Spirit dolls are tools found widely across many religions, though they are primarily used by practitioners of Santeria and Hoodoo. They are vessels for powerful spirits to work through, including those of ancestors, familiars, or other entities. They may protect the home, aid in divination, draw love or good fortune, or act as recipients for offerings to ancestors and familial spirits.
How To Make a Spirit Doll
Spirit dolls, themselves, can be any kind of doll. They may be anything from mass-produced plastic doll babies, to rag dolls, to elaborate handmade clay dolls, to beautifully clothed dolls intended to represent Orishas like Yemaya or Obatala. Some practitioners choose to make their dolls entirely by hand, while others might purchase a doll to decorate in spiritually significant clothing, jewelry, and painted symbols. The importance is not in how the doll is made or acquired, but in how it is prepared for the work it is intended to do.
How To Prepare Spirit Dolls
No matter whether a spirit doll is handmade or mass-produced, it must be cleansed and prepared to remove all of the old energies attached to it. After all, you probably do not want to bring the chaotic energy of a toy store or hobby shop into your spirit work! This is usually done by physically cleaning the doll using whichever method is safest -- often a bath of lake water infused with cleansing herbs that are then properly disposed of at a crossroads. Afterward, the doll may be fumed with incense, placed between lit candles, and prayed over to ask a benevolent spirit to enter and inhabit the doll.
Oftentimes, spirits are enticed with offerings like food or flowers. A spirit may not choose to inhabit the doll at first, so the process of praying and offering may have to be repeated. There are many ways to tell whether or not a doll is inhabited. One involves holding your hands over the doll and asking the spirit to push them away. If your hands move, or you feel pressure, the doll is successfully inhabited.
Placing Spirit Dolls In The Home
Depending on the purpose of the doll, it may or may not be placed on a home altar. Practitioners of Espiritismo and Santeria generally place them elsewhere, often in significant spots in the home. Some may be placed at "mesitas," tables intended to receive offerings to the spirits housed within the dolls. Dolls that are representations of a deity, like a Muñeca de Ochun, may go on an altar dedicated to that deity.
Dolls empowered for a specific purpose may go on an altar specifically dedicated to that -- for example, placing a doll empowered to draw love on a love altar with rose quartz, a pink cloth, and fresh roses, or a money-drawing doll on an altar with coins and gold candles.
Living with Spirit Dolls
It is important to remember that dolls are inhabited by spirits. These spirits are by no means enslaved, nor are they like genies that serve a master's every whim. They offer their help and guidance, and respect must be paid to them in turn. Offerings of fruit, food, flowers, incense, and liquor may be given to a doll, but some may prefer other things. While preparing or working with a doll, a spirit worker may experience a distinct feeling that the doll wants certain specific offerings.
Living and working with spirit dolls is a reciprocal relationship. Though a spirit chooses to inhabit a doll, this might not be permanent. Spirits are free to leave whenever they wish and may do so if they feel they have nothing else to offer you, or if they do not feel that they are being treated well. Some very well-taken care-of dolls have been in families for generations, providing protection, guidance, and ancestral love through the ages. Providing a good home, respect, and offerings to a doll can ensure that you have a powerful spiritual ally.