Tuesday 12 November 2013

On Worry Dolls and Poppets

When I was quite young, I think seven or so, we visited my grand parents in Mexico over Christmas.  While there, we saw worry dolls for the first time.  This was Northern Mexico, Guaymas, in Sonora, far from Guatemala* where everywhere online now locates them.  They were used there, not sure if they migrated there or not.

They are essentially little dolls made of sticks (or similar) with string or twine or thread wrapped around them to make them into tiny figures, maybe an inch tall.  Faces were draw on them, and each doll was different from the rest.  Typically, a child will have a small box with multiple worry dolls in it, sitting by their bed.

The tradition is, the child who can't sleep because of worrying whispers the worry to a doll.  If they have multiple worries, they whisper one to each doll.  The dolls are placed under their pillow, worrying for the child so the child can sleep.

These fascinated us, and we made our own, bigger, about two inches tall.  We used tooth picks and embroidery thread, gluing them with white glue, one toothpick as the spine, one cut in half then shortened for the arms, one cut in half for the legs.  Unlike the worry dolls, ours had no facial features drawn on, just plain thread.  They had hair and clothes.  The arms and legs, we left wood where there was no clothing, instead of all the wood concealed on the worry dolls.

We didn't use them like the traditional ones, just made them for fun, but they held the imagination, each with its own personality, each known.  A few of mine moved a bit past that into the realm of representing something I wanted, just short of a poppet or wish doll, but close.

In many ways, worry dolls are miniature and specific purpose poppets.  The application is temporary, the worry tied to it banished in the night, returned to the box no longer distinct from its fellows.  The act of whispering the worry to the doll transfers the worry from the child to the doll, allowing the child to sleep.

It is an interesting custom, one that would likely help with many child related issues if it was common place in the United States, as a way to set aside worries would likely improve both behavior that comes from anxiety and worry, and help with health issues that grow out of the same.

These dolls could also be used on place of traditional poppets.  They are small, easily made, and versatile.  Hair and similar could be woven in or placed inside the wrap.  The act of wrapping the doll with thread or string is a binding, tying the doll to that it represents.

Once the doll is created, there are many options that it could be used for just as with a traditional poppet.  It addition, because of the size, it can be placed in a pouch or bottle for purposes not typically possible with a poppet.

One idea would be making two dolls representing two people and tying them together in something like a mojo bag with things typically used for love workings.  Another would be a curse by placing a doll in a bag with pepper flakes or in a bottle with hot sauce.  The limit is only your ability to think.

~Muninn's Kiss

*Here is one version of the legend of how worry dolls got started in Guatamala: http://www.sciencejoywagon.com/kwirt/mayan/

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