Category: spirit doll

Druids, Vikings and Seafaring Menfolk

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This month I have been exploring the ancestral and rare breed wool and fleece of many of the Celtic and Viking lands such as the Shetland Islands, Soay, a tiny island off the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Leader Sheep from Iceland. What a great adventure to take with the masculine medicine doll and his seafaring ways. Interestingly as I began to work with these figures I was drawn back to working with raw fleece and found a bag of fleece from a friend of my father’s in Tasmania that was perfect for hair and beards and rugged woollen shawls.

These masculine medicine dolls have also been very popular with our clients, some going to families to represent grandfathers and fathers – I love the idea too of dolls that can assist young boys to feel strong and grounded in their lives. These dolls gave me such a gift of stability and energy as I was creating them. They have all found homes now and I look forward to hearing about the adventures they inspire.

I feel like this is an adventure that may keep calling to me for a long time.

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StoryKeepers – Medicine Dolls for Our Ancestors and Lost Ones

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It is a curious thing that the more medicine dolls I create, the more I learn about myself and the more I want to learn about the stories of my ancestors.  These stories of our lineage are important – every life matters. I am especially drawn to the lives of those who were treated as if they didn’t matter – what if a small woollen doll can help to change that somehow? Perhaps just in acknowledgement or speaking their name we can begin to uncover and connect, see them as they truly are again. We can become the Storykeepers, the TruthTellers of our own history and the histories of others. Most importantly we can give these forgotten and ghosted people a small gift – a doll to comfort them or to sit with them. This, somehow gives me comfort too.

There is a growing interest and passion for ancestral medicine and uncovering ancestry. I see that this is the work of StoryKeepers in the family. My sister Belinda is one too and she has been doing a huge amount of research into our family tree. I think it’s important to tend carefully to the bones of our ancestors and to give them privacy when they ask too – not every book wants to be opened. In these times I just send love. I don’t need to know the whole story. But even the saddest stories in our families can be a source of strength when we acknowledge the level of hardship they lived through and the resilience and humour with which they faced it! That spirit is very needed by us right now.

In difficult times it’s important to engage in something practical and real that can give you a sense of purpose amid the chaos of life. For me, it has been making medicine dolls for the lost, the ghosted, the persecuted. At the moment I am weaving dolls that will be left at sites in England, Scotland and Ireland when I visit to pay my respects and in a small way provide some love and acknowledgement of injustice.

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The doll above was created as an offering to the women persecuted as witches in Scotland. She will be left in a small fishing town Pittenweem, another doll will be left at the Witches Well at Edinburgh Castle and I will also leave a doll for my own ancestor, Janet Inglis, a spinner and weaver in Ayreshire. I will also be leaving dolls in Ireland to honour my ancestors and to acknowledge the medicine women there – many who had to go underground to survive. I see all of these dolls as weaving connection and memory and in a way singing a song across the lands and across oceans. Some dolls for the lost and some dolls for family who were never able to afford to return back to their homelands. I see this as a way of rebuilding ancestral trackways, starways, horse tracks…ways to find myself when I am lost and ways for my ancestors to communicate with me when it is needed.

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This medicine doll, She Who Wears Antlers will be gifted to the women of Dublin to honour the girls that were shamed and blamed and incarcerated in the Magdalene Laundries. She will be given to them in a combined Swan Weaver Ceremony – a meeting of the Black and White Swan medicines to be held with Karen Ward of Sli An Chroi, in Dublin on 15th October. I urge you to check out Karen’s amazing work teaching and sharing the mysteries of the indigenous shamanic tradition of Ireland. As I also have ancestors from the city of Dublin this will be such a personal and joyful return. It shows me that we can bring beauty to areas of pain and difficulty and injustice with small, simple acts that hold love and intention. It also helps me to keep connected to stories that are happening everywhere and to remember that we are all in this together.

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You might remember the Bird Girl doll that I made for the women and children of the Crossbones Graveyard in London. This is the site of a recently discovered medieval pauper’s graveyard for the women and children, many of them prostitutes known as the Winchester Geese deemed not worthy of a consecrated burial. Amazing and resilient local people fought to save and honour the site as a place to come and pay respects to the outcast dead and alive. A place for the different, the difficult, and yes the wild.

