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So let's say that I have a Hollywood-style voodoo doll. For instance, when I stick a pin in it, the subject feels a piercing pain and if I put it next to a flame, the subject feels hot and perhaps burns.

However, I've come to reconcile with the subject and, as part of burying the hatchet, I'd like to destroy the voodoo doll. But how can I do that without harming the subject? Unfortunately, I don't know how it was made (I got it from a witch in the swamp who has since disappeared), thus I can't simply reverse the creation process.

So how can I destroy the voodoo doll?

Inspired by this Penny Arcade comic.

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closed as off-topic by Mołot, L.Dutch, Mormacil, sphennings, Mindwin Jul 5 '17 at 12:35

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    $\begingroup$ I think a better question would be: "Can you destroy a voodoo doll (without causing horrible pain to whoever it was made for)?" IMO it would be really interesting if it wasn't possible. In which case you would probably just have to hide it in a safe location until whoever it was made for dies. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 5 '17 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ A "Hollywood-style" voodoo doll? Are voodoo dolls a common theme in Hollywood films? $\endgroup$ – user598527 Jul 5 '17 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ Put your friend in water, then burn the doll? Your friend cant burn since he is in water? Maybe he feels a lot of heat tho... $\endgroup$ – Mario Garcia Jul 5 '17 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ Go to another witch and ask them to "unmagic" the doll. $\endgroup$ – skymningen Jul 5 '17 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ The strangest questions are popular here. If you do not know the rules of your doll, you do not know how to destroy it without hurting the target. Also if you don't know the rules, maybe you should start by making them up. Hollywood isn't exactly known for being bulletproof in their logic and it mostly leaves a lot to the imagination, so just invent "anything" $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 5 '17 at 11:29
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In original voodoo a voodoo doll is just a ward against spirits you nailed to a structure or tree. The European tradition of poppets, which were the sympathetic magic links to a person, got associated with voodoo dolls by outsiders. So voodoo dolls as we commonly think of them were never actually part of voodoo. In fact voodoo is one of the few traditions they do not show up in. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19dzdsw

A common concept in many fantasy stories is the idea that a voodoo doll needs some part of a person to make/maintain the connection, hair, blood, a photo, ect. If you remove this thing the connection is broken. But really it depends on how magic in your world works.

Or course you could try the Granny Weatherwax solution and put your real arm in a fire and make the voodoo doll burst into flames instead.

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    $\begingroup$ But the OP has "a Hollywood-style voodoo doll"... and he "can't simply reverse the creation process"... and he wants to proceed "without harming the subject". $\endgroup$ – AnoE Jul 5 '17 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ But as the flames spread across the real doll wouldn't you also feel the burning all over your body? $\endgroup$ – colmde Jul 5 '17 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AnoE breaking the connection is a lot simpler than reversing the creation process, its a lot easier to break a car than disassemble it. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 5 '17 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ The weatherwax argument went that when you stick a pin in the doll you are not damaging it but the person is damaged, and a person feels pain but the doll does not, so the the person takes the damage instead of the doll, thus if you did something to yourself the doll takes the damage instead of yourself. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 5 '17 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @John, don't worry, I am not a Voodoo Doll expert myself... all my attempts to create one so far didn't really work, so I have really no business talking about them anyways. I just found it remarkable from an ontological point of view that you addressed exactly the three points the OP mentioned, in a reverse way. I like the answer from Mr. Palpatine though, it sounds very convincing. $\endgroup$ – AnoE Jul 5 '17 at 16:52
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An easy solution is, of course, Don't destroy the doll.

But why?

Well, voodoo dolls traditionally subject their counterparts to the same things that happen to them. These don't have to be negative.

You've reconciled with the person. Let's say you're friends now. They're spending a long day in the sun? Put the voodoo doll in your fridge. Or maybe they're out shoveling snow in the winter. Wrap it in a blanket. Give it a massage when they're sore.

Just remember to store it in a secure location to make sure nobody else can do bad things with it.

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    $\begingroup$ And when you are watching horror movies together, secretly stroke it along it's limbs or cheeks to enhance the atmosphere XD $\endgroup$ – Ben Ong Jul 5 '17 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ Or as a cruel prank, touch the voodoo doll in a stimulating manner while the subject is trying to enjoy a quiet meal with their spouse :D $\endgroup$ – Darren H Jul 5 '17 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ Or is at a business lunch? :-D $\endgroup$ – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Jul 5 '17 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ Not a solution. A doll isn't made for eternity. Just having a voodoo doll of a person that isn't under constant guard and in perfect shape will hurt the target. Just think of all those little insects that love to live inside those dolls $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 5 '17 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ “Put the voodoo doll in your fridge" - that should be no different than putting that person in the fridge I suppose? $\endgroup$ – xiaomy Jul 5 '17 at 11:56
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Voodoo lore is hard to pry into. The practitioners are necessarily secretive. However, with some Google searching I see some standard patterns. The general trend is that you want to send the doll back to Gaia to have her help resolve the negative energies.

