The healing power of dolls came to me via my eldest daughter. When she was 2 years old and my son a few months, we took a trip to Manhattan to visit my sister. In a boutique one afternoon, filled with lovely handmade coats, clothes, and toys all displayed in a rainbow of color, she came to us with a golden bear that she had found under some racks and announced, “I need this doll”. The doll went with us and along the way she stated that it was called Shaggy. At first Shaggy was diapered, nursed, tinctured, bandaged, rocked, and sung to. As the years rolled by, Shaggy was taken along on walks, shopping trips, bathed in the creeks, dressed up, and present for celebrations. She’s now eight years old and gets tucked into bed, read a bedtime story, and no longer wears diapers. Shaggy is Layla’s baby, her friend that has been with her through all the other baby’s that she’s had to share me with, going from only child and the sole recipient of all my attention and affection, to being one of four children. Layla has other dolls that she plays with, story tells with, their names and roles change as needed to match the occasion, but Shaggy remains Shaggy and is nothing but Shaggy, a complete entity, holding all that Layla needs her to hold and releasing what she wants released. She ‘needed’ that doll, not ‘wanted’ but needed; the doll had a purpose to fulfill. This is the heart of a spirit doll.
Recently I visited a lady who showed me her doll room. It’s a little lavender room in the corner of her house, with a bed and chairs, a glass case that stands floor to ceiling, and shelves, all completely filled with porcelain dolls in many shapes and sizes. The walls are covered with photographs of her family in their baby stages. When she was 34, her husband, who was her childhood sweetheart, died of a heart attack right before her eyes. He left her a widow with three children, ages 5, 10, and 14. This was 22 years ago. She was devastated and found that the only way she could cope was by buying porcelain dolls. They helped her with her loss, grief, and shock. Five years ago her house, which her husband had built when they were newlyweds, burnt to the ground along with everything in it . . . . . except for the corner room with the dolls. It remained untouched by the flames. The dolls were black and covered in smoke, grime, soot, but she salvaged them and cleaned every one of them with a substance called Grease Lightening, and there they remain in the corner room of the rebuilt house. These are her spirit dolls.
Spirit dolls, as you can tell, do not have to be made by you. Dolls have long since been an integral part of play. Cloth, corn husk, stick, clay, plastic, and porcelain dolls are some of the forms these figures can be made in. No matter the material, a doll of any form is representative of some ‘thing’. It holds an essence, a kernel, which needs a shape or a vessel to be-held in. Any doll can serve as a spirit doll, but the making of a doll in of itself is also particularly healing. It is a process that engages our senses, heart, hands, and mind at one time in the act of creation. Any time we are being creative, we are open, and openness is how we transform, grow, and engage; in our highest, most optimal way. Through the journey of making our own spirit doll, we can heal if healing is needed, and looking within give shape and form to what we want to bring to light via the doll.
My mother, Layla, Ahmad, and I made spirit dolls together some months ago one night, and it was from that experience that the idea of holding a playshop emerged. It was fun, it was meditative, it was inspiring, and I thought, “This is great, I want to do it again! Maybe others want to give it a try . . . . .” And so here we are with this playshop that I’ve put together. It’s the first run, come and have some fun, after all as part of their origins, dolly’s are fun to play with, especially with others 🙂