Last week our dear friend and singer, Lisa Mitchell delivered Bird Girl personally to Crossbones and sang the medicine doll into the site – you can just see Bird Girl tucked in on the left side of the statue of the Mother looking after the graveyard. Lisa also sang for us when we held our ceremony for the Magdalene Laundry girls here in Melbourne and recently I found out that the Crossbones we also known as a Magdalene grave. I was so happy to see and hear Lisa sing the doll into her new land and new family of Geese girls with an old bush ballad from Australia written in the 1800s called The Colonial Widow to honour the courageous women who traveled so far to create new lives here. I love that this song is both sad and cheeky! You can hear Kate and Ruth’s version of The Colonial Widow here.

Thank you Lisa! What a gift you are and what a voice to be sung home on. Here is one of my favourite of Lisa’s songs, The Land Beyond the Front Door, sun at the Abbotsford Convent, site of the Magdalene Laundry here in Melbourne.

If you would like to make a medicine doll for your ancestors, yourself or to an area in need of healing our next doll workshop will be : Winter Solstice: The Sleeping Trees, Medicine Dolls made of 9 Sacred Trees to be held at Tree of Life in Kew, Melbourne on Saturday 25th June. Book with Julia.

Medicine Doll Tales from their Finders and Keepers

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I have been receiving so many beautiful stories from medicine doll keepers and I thought I would share some today. Often the real magic and mystery of a particular medicine doll isn’t known to me until I hear back from their new mama’s and keepers. Sometimes the doll only really wakes up and makes sense when she is finally in their home and their hands.

Above is a photo taken by the mother of these two faerie sisters who made a decision to take a wild adventure up to the natural spring at the top of Mt Donna Buang at dusk! on a school night! after their bath! and making them late for their dinner! Good adventures always take at least a little courage and rule-breaking don’t they? I love the image of the little girls in the twilight at the spring and seeing the Grandmother doll peeking out through the ferns.

“I was truly blessed a few weeks ago. After viewing a post on Instagram by @sacredfamiliar saying she had collected water that day from the pure natural springs up at Mt Donna Buang and in gratitude had left a Grandmother medicine doll as a gift to whom ever found her. Before reading those words on her post, I was first struck by the photo of the Grandmother doll…my heart opened with flooding warmth and a very strong instant connection developed with the medicine doll. As I continued on with my duties of preparing dinner that early evening, I just couldn’t get this beautiful connection off my mind,my strong intuition kept telling me to drive the 35kms up to Mt Donna Buang to see if the Grandmother medicine doll was waiting..So that’s what I did,after telling my girls what Julia had done and how I was feeling, we set off for a evening faerie adventure with no expectation.
The pure magical excitement on our arrival to the Springs was heart overflowing when we walked over and the Grandmother doll was waiting…waiting for us✨

Since speaking with Julia after receiving Grandmother Forest, she has told me of the story of her making and how she needed to be gifted and now I understand why my strong instinct to go and seek was so powerful and she has brought myself and my girls so much magical happiness.” Tania

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“We received a glorious package in the mail today. Just over 17 years ago, we suffered a miscarriage, during my first pregnancy. Our Baby M. We did not allow ourselves to mourn, we shut away the feelings, emotions, pain. We did not know how to mourn him. In our society, the loss of unborn babies, stillborn babies, & infants who pass are topics we tend to shun. We don’t discuss, we don’t say their names, all too often our babies & their memories are swept under the carpet. For us, it became all too clear to us that we needed to honor Baby M. A dear friend Julia happens to create these mystical, magical, love, medicine, & intention filled needle felted medicine dolls. This beautiful doll is named Star Grandmother. She represents the loving universal Grandmother holding our much loved Baby M in her arms, protecting & caring for him in the stars until we will be together again.” Dawn

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“Wild Child Companion… This beauty-full Grandmother Medicine Doll came to me unexpectedly from the hands of @sacredfamiliar two years ago upon the birth of a new moon… She found me swimming in a crocodile river in East Arnhem Land where I was practicing Indigenous Ecology with Ramingining Elders. I remember the moment so vividly… the delicious enveloping cool of the water after unrelenting body-softening heat, filtered sunlight dancing upon the ripples as I moved, the laughter of the children from the outstation, hand-lit fire running happily along the banks as we swam (to keep the crocs at bay!). She carries the wisdom of integrating Indigenous and Western knowings. A perfect synchronicity. She delights, enchants, and comforts the Wild Child in me, and has kindly agreed to be my companion on many rough bush adventures. My heart full of gratitude.

