The strange little 19th century doll which is currently on display in the History Room of the Black and White House Museum was found in a crevice of the brickwork of 21 East Street, Hereford. In a fold of her dress was a handwritten note which read:
"Mary Ann Ward,
I act this spell upon you from my holl heart wishing you to never rest nor eat nor sleep the rester part of your life. I hope your flesh will waste away and I hope you will never spend another penny I ought to have.
The body is made of wood, with arms and legs of red checked cotton material. Her head bears traces of paint; she has a string and silk pigtail and wears a red spotted dark blue cotton dress. .
Wishing this from my whole heart."
It seems reasonable to suggest that the doll is a magical object know as a Poppet (or mommet, moppet, poppit or pippy). These were used in folk magic and witchcraft for casting spells on a person or to aid that person through magic. It was from these European dolls that the myth of voodoo dolls arose
It is clear that this spell is hostile in intent and hopes to rectify an injustice, real or perceived. What is not clear is who this is aimed at, unfortunately there are a number of Mary Ann Wards born in Hereford and Herefordshire in the 19th Century, and at least one Mary Ann Ward who moved here (in this case from Birmingham).
The word poppet is an older spelling of puppet, from Middle English popet, meaning a small child or a doll. In British English it continues to hold this meaning. Poppet is also a chiefly British term of endearment.
Source: Herefordshire Museum Service