Last week, my neighbor cut back our shared hedge considerably—about three feet. We didn’t think much about it until our family walk, when we were startled to discover this:
It’s a fuzzy picture, but if you enlarge it you can see it’s a baby doll head impaled on a stick–caked in mud, with one eye closed and one open, and lips and chin eaten away. Yup, the stuff of Stephen King’s own nightmares. We have since started referring to it as “Creepy Baby Head” (CBH for short).
We live on a relatively busy street with a lot of high school kids walking by, so it’s very likely that some bored teen found CBH and propped it there. (As an aside, my friends Kriston and Corin recommended hanging signs under CBH that read “Trespass on our lawn at your own peril!” and “Don’t tempt the haunted doll’s head! Stay off our lawn!” I’m favoring “See this guy? This guy left his Red Bull can and Taco Bell wrapper on our sidewalk…”)
Finding Creepy Baby Head so unexpectedly and so close to home was unnerving, especially because it dovetailed with research I’d been doing just a few days before about early modern witchcraft: I realized that this little baby head was creeping me out because it was so much like a poppet.
We now use the word “poppet” as a term of endearment, especially for young girls or women, but it’s actually a close relative of the word “puppet,” recorded as early as the 14th century in England. In witchcraft, poppets were little dolls used to aid in acts of sympathetic magic. The idea was to make a doll that looked like a person or animal and then to use the doll in charms–often for protection and health, but sometimes for less congenial purposes. Whatever you did to the doll happened to the real person or animal through sympathy (or correspondence) with that thing.
Here’s a sample of a poppet from about.com (I know this is kind of a basic introduction, but I’m a little nervous about doing too much witchcraft research on the web—I’ve tried it, and that’s a whole level of intensity I’m not prepared for!)
Below is a video in case you’re curious about making one. (As an aside, this video is an excellent way to dispel any stereotypes you may have of modern-day practitioners of Wicca. I’m going to crown this gal “World’s Peppiest Poppet Maker.”)
The comforting thing (okay, maybe not comforting as it still sends a cold little shiver down my spine) is that a poppet can be created and employed anywhere. It doesn’t depend at all on proximity. So if somebody out there had really made a poppet of me, they probably wouldn’t have put it right next to my house. So I’m safe.
The rest of you, though………..
Edited to add: Dear lord, look what I just saw in a local boutique! It’s called the Dammit Doll. It comes with a little poem that reads:
“Whenever things don’t go so well,
And you want to hit the wall and yell,
Here’s a little Dammit Doll
That you can’t do without.
Just grasp it firmly by the legs
And find a place to slam it.
And as you whack the stuffing out
Yell ‘Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!'”
Isn’t this something? I mean, it’s totally a poppet, right? A twee, over-priced, over-marketed poppet. I’m only mad I didn’t think of it first….