Few pieces of religious iconography are as badly misunderstood as voodoo dolls. The popular cliche posits them as a form of black magic, allowing you to curse your enemies or stick pins in the doll to cause them pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voodoo itself is an animistic religion, not a form of witchcraft. Within that tradition, voodoo dolls serve as a charm of sorts: not dissimilar to a crucifix or a Star of David worn around the neck. Making voodoo dolls work is thus a question of religious piety.

Get a voodoo doll representing a loa who oversees some aspect of life you would like to change. Loa are spirits in the voodoo religion, a little bit like patron saints, who can affect change in the mortal world if they are please. Pap Legba, for example, is often considered a guardian of the home, while Oshun can have an influence on love and relationships. The loa number in the dozens, sometimes hundreds, which makes choosing the right one an adventure in and of itself.

Place the voodoo doll at a small shrine in your home dedicated to the loa it represents. Light a candle--preferably one matching the loa's favorite color--and concentrate on the change you wish to see in your life. Then respectfully ask for the loa to help you, praising his or her generosity and admonishing him or her for aid. Conclude by leaving some of the loa's favorite foods or objects at the shrine--rum, cigars, sweets or grilled meat, depending upon the loa.

If you wish to use a pin on your voodoo doll, understand the purpose it serves in voodoo rituals. New Orleans voodoo uses seven different types of pins, each one representing a different aspect of life. White pins represent positive energy; black pins are for healing and protection; purple pins represent faith or spirituality; green pins represent peace and calm; yellow pins represent money; red pins represent power; and blue pins represent love.

During your ritual at the shrine, as you concentrate on the change you wish to manifest, select the pin that most closely represents that change and stick it in the voodoo doll. If you place it in the heart or stomach, it will aid your emotions and instincts. if you stick it in the head, it will help improve your knowledge in that area.