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Witch Doctor

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"I can read your future,
I can change it 'round some too.
I'll look deep into your heart and soul ... 
Make your wildest dreams come true!
I got voodoo,
I got hoodoo,
I got things I ain't even tried!
And I got friends on the Other Side..."
Dr. Facilier, The Princess and the Frog

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. 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.

He may be a pagan Preacher Man whose duty is to minister to a community and lead its religious activity. He may serve as a mediator between humans the natural world or the Spirit World, and maybe his home is distant and secluded so he can stay closer to them. If Religion is Magic, then he wields Functional Magic. As the "doctor" part of his title suggests, he mostly uses his power for healing by working White Magic and brewing Healing Potions. But everyone knows better than to aggravate him, him because he can probably manage Black Magic and Curse just as well.

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.

Don't look for a Witch Doctor in the familiar meadows of Arcadia — you will instead find him in an exotic jungle near a tribe of Hollywood Natives. There he will practice spooky Hollywood Voodoo, eager to add yours to his grim collection of Shrunken Heads. In stories (especially older ones) where The Missionary or Gentleman Adventurer is the hero, this figure neatly fits the villain role: a sinister pagan Evil Sorcerer who intends to stop the Mighty Whitey and wants to keep the poor natives trapped in ignorance and superstition. This type of portrayal is mostly a Dead Horse Trope.

Re-interpretations of the Witch Doctor persist, however. Ideas about what a Witch Doctor does are informed by shamanism, a diverse range of practices among many disparate indigenous peoples. These ideas are still poorly-understood (or misunderstood) by many, but this character may provide a way to explore them, so it remains not an entirely Discredited Trope. Contemporary works can enjoy it while sidestepping most ethnic stereotypes and the Unfortunate Implications attached. In the same way witches have been rehabilitated out of one-note archetypes, a Witch Doctor can be presented in a more interesting way.

This character might still be dark and spooky, but will remind you that Dark Is Not Evil. If they are morally good, they may be Creepy Good. If they fill a Mentor role to another character, they are likely a Trickster Mentor.

Compare Ethnic Magician.


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  • In the "Witch Doctor" commercial for Dr. Mario, a Witch Doctor sings part of David Seville/Ross Bagdasarian's "Witch Doctor". After being beaten at Dr. Mario, the Witch Doctor shrink the head of a man, who remains alive to recount the tale.

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 Sgt. Frog 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.

    Comic Books 
  • The Marvel Universe has Jericho Drumm aka Brother Voodoo. He is a heroic voodoo practitioner whose powers include the ability to summon the soul of his dead brother to increase his physical strength.
  • The Eye of Mongombo: Jumballah, the one who turned Adventurer Cliff Carlson into a duck, is one.
  • In Violine, Kombo is one who can actually see into the future, but due to his whiskey addiction and old age, he is not too good at it anymore.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Qumi-Qumi has Bai-Baba, the shaman of the magic-based Juma-Qumi tribe. She's one of the highest powers of the tribe, second only to the chief. She seems to be one of the sanest members as well and is one of the only members of the tribe to treat Juga with any respect (though even that's limited, as he's her failure of a student). She's also the owner of the Solar Sheep (which power the sun) and (formerly) owned a pair of voo-doo doll zombies.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Howondaland has its Witch Finders. Based on unexaggerated accounts in Real Life, but ramped up, the College of Witch Finders of the Zulu Empire ticks all the boxes for a local equivalent of Unseen University, teaching magic to an exclusively male brotherhood. They act as an intelligence and spy service, and are effectively a clandestine power and a Secret Police for the Paramount King. note  They also control were-power, and native Weres are recruited as were-leopards, were-vultures and night-flying vampire birds. They also believe magic is the sole prerogative of men and, as the name implies, are resident witch-hunters. Various charaacters in the Pessimal Discworld run up against them. With their misogynist bent about magic, it is a serious shock when they encounter Lancre-trained witches for the first time - who also have definitive ideas about a woman's place in magic.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King (1994): Rafiki the mandrill acknowledges Simba (and later Simba's son) as the rightful heir, acts as Simba's wise mentor, and otherwise fills this role for the Pride Lands. However, the only actual magic he's seen to perform is a sort of scrying, when he discovers that Simba is still alive.
  • 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.
  • The Princess and the Frog:
    • Dr. Facilier, a shady New Orleans occultist who deals in spells, curses and pacts with dangerous spirits.
    • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Wizard from Conan the Barbarian (1982) 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. Subverted when we learn that she's actually a God in Human Form.
  • 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."
  • The Hong Kong film Seeding of a Ghost has a witch doctor being the main character's best friend, who is hired to help him get back on his cheating, unfaithful wife. The witch doctor complies by summoning a demonic fetus, and everything goes straight to hell from that point onwards.
  • In the Mongolian film Khadak, the lead character is pulled out of a coma by a shamaness, who tells him he must also become a shaman.
  • Nanu's adoptive father Gazenga from The World's Greatest Athlete from the African jungle qualifies do to his talent for voodoo dolls and other such ticks.
  • In New Zealand film Utu an old witch doctor with full tribal regalia gives the protagonist a warrior tattoo.

