A Witch Doctor is a type of sorcerer whose magic style is shamanic rather than arcane, and is often some sort of spiritual leader or teacher. Like many European wizards, he's mysterious and downright creepy even by the standards of his environment. That's why he lives well away from everyone else and doesn't wash much. His hut is filled with dried and pickled remains of unpleasant and unidentifiable critters. If he doesn't have explicitly magical powers, then he may be a wetware version of the Mad Scientist
You go to him because he might have a better plan or advice than other rubes, but no one wants to actually talk to him. If he's smart, he knows it and will remind you frequently. Unlike the Mentor
, he's concerned with your quest and possibly be a little fond of you, but perhaps not your particular survival. He is usually completely frank and your success is all he really seems to be rooting for.
Even in recent times, most Witch Doctors have a semi-obvious ethnic derivation
; the most tolerated currently is Jamaican/Caribbean (normally Haitian) and most will have a Vodoun slant. The Witch Doctor can also be a villainous character, what with voodoo getting the treatment it usually gets in Hollywood
. If that's the case, expect his general griminess to be played for creeps rather than laughs. Other times, they may be an example that Dark Is Not Evil
. Traditionally, Witch Doctors healed supernatural ailments and broke curses. Doctors for witch problems
, in other words.
Anime and Manga
Film - Animated
- If you run into one in any anime or manga story, they will either be wise Chinese scholars, priests of some extraction (usually Shinto), or skin-wearing shamans.
- Kururu from Keroro Gunsou may be considered a Mad Scientist version of the Witch Doctor. He's a creepy, sneaky Insufferable Genius who spends most of his time in his lab. And whenever he helps someone (even one of his squadmates), there's almost always a catch.
Film - Live-Action
- In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Melman becomes the witch doctor of a herd of giraffes after the previous one died. Turns out he didn't.
- Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog is this mixed with Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who was something of a real witch doctor on top of being a horrifying dictator.
- Mama Odie is a good version of this trope, and fits the "hands-off" mentor role nicely. She could have snapped her fingers to undo the spell Facilier cast on Naveen and Tiana, but thought it better to let them figure it out for themselves.
- The Wizard from Conan the Barbarian is a perfect example of this: he is Asian rather than the usual Jamaican/Caribbean, but he wears clothes made of seaweed and he seems quite mad. He turns out to know his stuff, however.
- Tia Dalma, first seen in Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest seems to be the living incarnation of this trope — her little hut has the fixings for everything, from rum to music boxes to human souls.
- Elzora, the creepy old witch in Eve's Bayou. She has some bad blood with Mozelle (herself a Hot Witch), though it's never revealed why.
- In Operation Petticoat, a South Pacific version of one of these is brought in to perform a blessing dance for the heroes' barely-operational submarine, on the theory they need any help they can get. His comment as the sub chugs painfully out of port: "They'll never make it."
- In the Mongolian film Khadak, the lead character is pulled out of a coma by a shamaness, whho tells him he must also become a shaman.
- The Discworld novels play with this. Many traditional witches and wizards deliberately cultivate an intimidatingly occult image because it's what people expect. Thus, witches wear pointy hats and black dresses and work with exotic herbs and improvised tools of magic, while wizards wear pointy hats and colorful robes, wield staves, and have a lab with occult books, dribbly candles mounted on old human skulls, and a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling. Much to the chagrin of many younger witches (who act more like stereotypical neo-pagans) and younger wizards (who act more like quantum physics students), the older wizards and witches do get respect.
- In Terry Pratchett's Nation, Mrs. Gurgle (real name unpronounceable by the English Daphne), who does get respect, and also help chewing her food.
- Professor Trelawney, the Divination teacher from Harry Potter, desperately wants to cultivate this appearance.
- King of the Water Roads opens up with a visit to one for a magical injury. While his treatments are successful, he is executed soon after for being a mage.
- In the Rowan of Rin series, a visit to their local example of this occurs in every book.
- N'Longa from Solomon Kane. However, he gets respect, and his power is immense, if subtle.
- Charmed had once had a witch doctor who is neutral who specializes in exorcising angry spirits.
- He's also Genre Savvy enough to lampshade the fact that he appears to be a normal guy in a suit: "You were expecting a guy with a bone through his nose, right?"
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent featured a woman who claims herself to be a healer and uses tricks and chemicals to scare and scam the sick. This episode also featured a good voodoo healer who explains that all religions have good and bad people who practice it and claim that the scam artist just uses tricks and no magic.
- In 1974, during a World Cup qualifier in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the Australian soccer team got a local witch-doctor to curse the opposition, but couldn't produce the money when he demanded payment, causing him to switch the curse to the Australian team. The curse was used as ann "explanation" for Australia's failure to qualify for subsequent World Cups, most notably 1998, when Australia was leading Iran 2-0 late in the final qualifying game (after tying the first game 1-1), only for Iran to score two late goals and qualify on away goals. In 2003, Australian television personality John Safran paid another witch doctor to remove the curse, and Australia then qualified for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
- Mumbo Jumbo and Humba Wumba from Banjo-Kazooie. The former (current page image) handled transforming the main characters into various creatures such as termites, alligators and even pumpkins in the first game. In the sequel, he was actually playable and used different spells to interact with the overworld, while Humba Wumba took over the transformation business.
- The Voodoo Lady from Monkey Island.
- The Trolls of the Warcraft games have plenty of Voodoo Witch Doctors, complete with Jamaican accent, mon. They run the gamut from Dark Is Not Evil good guy types like Sen'jin, and monsters like Zalazane.
- Houngan, from the Clayfighter series.
- One of the new classes in Diablo III is the Witch Doctor, which appears to be quite similar to the Necromancer in Diablo II, who also have many similarities to witch doctors.
- Defense Of The Ancients All Stars and its remake has a hero called Witch doctor. He is a Red Mage with a decent healing spell and a set of very powerful (but situational) high-damage spells.
- The first boss in Maximo is a Witch Doctor who shrinks the hero down to a few inches and then tries to step on him!
- Momma Aimee, in Mystery Case Files: The 13th Skull, is quite willing to help the player character (in exchange for the completion of a fairly easy Fetch Quest). Among other things, she provides a sleeping potion that comes in handy, and teaches the difference between voodoo and hoodoo.
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age has two tribes of Fantasy Counterpart Culture DarkestAfricans with "magical" leaders, both of whom appear to actually be Adepts.
- Naribwe is led by the guidance of a gentle (if scary-looking) fortune-teller who freely offers his services even to foreigners, if they let him study their belongings. Showing him the Laughing Fungus earns you hints of the plot ahead; if he sees your armor he'll tell you where you can find stray Djinn.
- Kibombo, when you arrive, is in a state of turmoil; their previous witch doctor died recently, and his apprentice, left to take the reigns, is a bratty teenager. Also, their chief deity is broken, so said teenager can't even get it to cooperate with the rite to make his position official.