Late last year I received a request from a beautiful Mexican family to create a medicine to hold the ashes of their beloved mother and grandmother, Adelina. I was very happy to create this doll for Daisy, Adelina’s daughter who I had come to know through her sister-in-law, Dawn, another beautiful soul who has gifted us with many beaded Huichol treasures for our dolls over the last year. And so I knew that Daisy’s dear mother was dying and how much this was a sacred time for her, how she took on the role as carer and wise guardian to walk her mother through the threshold of death and rebirth of her spirit. I was also honoured to be invited into this family and their beautiful Mexican ancestry and wisdom in honouring of the dead.
Yesterday it was my birthday and today in America where Daisy lives and Mexico where Adelina was born it is still February 15th. The link between birth and death is so strong, if felt like the right time to write this story.
I knew that one day, I would be asked to make a doll to such as this. But when it finally arrived I began to get nervous – what if this was too big a job for my skills? Could I really do this? I took this request on with love but also a lot of deep breathing. I don’t have anyone around me to teach me to do this, I thought but then I’ve always felt the presence of my own grandmother and ancient grandmother spirits when I work and so I just had to trust that they would show me the way.
I wrapped the small parcel of ashes in softest merino wool and created a little altar with special blessed treasure that Daisy had sent to me. And still I waited to begin. I was waiting to feel really ready and strong to do this work that was so important to Adelina’s family. The realisation of this importance made it even harder for me to begin. I kept making excuses and I had to admit that I was becoming less confident in my ability to do this well enough for her family. I was also finding it confronting to have someone’s ashes, the remnants of their physical body sitting on my doll table. And I waited and waited…
One night I had a dream of running a little store selling all kinds of medicine tools and talismans. At the end of the day it was time to close up and as I was busy rushing around a small group of men dressed in white with embroidery on their shirts began to come and sit in a small circle in the middle of my shop. But I was busy, I had so many things to remember to do to make the shop run well and to close up properly. The men began to chant in a language that I didn’t recognise. They began to sing medicine songs. Under a table I noticed a small package of bones. I was so drawn to what the medicine singers were doing and singing but I kept thinking that I didn’t have time to stop, I had to lock up the shop.
When I woke up the next morning I knew that these men where either Adelina’s ancestors or spirit singers guarding and watching over her and that they were getting frustrated with me for making myself busy with all of my other jobs and avoiding the deep medicine work of creating this doll for Adelina’s family. I felt ashamed because they were right! I should have sat with them and listened to their songs, I realised the bones in the dream were a symbol of the sacred ashes I held on my table. I realised I could wait any longer to be ready or know more to begin – I just had to stop running around and start!
I began by making a medicine shawl from a piece of felt gifted to me that was hand dyed with seaweed. I started to see stars and cosmic spirals. I used fibres that were dyed with flowers and I started to feel more and more confident about my own role in being the hands for the grandmothers to do their work. Each night I kept seeing the vastness of the cosmos and I remembered a boulder opal that reminded me of this feeling that I had been keeping for a special doll. At the same time I received hand blown glass bones adorned with flowers and the doll began to form very quickly.
As she was forming in front of my eyes I began to feel such affection and love for Adelina and for her daughter Daisy for all of her trust. One night I worked very late until it was almost dawn. As I worked I felt the air become thick around me and I felt airy movements near my shoulders and arms and it felt like butterflies flying all around the room, all around me. I also heard a strong and clear message to ‘look at the date’. I felt it was a message to look at the date of when Adelina had passed from this world and I looked and found a remembrance photo posted by Daisy. When I looked at this photo I couldn’t believe it – Adelina and I shared the same birthday. She too had been born on February 15th. It was not the date of death that she wanted remembered by the date of birth. Rebirth! It felt like a big hug, like we were connected in this small way.
Each day I felt Adelina’s urgency now to have this doll completed to be a source of comfort to her daughter. The last element was a Monarch butterfly placed on the doll’s hand to honour the late night visitors to my doll workshop and perhaps one of Adelina’s spirit animals. When I mentioned this to Dawn she said this was significant and that in Spanish the word for butterfly is Mariposa. I knew the medicine had her name now: Adelina’s Mariposa – a light spirit to hold the ashes of this beloved mother and grandmother and guardian to watch over and guide her family through their grief and eventually to a place of peace.
After I had sent the doll carrying the sacred ashes across the oceans to be with Daisy where she belonged, I found a photo of Daisy taken beside the altars in Mexico celebrating ancestors on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I was stunned and happy to see that Daisy was wearing a Monarch Mariposa in her crown of flowers.
There really are no accidents. So many more weavings and synchronicities occurred during the making of this most sacred of medicine dolls, Adelina’s Mariposa. I was changed after making this doll. I realised that this work is very precious to me and that I could do this work more. I also found that I was dedicating myself in a deeper way now to the practice of medicine doll making and to never forget that the ancestors are always watching, helping and if needed singing in our dreams.
Death is one of our biggest teachers. We cannot turn away or hide from this great mystery and yes it is confronting but also incredibly beautiful. I believe that death teaches us about what is truly important and how to love even more deeply. I send the deepest love and respect to Daisy and Dawn and their combined families. May this precious doll be an anchor to hold you through your grief and give you wings to lift your heart to love again. I thank Daisy for this honour and permission to share her story and for sharing the gentle and beautiful spirit of your mother, Adelina with us all. Happy birthday Adelina.