  • 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.
    • A proper Witch Doctor appears in Witches Abroad; she's named Mrs. Gogol. She happens to know a character named Baron Saturday...
  • 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.
  • A couple show up in That Hoodoo Voodoo That You Do by Ragnarok Publications.
  • Arrowsmith: Upon arriving at Dr. Marchand's island, Arrowsmith and the others find the locals performing voodoo rituals to ward off the sickness. A rueful Dr. Sondelius says they're doing about as much good as Western medicine is.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: In the chapter "Witching Hour", Devina explores her evolution into a Witch Doctor, that means, learning how to deal with nature spirits.
  • Scarlet Sister Mary: The Gullah people of South Carolina's Sea Islands live mostly isolated from white people and consequently have retained more of their African heritage. Daddy Cudjoe is the "conjure doctor" of Mary's village, who practices traditional African shamanism. He makes Mary a "love charm" to win her faithless husband July back. She never gets the chance to use it on July, as he skips town and doesn't come back for 20 years, but she does use it on other men in the community.
  • Tarzan of the Apes and Jungle Tales of Tarzan (a collection of short stories about Tarzan's life growing up in the jungle) feature the older, discredited version of the trope. The young Tarzan encounters several native witch-doctors who are pure charlatans: they have no real powers or knowledge, not even herbal medicine, and they pretend to be sorcerers out of purely selfish motives, not any real belief in magic or any desire to help others.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Who Are You?, Si-ohn wakes up from a six-year coma, only to find that she has an I See Dead People problem. She visits Hee-bin, a shaman who says that "resentment" is what drives the ghosts to appear, and suggests that Si-ohn sees them because she wants to see them. This being a Korean Drama, Hee-bin is not some wizened old person but a hot young lady who likes to go dancing in clubs. Further episode reveal that while Si-ohn can see ghosts, Hee-bin can talk to them as well.
  • Dr. Mbogo is The Addams Family's head witch doctor. When they are forced to call a normal physician they are outraged and scared, like a normal person would react by calling a Witch Doctor of course. In the Made-for-TV Movie Halloween with the Addams Family the already adult Pugsley is studying to become one (with the shamanic attire and all).
  • Resurrection: Ertuğrul: Although there is no magic in this series, there are at least two characters that give off this kind of vibe, both of them affiliated with the Mongol Empire.
    • The first example would be Ulubilge, Noyan’s mystic drummer who delivers spiritual messages informing him about the status of his army and the Turks’ course of action.
    • The next character to qualify would be Eynece in season 4, disguising himself as a seemingly-benign hide trader, but in reality is similar to Ulubilge in that he supposedly contacts the spirits for vital information.
  • Chucky: Parodied and discussed in the Season 3 episode "Jennifer's Body", when Chucky goes to see a witch doctor after his voodoo powers suddenly stop working and his doll body starts aging, and said witch doctor turns out to be a perfectly normal physician who just happens to specialize in voodoo-related matters.

