“Ask a Priest: Is it harmful to have a voodoo doll?”

Q: My mother recently came back from New Orleans and brought me a voodoo doll for success and happiness. I decided to make a little altar for it and write down my hopes and wishes on it, which were not at all harmful or vain — things like: I want my kids to have healthy, happy lives, and I want God to be proud of me. I kind of want to believe that the “spirits” people believe in in voodoo are a representation of the Holy Spirit, and I thought of this as a fun new way of praying. Do you think there is any harm in this? Even if I still believe everything was created by God and controlled by God? — Like this voodoo doll, for example? -M.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You would do yourself a very, very big favor if you got rid of the voodoo doll and the little altar as soon as possible. Voodoo can easily be seen as something innocent and playful. It is not.

The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in its website says, “The Voodoo doll is a form of gris-gris, a ritualized form of invoking the spirits, or fate, to act in a defined way towards a targeted person.”

That “invoking of spirits” is not the same as invoking the Holy Spirit, who is God.

“Invoking of spirits” implies divination. The Catechism in No. 2116 says,All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

Without realizing it, a person who fools around with voodoo dolls or astrology or palm reading can move onto dangerous ground. This is not fun and games. Voodoo has roots in African cultures, and in this country it has mixed with Christian elements. This mixture is not healthy.

If you want to pray for your future children, use the rich traditions that the Church offers. Pray the Rosary. Cultivate your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Make frequent use of the sacrament of confession, and stay close to the Eucharist. And please, get rid of that doll and altar. I will pray that you do so, right away. God bless you!

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