My dear Grandma was a true soul companion for my Wild Child self when I was little…I was not surprised when She decided to be the same…Such a wise playfulness present in Her (in the calm Old Wild way). She is a blessing.” Nymh

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And sometimes I receive a request for a medicine doll that feels so big and unknown to me personally but my heart wants to try and help and so I ask the Grandmothers to guide my hands and show me what to do. Last month I created a doll for a young man who has been self-harming, cutting himself. While I don’t understand all of the feelings that create this illness I do remember very well the confusion and pain of being a teenager and how hard it was to express myself. I have also experienced this same illness in a family member close to me – while I have no words or advice for something I don’t understand personally, this is where I feel a doll can come in and be a bridge between the adults and the child – a comfort and strength when words don’t really help anyway.

The medicine bundle included snakeskin, ancient fossils of sea flowers, sacred mapacho tobacco from ceremony and mountain ash resin – blood red resin from the tallest and strongest trees in Sherbrooke Forest. And finally the bundle called for moss and I thought about how moss was used not too long ago in many medicine practices to stem the flow of blood, to soothe, to soften… I also heard lots of music as I worked on the Grandfather doll. Guitars – loud! I knew that I had to include a guitar pick somewhere on the doll. When I asked the boy’s mother if he had a guitar and pick she could send she was surprised – she said that he used to love the guitar but had packed everything away when another boy had told me he couldn’t play well. I went to a guitar shop and bought a new pick for him but when I got home I couldn’t find it anywhere and Tony gifted one of his old picks – it had a red back spider on the front of it – the red worn off the spider from so much enjoyment in playing so many songs. I placed the spider pick on the back of the doll under his long hair.

When I sent the doll to the young boy’s mother she wrote to say how amazed she was – all these things were so significant and personal to him: the beloved guitar given away and being called back, moss that he had been excited to grow as a child and a piece of moss from they have kept from a trip to the mountains a few years ago before this time of difficulty and that one of his fears was of spiders and that having the spider with him would make him even stronger to face the rest of his fears.

Perhaps the spider is his shadow totem – an animal that we fear the most often has the biggest teachings for us in facing our fears and reconnecting to courage. When we embrace the shadow totem we actually call back elements and parts of spirit that are needed and this totem becomes a source of power.

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Each doll I make brings me so much joy. Even when the story is heavy, the doll is not and I love that we are beginning to talk about and share our stories – this is how we heal and remember that we are not alone. Each story is our story as a community and I’m grateful to Tania, Dawn, Nymh and this young man’s mother for sharing their stories and their hearts.

 

Medicine Doll Circle: April 9th – Singing Home the Ghosted Sisters

Elementals Online Medicine DollMarket

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Hello, we have been very quiet here of late due to large number of custom orders over winter but we have also been creating a tribe of medicine dolls inspired by the elements, sacred geometry and plant friends of the Forest and they will be available very soon at our next online DollMarket.

This little doll community will be available to carry on their magical workings with their new keepers on Sunday, 2nd August (Australian time zone). The market will take place as a Facebook event  beginning at 1pm (Melbourne time) and finishing 2 hours later. Here is a link to the event page.
The Elemental Medicine Dolls have all been handcrafted by the fire here in deep winter in Sherbrooke Forest. We will also be sharing dolls wearing the medicine of Huichol beading blessed and gifted from an ancestral family from Mexico. All medicine dolls are made by hand with love and intention with hand dyed artisan wool and fibres and fossicked plant and mineral medicines.

The dollmarkets are a great place to have a chat with us about our dollmaking process and ask any questions you may have. You’ll also get to meet a lot of lovely people and have a chance to win a custom medicine doll.

Below are some of the Elemental sisters who will be available, we can’t wait to share them all with you very soon!