  • Played heavily by Screamin' Jay Hawkins when singing "I Put a Spell on You".
  • Never trust a witch who mixes up her potions right there in the sink, and then tells you to drink up your "Love Potion No. 9".
  • The Dave Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) song "Witch Doctor" would be re-recorded with the Chipmunks in 1961 and reused on The Alvin Show. where it would garner a wider audience. Ooh ee ohh ah ah, ting tang wallawalla bing bang.... Though today the most well known version is probably by the band called "The Cartoons" from 1998.
  • Daddy Dewdrop's "Chick-A-Boom" dealt with a guy who finds the top then bottom of a mysterious girl's bikini. Verse three has him encountering a witch doctor in Africa during his pursuit of the girl.
  • Black Magic Woman, first performed by Fleetwood Mac and more famous in the version by Santana, deals with the perils of falling in love with a woman who can do the darker sorts of magic.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side: One strip shows a "witch doctor's waiting room", which looks just like one you'd find in a western medical practice, but it's occupied by three half-naked natives suffering from a snake attack, piranha bites, and a crocodile leg-gnawing.

    Puppet Shows 
  • On one episode of The Muppet Show, Marvin Suggs preforms the Dave Seville song and has the Muppaphones say the magic words every time he hits them. The song is stopped by an actual Muppet witch doctor, who, angered at Suggs telling the audience the magic words, turns his head into a Muppaphone.

    Tabletop Game 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a history of using the Witch Doctor archetype in its older editions, though the name was retired starting around 3rd edition — the similarly natured Shaman did manage to stick around until 4th edition, at least.
    • In Basic D&D, "Humanoid" type creatures have access to the Wiccan class (renamed the "Wokani" in the Hollow World setting), which is described as a "primitive" version of the Magic User, using elaborate rituals made up of chants, dances, rattling beads, screaming, etc to cast spells. Wiccans can only cast spells of up to 6th level, and their spell-list is largely made up of beneficial or utility spells like Detect Magic and Protection from Evil, with a handful of offensive spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt.
    • In Advanced D&D 2nd edition, the "Complete Book of Humanoids" sourcebook introduced the Witch Doctor Kitnote . This is a variant Cleric with inferior armor and hit dice (d6 hit points per level instead of d8), no ability to turn undead and only able to cast the Reincarnation spell instead of Raise Dead, but with the dubious advantage of (very) limited access to wizardly spells without needing to be a multiclassed cleric/wizard. Like the Wiccan, it's flavored as relying on exaggerated rituals to perform spellcasting that are mostly pantomime; shaking fetishes and talismans, shrieking, and capering about madly.
    • In 3rd edition, the witch doctor archetype was reworked into the Adept, a class combining elements of the Sorcerer and Cleric, but designed only for use by non-player characters.
    • The Shaman, which also draws from the witch doctor archetype, has a slightly longer history. It was introduced in Basic D&D as an alternative cleric for races that didn't have the "clerical" tradition — which included not just humanoids like orcs and goblins, but even more "nature-connected" races like elves, fairies and centaurs. Its main difference was that it had a slightly altered spell list and didn't use metal armor. Advanced D&D 2nd edition saw it converted into a Cleric kit in the "Complete Book of Humanoids" sourcebook, which largely reduced the Cleric's abilities to make them more "tribal" in flavor, including making them more of a Squishy Wizard with reduced armor proficiencies and fewer hit points per level. 2nd edition also featured an alternative to the Shaman and Witch Doctor in the form of the Obeah, a spirit-communing tribal priest, in Dragon Magazine #251. In 3rd edition, the Shaman appeared as a new class in the "Oriental Adventures" sourcebook, where they functioned as a kind of cleric/monk hybrid. In 4th edition, the Shaman was introduced in the second Player's Handbook as a Primal Leader, using a spirit companion to help channel magical energies to bolster and heal allies as well as curse foes.* Ngangas in Spears of the Dawn is this trope to a T. They're spellcasters whose magic deals heavily with the placing and removal of curses, and their ritual gear frequently includes masks. They're widely feared and distrusted, but having a nganga around is also acknowledged as necessary to protect a community from hostile magic.
  • The Unofficial Hollow Knight RPG: This is the hat of the leeches inhabiting the Bayou, who are explicitly referred to as witch doctors. They practice a ritual form of bloodletting, believing that by drinking the blood of a patient then can also drain them of both physical ailments and of the patient's sins. They also perform magical services like the conjuring of helpful spirits and exorcism of harmful ones, though it's noted that some less benevolent leeches will intentionally conjure harmful spirits to inflict them on a rival.

