalised invocation of the image to take on the identity of the patient. The method popularised by Ransome (1931) has been found to be as effective as any. In this the operator walks "roun de room an roun de room an roun de room" (widdershins, naturally), holding the image aloft and repeating the identity of the patient, as in "be the (e.g.) Smiths' spaniel, Bertie; be the Smiths' spaniel, Bertie; be the Smiths' spaniel, Bertie." This process is in addition to the constant (usually silent) visualisation of the identity during the fashioning of the image and should never be seen as substituting for it. However, it is of particular importance when a lay operative has constructed the effigy, as this is then the only opportunity for the voodooist himself to input power to the similia similibus structure.
FRAZER, J. G. (1922) Sympathetic Magic. Ch. 3 of The Golden Bough, a Study in Magic and Religion, 4th edn. Public domain text, several editions in print.
RANSOME, A. (1931) Swallowdale. London: Jonathan Cape.
SOPHISTES, A. (1996) Construction and use of ancient Greek poppets. In Biblioteka Arcana, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
VOODOO AUTHENTICA, 612 Rue Dumaine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116, USA. [This site is clearly a shameless parody, but nevertheless contains interesting information.]
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