Into the ForestWild – Medicine Doll for the Magdalenes

Wildgirl Shadow healer medicine doll by Sacred Familiar

Sometimes people ask me what to do with their medicine dolls once they receive them and that’s a hard question to answer because the relationship you have with your own doll is so personal and really the way of working with your doll is limited only by your imagination. So today I thought I would share a story of a particular doll that I call WildGirl and how she helped me to let go of fear.

Over my time of making dolls I have made a few for my own personal use. It only happens rarely and I’m often surprised when they make themselves known. I created WildGirl at a dollmaking workshop that I held at Winter Solstice last year in the forest. When I teach I begin a doll to show the early steps to creating her head and her body, really very basic. I then leave everyone to weave their dolls in their own way. WildGirl was this ‘example’ doll. When I got home I was unhappy with WildGirl because she just didn’t seem to be looking ‘right’. Right? She didn’t look the way I wanted her to look and strangely she rarely wanted to be seen. I kept her in a basket with my dolls that I was making for others and forgot about her.

One of my oldest childhood friends, Chris, came to visit and he looked at my dolls and noticed WildGirl and asked who’s this? He was fascinated. I told him that I didn’t know what to do with her. She just didn’t seem to work somehow. As I held her in my hands and turned her around Chris said stop! She had her back to us and he said that’s how she wants to be seen from behind. And he was right. She was much happier not showing her face, she was wild and didn’t like to be looked at. That helped me to connect and feel more understanding of her spirit and I kept her with my personal dolls and didn’t think too much about it.

Wildgirl Shadow healer medicine doll by Sacred Familiar

medicine doll by sacred familiar

A couple of months later I was preparing to hold a ceremony at the site of the Magdalene Laundries at the Abbotsford Convent here in Melbourne and I was feeling a lot of deep emotions not only about the spirits of the women and children who had been held there but also about my own ability to be able to help them with our ceremony. The Magdalene Laundries were terrible places set up to house and incarcerate young women and girls who were deemed to be too wild, who were orphans, or sometimes simply unwanted. They were termed ‘fallen girls’ and I had been feeling the stories and spirits of these women for years. I knew that if I had lived in those times, I could have easily ended up in one of these places. In fact, many of us would have been doomed to the same plight simply by having a strong spirit, different spiritual views or simply for being regarded as a ‘temptation’. Hard to believe, isn’t it? And so last year I realised that I couldn’t ignore these voices any longer and in a small way, I wished to gather with lots of other sisters to somehow let the women know that they had never done anything wrong, that they were loved and that there was a home for them in the spirit world.

I booked The Linen Room in the Convent for the first day of Spring for this ceremony and as the day approached I felt more and more fear – was I actually allowed to do this? Could I hold this kind of energy and process of grieving that would come? It shows just how deep the control of authority has been experienced in this lifetime and the past doesn’t it, that deep unconscious fear of being stopped or even arrested for speaking out and organising our own way of healing history? Six weeks before the ceremony I decided that I didn’t want to be controlled by my fear and that to hold this space for the other women I needed to be as strong as I could. I thought about how I had felt afraid of the forest when I’d moved here three months before. When I arrived in the forest I would look at the enormous Mountain Ash trees whose branches alone could crush a house and at night I would listen to the noises of the forest at my bedroom window and I felt embarrassed but I was afraid – could the forest kill me? I’m glad to say that I soon realised that this was a programmed fear after living in the city for too long and not my own. And within months of moving to the forest I came to realise that Mother Nature is all I needed! I now know the Mountain Ash trees to be forest guardians and protectors. Learning this helped me to create a medicine doll ritual to deal with my fear of authority.

I chose WildGirl to be this doll to help me face my fears of the unknown and to speak out for women who had not been allowed to speak in their own lifetimes. When the women and children entered the Magdalene Laundries that were even stripped of their own names. I took WildGirl to a part of the forest that was most sacred and magical to me. It is by Sassafrass Creek and I call it the faerie dell. It is filled with a strange light that is often very hard to photograph. Here I took photos of WildGirl and you can see that her face was very hard to capture. I took her to an old tree that had naturally fallen years ago and in it’s exposed roots, I buried the medicine doll deep inside. I prayed to the spirit of the tree and to the forest to take care of WildGirl and me. I asked to be taught how to be more wild in my life and particularly to have strength and trust speaking out. I was asking the trees to heal me through the doll.

Shadow medicine doll by Sacred Familiar

I visited WildGirl often over the next 6 weeks and every time I saw her she would look more and more feral! She began to gather sticks and mud and leaves and each time I took her out of the tree she looked happier and more and more beautiful. On the morning of the ceremony I went into the forest with a dear sister, Talulah, a Shamanic Midwife of Making Sacred, Talulah, who had travelled from Sydney to support me and our ceremony and I took WildGirl out of her tree home for the last time. At the base of the tree I found a Rosella feather, a bird I see as a messenger for friendship, and when I looked at the doll she now had 2 black eyes made from mud. She looked straight at me –  she was happy to not only see but to be seen!

WildGirl joined us in our ceremony at site of the Magdalene Laundries, she carried with her the ancestral memory of the forest and the wild and natural land that still lay beneath the buildings and had been there forever. And that is what our ceremony for the Magdalenes became – a remembering or re-embering as my  my sister Kaggi Valentine of 13 Moons Blood Mysteries, calls it. Kaggi sang with wild fire her own chant for the Magdelenes in the actual laundry itself that day leading us to sing and dance for those that couldn’t in the place that had been their prison. We remembered the Aboriginal girls who had also been in the laundries and the tribes that had known this sacred land beside the Yarra River for thousands of years before these modern laws and judgements. So many sisters gave the gift of their love and voices that day to sing the spirits of the Magdalenes home including beautiful songstress, Lisa Mitchell, who shared her own new songs written at the time of our gathering. I played these songs again yesterday and they are are like celestial devotionals, ancient songs to open the veil. We saw and felt some amazing things that day and I am grateful to everyone who helped weave that heart-opening ceremony especially the women who came who had family and friends in the laundries and orphanage. And to my sister, Bec RainboWalker, who is always walking beside and is a Death Doula – I know how much her spirit anchored the whole process.

Friends. That’s what helped the ceremony to be as powerful as it was. Friendship helped me to speak when I was afraid. I saw that we truly can do anything, face any fear when we do it together. And that is the gift of the medicine doll. She is a Friend. She will be beside you. WildGirl is still by my side, were are great friends now. I see her in all her strange and wild beauty and she sees me.

Wildgirl Shadow healer medicine doll by Sacred Familiar

2 thoughts on “Into the ForestWild – Medicine Doll for the Magdalenes

  1. Julia, what a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it – so personal. The ceremony for the Laundries sounds intense; I am so glad you and Talulah (and the other strong women who were with you) took part in this. How healing for those women and children’s souls. Wow. I am so glad there are women like you who will do this work – the ceremonies, rituals, dollmaking – and share it with the world.

    1. Dear Jana, thank you and lovely to hear from you. The Magdalene ceremony was intense but so beautiful at the same time and it was good for us to know that we can all help in some way. The worst feeling was when I felt powerless to do anything at all. I hope this story encourages other people to hold similar ceremonies to heal places and history near them that need it. I really believe with intention and love we can do amazing things. Love, Julia x

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