    Theme Parks 

  • Monster High's Jane Boolittle is based on an African witch doctor, with a mysterious staff, tribal wear, and the ability to talk to animals. While she remembers nothing of her past, she was adopted by Dr. Boolittle, a British scientist exploring her jungle, and was raised by Boolittle and his colleague, Dr. Moreau, before coming to the titular school. As such, her personality is less mystical, and more like a junior scientist with an analytical perspective on the high-school way of life.

    Video Games 
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Mumbo Jumbo and Humba Wumba. The former 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. They’re not on good terms with each other, as if Mumbo enters Humba’s tepee, she will demand that he get out.
  • Aku-Aku from the Crash Bandicoot games was this before becoming a sentient Floating Mask and often guides Crash and the other bandicoots through their adventures.
  • The Voodoo Lady from Monkey Island.
  • Big Bad Bill from Moshi Monsters, whose entire species (Woolly Hoodoos) seems to be of Witch Doctors.
  • 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. Trolls also have the Shadow Hunter, the Magic Knight version of this.
  • 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. He is deeply spiritual and one of the few priests to ignore the power struggles that have corrupted his religion.
  • 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.
  • Jagged Alliance: Sangoma in 3 has the aesthetic down pat, and talks about the spirits a fair amount, but also has a great deal of respect for Western medicine and the results it gets, and generally comes across more as a priest with some medical training than this trope.
  • One of the bosses in Maximo: Ghosts to Glory 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.
  • Tensay from Far Cry Primal is technically a shaman, but he fits this trope. A dark skinned older man who lives alone in a cave, he has a wooden staff, he regularly gives Takkar Squicky potions made with Udam or Izila body parts, and he first enables him to unlock the art of being The Beastmaster by sending him on a Vision Quest to befriend a massive eagle owl.
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age has two tribes of Fantasy Counterpart Culture Darkest Africans 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.
  • In Gems of War, the minotaurs are noted for their shamanistic beliefs, and the Soothsayer unit can use Soul Power magic.
  • Witch Doctors appear as enemies in Borderlands 2's Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt DLC. They come in elemental (shock, incendiary, and slag) as well as vampiric and paralyzing variations. They also have the ability to heal themselves, power up other savages, and turn into a tornado to reduce damage taken.
  • In Shop Heroes, Azula is a spirit-guided shaman who has healing among her skills.
  • Mal'Damba from Paladins is a sinister-looking witch doctor who fights and heals using his pet cobra and gourds full of venom. His ultimate summons a large snake spirit that scares enemies into fleeing uncontrollably.
  • The Witch Doctor NPC from Terraria, the friendliest and firstmost Lizard Folk you'll come across in your world.
    "Which doctor am I? The Witch Doctor am I."
  • The Enhanced Edition of Baldur's Gate has shamans as a new playable class, and in the Siege of Dragonspear expansion you can get the goblin shaman M'Khiin Grubdoubler as a new party member.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Uncle from Jackie Chan Adventures is a Chinese witch doctor who specializes in chi spells.
  • Found in an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! ("A Tiki Scare Is No Fair"). The witch doctor in question is, of course, fake.
  • Zecora the zebra from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is not at all bad, despite prejudice and rampant exaggeration on the part of the townsponies who convinced themselves she's an evil pony-eating enchantress. She's knowledgeable in zebra magic and other natural creatures, making her a good source for information that even Twilight's knowledge doesn't feature.
  • The witch doctor in the original George of the Jungle looks and dresses the same as a traditional Western doctor. The remake has a more traditional witch doctor as a foil for Ursula's father, a modern doctor.
  • Danger Mouse encounters a witch doctor in "Lost, Found and Spellbound" who has some fun at the expense of DM's dignity.
  • Bugs Bunny encounters a witch doctor (1950's "Witch Is Which?") who needs a rabbit for his potion. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Beatles are on a photographic safari in Africa in "You've Really Got a Hold On Me." They encounter Jack, a witch doctor in their safari truck (mix-up of an automobile jack). Jack turns a worm into a boa constrictor who takes a shining to Ringo.

    Real Life 
  • 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 an "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.


Video Example(s):


Doctor Shemp

The boss of Peace Keepers. An armor-clad shaman carrying a big staff.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / WitchDoctor

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