Focusing on love, health, protection and wealth, a voodoo doll maker creates effigies to inspire and uplift
Photo: Viki Ackland
IF YOUR WERE to visit New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in the centre of city’s French Quarter, you might buy a voodoo doll to bring home—never suspecting you were delivering it back to its place of origin.
The doll you chose may have been made right here, creatively handcrafted by Londoner Viki Ackland, who is also a trained voodoo practitioner and member of the New Orleans Voodoo Society.
Ackland first became fascinated with voodoo years ago, when her sisters would regularly visit New Orleans. “I would look after [one sister’s] cat, and she would bring back gifts for me—voodoo dolls or shrunken heads,” she says. “I researched voodoo and realized it’s not like Hollywood portrays it. It’s really a spiritual practice.”
Ackland started making a few voodoo dolls herself, using natural materials like wood, rocks, moss, repurposed fabric and even dryer lint, which she fashions into dreadlocks. She also makes some fetish dolls—voodoo dolls made using animal bones and small skulls. “Bones have a real spiritual energy,” she says.
“I have a ritual for naming each one and blessing it for the specific gift it carries. They are all full of positive energy” —Viki Ackland
In 2016, she formalized her hobby, launching Viki’s Voodoo Dolls and creating an online store on Etsy, the e-commerce site focused on handmade and vintage items and craft supplies. That was also the year she visited New Orleans in person and approached the Voodoo Museum about carrying her creations.
There are a few times of year, like Mardi Gras, when she is particularly busy filling museum orders, but since she has an agreement in place not to sell to other stores in the French Quarter, the bulk of her sales are realized through Etsy. Most of her dolls retail for between $35 and $65.
Ackland also sells dolls locally through Mystic Bookshop, From Mars and the Old East Village Grocer, where you’ll sometimes find her working behind the deli counter.
You can find lots of people selling “revenge” voodoo dolls online, says Ackland, but she stresses that the purpose of her dolls is to send positive energy out into the world.
“The ones I make are for healing, not for evil purposes. I have a ritual for naming each one and blessing it for the specific gift it carries—coping with grief, renewed love, a fresh start with school or a new job, for example—they are all full of positive energy.”
Ackland also makes mojo or gris-gris bags, which are filled with herbs and oils with healing properties, spirit dolls that are designed to embrace feminine energy and small wrapped protection dolls, which Ackland explains are a type of voodoo doll that ward off negative spirits and influences. “I started to send one as a free gift with every order, and now my customers kind of expect it,” she says.
Ackland has built a fan base mainly south of the border, with 90 per cent of repeat customers being in the U.S. “Every doll is unique, and I do talk to customers to ensure that they are getting the right doll for them.” Kym Wolfe