African Grigri: understanding its meaning and how it works

The use of grigri is something very old.

Africans and their descendants have used it since time immemorial as part of their cultural, but especially spiritual, practices.

African charms are actually part of what experts call fetishism. Nothing sexual here, fetishism rather corresponds to a branch of animist spiritualities according to which the power of a thing is found in one of its parts.

Concretely, a lock of lion hair contains the power of the lion in its essence, a crocodile tooth is linked to the characteristics of this animal, etc.

You understood ?

If this is the case, then let's take an interest in the subject of the African grigri together to teach you what we can learn from it!

Contents :

Definition of African grigri

Some examples of charms still used today

But in fact, why did Africans use charms?

The place of the grigri in voodoo

African in traditional dress in a village in the West of the continent.

Definition of African grigri

Whether you write them grigris, gris-gris or however you want, these objects will basically refer to the same reality.

According to the traditional religions of Africa but also elsewhere, it would be possible to ward off evil and to ensure a certain protection by wearing very specific objects.

The etymology of the word is not really clear. When we look into the question, it seems that the term “grigri” comes from “juju” (a term which will be better explained to you here), a West African word used to designate sacred objects.

Due to the significant use of dolls as grigris (the famous voodoo dolls), specialists have hypothesized that “grigri” could come from “joujou”, a childish French word describing dolls.

The first European explorers would have confused religious and magical objects with children's toys!

Either way, the mystery remains...

In fact, the very origin of the African grigri divides historians.

Some see them as images of deities, or at least a way to pay homage to them.

Others associate them with traditional witchcraft and rites (sometimes quite obscure) which were once practiced in Africa.

Regardless, the fact is that the African grigri has lost none of its power over time and that, even today, millions of people are ready to place their trust in it.

African ethnic symbols and jewelry

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Some examples of charms still used today

We mentioned it in the introduction: an African grigri will often rely on the power of beings or elements from the natural world in order to monopolize their powers.

Crocodile or lion teeth, a piece of rhinoceros skin and the molt of a snake can all be used to create powerful charms.

A little sand from sacred ground or the bark of a particular species of tree, again, can contain interesting qualities.

One of these most famous elements is undoubtedly the rabbit's foot (of which you will find a rather special example here), which was popularized thanks to Hollywood cinema at the beginning of the 20th century.

In short, many elements of nature can be used to create such lucky charms.

To merge their powers, they are often gathered in small bags known as “mojo bags”.

Another major tradition of African grigri is the use of figurines and dolls.

While some wooden statuettes serve as idols, others are the center of secret rituals.

Made of less durable materials (such as wood or burlap), these figures are often intended to be burned during large ceremonies.

Look for example at this grigri in doll form : its astonishing proportions necessarily give it a mysterious, almost mystical aspect.

To arouse your curiosity, here is a list of different things that can be used as African grigri :

  • Representations (or better, parts) of animals
  • Rings, amulets and talismans… in short, lucky jewelry
  • Certain stones or minerals, such as iron or quartz
  • Herbs and oils
  • Clothes worn by important people
  • Religious signs and symbols

Several African masks used as charms during the rites.

But in fact, why did Africans use charms?

That's true !

An African grigri can be powerful, even very powerful. Either.

But why did the inhabitants of Africa, more than elsewhere, feel the need to use them?

The reason for this is actually simple: this continent is one of all dangers.

There are few places in the world with as many ferocious animals as the African savannah. The deserts of the Sahara and Namibia are particularly hostile to life, and the jungle of central Africa is populated by deadly diseases and very venomous species (both animals and plants).

Faced with such dangers, it is quite understandable that men sought to protect themselves. The use of grigris was one of the solutions found.

Africans have in any case developed a particular relationship with magic and spirituality, that much is clear!

They have also transmitted this relationship to their descendants… and this on all the continents where they have been.

This is precisely what we are going to talk about now.

Rabbit feet, a voodoo doll and a loa (lwa) amulet

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The place of the grigri in voodoo

We could not talk about African grigri without talking about voodoo.

A tradition only a few centuries old, this spiritual movement developed in the colonies of the Americas, where several cultures met “by force”.

Enslaved Africans worked there alongside local natives and European settlers.

This confrontation of cultures led to certain mixtures… notably voodoo.

This religion (because, yes, voodoo is a religion in its own right) has in fact seen the fusion of elements of Christianity with a few from local cults, all on a largely African and animist basis.

If you are curious and want to learn more, here is a set of objects and lucky charms from voodoo that should satisfy your curiosity. To go even further, you will also like this extract from a work on voodoo cultural identity.

In short, among the many elements that the black continent has brought to voodoo, the African grigri holds a special place.

It is indeed difficult to miss the numerous charms, amulets and other dolls evoking ancient African rites.

The founding legend of voodoo itself, the story of Marie Laveau, tells us of the use of strange charms made of bones and dust found in cemeteries. This woman's story is truly astonishing. You can check it for yourself here thanks to this biography of the woman we call the “queen of voodoo”.

In any case, when a tradition is exported in this way, it's a safe bet that there is some truth hidden behind it... Don't you think?

Lucky charms featured in this article

Rabbit's foot

Rabbit's foot

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Small Haitian voodoo doll

Small Haitian voodoo doll

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.