  • Submerging it underwater is a common trend. Several sites mention that if you do this, you should not look back at the doll as you walk away from it.

  • Holy water is also very popular. Some sites even suggest that if you submerge it in holy water and then let it dry, you can even anoint it with oil and burn it completely (without singing Romero's hair!)

  • Many approaches involve keeping it safe in a white cloth bag with sea salt before disposal.

Another solution may be simply to bring it to a Voodoo practitioner you trust to get assistance. While I can search Google all day, many practitioners devote their life to Voodoo, and will obviously know quite a bit more.

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This is Hollywood voodoo, so a solution doesn't have to be accurate, just have the image and trappings of voodoo, the "rules" you have established for this voodoo take priority..

So...

Place the voodoo doll into a magic barrier circle consecrated to papa Legba (the voodoo loa of roads) or a circle of salt etc , thus limiting the range of the doll to within the circle.

Burn the doll.

Safely break the circle.

This gives you a couple of plot options, the spell works and the doll is disposed of, OR the curse in the doll is released when the doll is burned and once the circle is broken is released to find it's target.

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The basic idea of such a doll, voodoo or not, is a sympathetic link, in other words, something done to one thing makes this happen to another, similar or connected thing. This idea is very common, but of course, the details vary.

Depending on the specific rules of magic that apply here, we could have different stuff...

  1. The doll itself is just a tool for a magic spell. It allows you to do bad stuff to the person, but only with the active help of magic. In other words, for example, if you simple put needles in the doll, nothing happens, but if you put needles in it while mumbling a magic spell while standing inside your magic circle at the right hour, the target feels the pain. Destroying such a doll is trivial, since nothing happens without magic.

  2. Sometimes, intent is important. If that's the case, putting a needle into the doll because you needed a place for a needle for a moment, for example, will do nothing, but putting a needle into it with the intent to harm, will hurt. Also in this case, destroying is simple, because you can do so as long as you intend no harm to the person.

  3. If the doll itself becomes a continuous magic link, so that everything transfers to the person, that's harder. In this cases, destroying it may be harder (or impossible). As @John pointed out, it may be possible to break the link of hair, blood, etc. is removed, but if that stuff is inside the doll, this may be hard. In such a case, a holy place might help, for example going into a church or temple that shields the effects and then destroying it. Also, another wizard/priest/etc. might be able to shield the doll for a while, while you destroy it.

  4. As @John already pointed out, Granny Weatherwax destroyed a voodoo doll by using the link in the opposite direction, burning herself to burn the doll. While this is a possibility (if the doll is connected to the target, the target may also be connected backwards), this might be harder than the other way round, since the way from something that was connected to you back to you is pretty much unique, but the way from you to something that was connected to you isn't - there a millions and millions of skin cells, hairs, etc. floating around that were once connected to you. While we can imagine the doll having a stronger connection to you than all the other stuff, depending on the magic rules, it still might need a truly gifted wizard/etc. to use the link in the other direction (and "Granny Weatherwax did it" is pretty much as good as "Steven Hawkings understands it, so I should, too." - Granny is pretty much THE expert on witchy things in her world).

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    $\begingroup$ For some reason I really want to find out Stephen Hawking's reaction to being called the "Granny Weatherwax of physics" :-P $\endgroup$ – Rycochet Jul 5 '17 at 9:46
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I'm pretty sure Hollywood style voodoo dolls can't be destroyed without inflicting damage on the target, and since you're unable to have the creator unmake it, I don't see a safe way to destroy it, unless you want to expend a lot of time and energy learning enough voodoo to magically unenchant it yourself.

If that's not an option, the best approach is to give the voodoo doll to the target, and make its safekeeping their problem. "Let's bury the hatchet... by the way, you probably want to keep this someplace safe, and not accidentally light it on fire, or anything like that."

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A voodoo specialist can dissolve the doll by boiling it in a special potion.

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Image source: The Crown Of The Crusader Kings by Don Rosa.

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What about giving the voodoo doll to the subject?

Maybe it can be of positive use and they can decide what they want to do with it? Like scratching your own back or things similar to @Andon's answer.

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