Thursday, May 28, 2009

Peter Dolls

No doubt I had an impish grin when I first read about 'Peter Dolls' being in my Great Grandmother's practice. I have been quite zealous in trying to track down their origin, but I have been left to guess.

A little while back, I had turned to a Traditional Witchcraft forum to see if anyone else had an idea, and one of the suggestions posted was that it could be Hoodoo. The search continues.

So what exactly are these elusive Peter Dolls? Well, I am not certain if I have seen one myself (there may have been a glimpse caught in my Grandmother's sewing room, but whatever doll it was, my Grandmother has insisted that it was not for the eyes of children!), but from what I gather, they are poppets made from fabric or wool and stuffed with wool and herbs. Their unique feature is a large phallus.

There is no mention of what types of herbs are stuffed into the doll, but colour plays an important role: red to bring virility, white to bring fidelity, and black to bring impotence. My assumption is that as the midwife of the area, that she made these for the wives of the settlement.

If anyone has heard of any similar poppets, or if you have an idea of the origin of the Peter Dolls, I certainly would love to hear your input. :)




Spirit Walk Ministry said...

“Peter Dolls” are a name I never heard of before you brought them up and I did some rummaging around to see what I could find. Like you, I didn’t come up with anything.

With your Hoodoo reference, I have the idea that you are talking about some sort mojo amulet that is a combination of a gris-gris bag and a voodoo doll.

The gris-gris bag is an herbal “medicine pouch” or charm and to the practitioners of Santeria a “protector”. Gris-gris bags would contain whatever herbs, bird’s nests, lodestones, etc., that fit with the magick trying to be worked.

Making them in the form of the dolls would seem to incorporate into the magick the idea of a basic voodoo doll, which would be used to represent the spirit of a specific person.

Putting the two elements together conjures up the image of some sort of “gurunfinda” which is a talisman made by the Santeria's witches, to ward off evil from themselves and direct it toward others and in this case a very specific other person, as represented by the doll, which probably would contain personal items like finger nail clippings or hair.

Perhaps if you were to check a large city, such as Toronto for shops serving the Haitian magic community you might be able to get some more information. I say might, in that although Santeria is perhaps the most well know of the African/Caribbean religion it is also the most secretive.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like you are finding some cool mysteries!

perma_culture said...

Hehe. It sounds like your granny was a bit mischevious. =^)

nefaeria said...

Spirit Walk: Thanks for your input, I will certainly investigate it further!

Anon: Yes, she was/is full of surprises!

Permie: Pleasantly so! ;)

nefaeria said...

Well, I have an update to this mystery!

I was speaking with a local First Nations woman (Anishnawbe) and she uses the Peter Dolls herself. She had been taught about them by her Grandmother, and it turns out she was living near my Great Grandmother around the same time.

She is quite sure that this is a tradition from her people.


Carol2cats said...

I have a small collection of Peter dolls. They stand about 5 inches tall, have many different outfits, scrunched up smiling faces, and scruffy hair. I bought them on different trips to Austria. I'd love o add to my collection.