A gris-gris, sometimes known as a grigri, is an object that most Voodoo practitioners craft for their patrons. This talisman or amulet has its origins out of Africa and is designed and crafted for various uses. It is commonly created to ward off evil or as just essential protection against anything classified as a spiritual attack on a person. However, this isn’t its only use since, in the more western area of Africa, they can be used for birth control. The practice of wearing a gris-gris was surprisingly used by believers and non-believers alike. Its appearance, while varied, was usually a small cloth bag inscribed with African verses that contained small ritualistic objects. Allegedly, it was also used in the Islamic faith as protection against evil spirits called Djinn.
In Haiti, they are seen as objects of good fortune used to improve the external lives of the wearers and imbued with some sort of incantation. New Orleans has its version of a gris-gris. While they may be inaccurately represented as a form of black magic, they are, in fact, a much more positive item in the arsenal of Voodoo objects. Unlike the belief that it was designed to bring ill-will on patrons’ enemies, records indicate people tampering with other’s amulets as a form of vengeance. It is believed that, in actuality, the gris-gris was just sources of healing and protection. Why would its original meaning change so much in the course of Voodoo history? Many believed Marie Laveau used these talismans to curse people, but odds are, she simply used them to improve the way of life of those around her.
Source: Marie Laveau: Life of a Voodoo Queen. Monique Joiner Siedlak