The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of what has come to be called New Orleans Voodoo, but more appropriately Hoodoo (folk magic), is a mystery. This practice is not unique to voodoo or hoodoo, however, and has as much basis in magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa. These are in fact power objects, what in Haiti would be referred to as pwen, rather than magical surrogates for an intended target of sorcery whether for boon or for bane. Such voodoo dolls are not a feature of Haitian religion, although dolls intended for tourists may be found in the Iron Market in Port au Prince. The practice became closely associated with the Voodoo religions in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies and popular novels.
There is a practice in Haiti of nailing crude poppets with a discarded shoe on trees near the cemetery to act as messengers to the otherworld, which is very different in function from how poppets are portrayed as being used by voodoo worshipers in popular media and imagination, ie. for purposes of sympathetic magic towards another person. Another use of dolls in authentic Vodou practice is the incorporation of plastic doll babies in altars and objects used to represent or honor the spirits, or in pwen, which recalls the aforementioned use of bocio and nkisi figures in Africa.
Although Voodoo is often associated with Satanism, Satan is rarely incorporated in Voodoo tradition. When Mississippi Delta folksongs mix references to Voodoo and to Satan, it may represent social pain such as from racism, although some crossover due to syncretism is bound to occur.