Taglocked March 24, 2023

“At the rocky river’s edge

The rapids raged cold and wet

They held hands as they tossed the doll

Into the angry river’s depths

The horizon flashed as the sun set

And the poppet sank below

A roar came crashing up

The wild river spirits in tow”

Cunning Words, The Wrathful River Spirits

What is a Taglock?

A taglock is a representative of the target a practitioner wishes to affect with their spell or magic. Historically, this would be a personal item like some hair, nail clippings, or an article of clothing. As time evolved and communities grew, this definition expanded to include handwriting and name paper. As technology advanced, so did taglocks with pictures and printing out signatures. All of these items can be used in sympathetic magic to connect your spellcraft to your target.

“Sew it shut with red thread

Lock your target deep inside

You may use clothing, hair, or nails

Should your foe kindly provide.”

Cunning Words, The Wrathful River Spirits

Long ago, cunning folk worked in small communities where obtaining these items was much simpler. Magic was local. The people seeking it or being affected by it were only within a few miles of one another: a torn page from a simple common place book, a snip of beard trimmings collected by a wife, a ribbon from a young girls braid, etc. Casting powders or charms onto someone’s doorstep was very simple to get away with.

Nowadays, hairstylists sweep our hair away in to garbage bins, we wear our hair ties around our wrists, and most notes are placed in electronic devices. Many of us don’t live in insulated villages where everyone knows everyone. As community evolved, so did taglocks.

Practices in different areas began expanding what could be used to connect your magic to a target. In early witch trials, it was believed one could hammer a nail into a witches foot print and it would nail them in their tracks. In hoodoo, foot tracks are commonly used where a practitioner might put a spell in the place they know their target will walk.

Name paper began to pop up in multiple practices in hoodoo, Appalachian magic, and the American south where the practitioner might write their targets name 9 times with their birthdate written across it. Name paper has since become a very popular taglock to create and work on someone from afar.

As technology advanced, pictures became a simple type of taglock to use to connect your working to its real life counterpart. While photographs in the mid 1900s were more expensive and held close by families in personal albums, the rise of social media brought the most accessible taglock of all: the selfie. We post so many images of ourselves online, a simple google search will most likely land you the perfect image any practitioner could print out and use in a working.

Pictures are great because like name paper, one could do a working from afar. With a home printer and access to anyone’s social media, a witch can have a taglock of your likeness in 30 seconds flat. And you wonder why we’re all about protection…

The Potency of Different Taglocks

Now some folks in the community feel as though certain taglocks have more potency than others. Some do not. Here’s my personal opinion: Firsthand items of your target are always best (hair, nail clippings, dna, handwriting, or a small personal item). The next best thing is a picture or name paper. This doesn’t mean that it will work less because it’s a picture and not a personal item. I just think it’s more direct that way.

I personally cut all my family’s hair and I keep clippings from each in separate envelopes in my workspace incase I ever need to do work for them. Sometimes the most cunning thing a practitioner can do is anticipate the future and be prepared. Don’t only collect taglocks when you need them. Start preemptively gathering them. Get a little box to keep them filed away so when you’re in need, you are ready.

In my book, Cunning Words: a Grimoire of Tales and magic, I have a chapter entitled “A Doll of Dough” which explains how to make a salt dough poppet and how to put certain herbs or items inside to bespell it with specific virtues. Just like the herbs, a taglock would be placed inside and molded around the item. In spellcraft, you might do a candle spell with your candle dressed and standing atop a picture of your target to connect the spell to them. You might toss a taglock of your intended and some magical powders into a charmed fire while chanting a cunning phrase to enact your spell.

How you choose your taglock is totally up to you. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be about what’s easiest, but instead about what’s possible. Is it possible to get dna? Is it possible to get a powder or charm to someone’s door without being seen in their ring doorbell? Is it possible to steal a hair tie, a tissue, a used coffee cup in the trash, ect? If it’s not, this is when I move on to printing pictures or carving names and birthdays in candles or written on paper. Does that make it less effective? In my opinion, not really. I’m just a big believer in committing to my work and sometimes that means being clever and cunning enough to spirit away something a bit more personal.

Breaking a Spell with your Taglock

Taglocks also are a great way to break our spells. If you keep your taglock after the spell is done, you can choose to break its hold at a later date for whatever reason. Say a spell doesn’t go the way you anticipated (we’ve all been there). A practitioner could douse the taglock in black saltwater with herbs like nettles, rue, juniper, or angelica. I like to always leave myself a sort of safety lever just in case.

“All hail the river spirits

Mighty, powerful, and cruel

This song I sing to conjure them

This chant be your blessed tool

Sing the rhyme and verse

As you cast out your taglocked doll

Then turn around and don’t look back

And await your enemy’s fall”

Cunning Words, The Wrathful River Spirits

From the crossroads of Texas,

Marshall WSL

About Marshall WSL
Marshall is a practicing traditional which living in Texas. Be sure to catch him on his podcast, Southern Bramble: a Podcast of Crooked Ways and get his book Cunning Words: a Grimoire of Tales and Magic on Amazon now. You can read more about the author here.
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