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Little Bird in your Ear – Baba Yaga, Vasalisa and the doll archetype

Grandmother doll by Sacred Familiar

A few nights ago there was a strange tapping and scratching at our window. It was hard to work out where it was coming from but when Tony went outside he found a little finch trying with all it’s might to come into the house. I went up to the window from inside and could see it’s little outline just sitting there looking at me. I quickly went outside but heard him take flight in the dark night and he was gone. Later on I fell asleep and dreamt of a colourful bird trying to fly with a big heavy feather in it’s mouth. I said hello to the bird and it said hello back to me before flying off.

Whenever an animal comes out of the forest to communicate with us I pay careful attention – such a tiny, shy bird knocking at my window in the forest night – what did I need to be more aware of? I felt the message of a need for discernment.

Soon after, I began making a series of grandmother dolls like the doll above. They all have a piece of fossilised wood, an ancient tree over their hearts. When I received these beautiful stones I was drawn to their subtle colours – this subtlety flowed into the colours the dolls chose to dress themselves in and the fact that each had eyes that looked both open and closed at the same time. The all-seeing and dreaming spirit of the grandmother. I thought about the crone and spirit of the witch and how they teach us about discernment and the wild feminine.

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Baba Yaga by Sacred Familiar

One of the stories and archetypes that kept being brought to me just before I left for Spirit Weavers Gathering and all through the gathering was that of Vasalisa the Beautiful, her magical doll and Baba Yaga (the witch, the crone, the mother of us all). Here is a link to a beautiful retelling of the story and I made the doll above last year after reading it – I felt she held the energy of Vasalisa after her training with Baba Yaga and the helpful little doll. Perhaps this doll is carrying the 3 archetypes of doll, growing maiden and wisdom of the grandmother all at once.

With this story so alive and being brought up in many conversations, it led me to re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD the renowned scholar, poet and cantadora (keeper of the old stories in the Latina tradition) rendition of this old, Russian story of the wise crone, and the young girl and her doll who come in search of fire. I am also very inspired by her writings on the magic of the doll:

“For centuries humans have felt that dolls emanate both a holiness and mana – an awesome and compelling presence which acts upon persons, changing them spiritually. Dolls are believed to be infused with life by their makers.

The Doll is the symbolic homunculi, little life. It is the symbol of what lies buried in humans that is numinous. It is a small and glowing facsimile of the original Self. Superficially, it is just a doll. But inversely, there is a little piece of soul that carries all the knowledge of the larger soul-Self.

The Doll is related to the symbols of leprechaun, elf, pixie, fairy, and dwarf. In fairy tales these represent a deep throb of wisdom within the culture of the psyche. They are those creatures which go on with the canny and interior work, who are tireless. In this way the doll represents the inner spirit of women; the voice of inner reason, inner knowing, and inner consciousness.

The doll is like the little bird in fairy tales who comes and whispers in the heroine’s ear, the one who reveals the hidden enemy and what to do about it all. This is the wisdom of homunculus, the small being within. It is our helper which is not seeable, but which is always accessible.

The dolls serve as talismans. Talismans are reminders of what is felt but not seen, what is so, but is not immediately obvious. The talismanic numen of the doll is that it reminds us, tells us, sees ahead for us. This intuitive function belongs to all women. It is a massive and fundamental receptivity. Not receptivity as once touted in classical psychology, that is as a passive vessel. But receptivity as in possessing immediate access to a profound wisdom that reaches to women’s very bones.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’

I love that this ancient story keeps circling and returning when it is needed. I feel ready now to create a Baba Yaga for myself to learn more about discernment and the message from the little bird at my window too – what if it was not trying to come in but beckoning me into the dark forest? I think I have been working at my desk too much and like Vasalisa I need to cross the threshold into ‘the green world’ to feed the wild.

I’ll be writing more about this in our monthly MoonMedicine letter next week – if you would like to receive it, you can subscribe here it will be lovely to share more with you in the moon circle.

 

New Inspiration – Forest Rogers

The doll and Baba Yaga rabbit-hole led me to the incredible work of Forest Rogers. Here is her interpretation of the Vasalisa and Baba Yaga story.

You can see more of her amazing dolls and sculptures here.

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Returning Spirit Weavers

Spirit Weavers Mandala

Well I think I’ve finally come back down to earth after my trip to America to attend the Spirit Weavers Gathering in the redwoods. An enormous thank you to Daughter of the Sun for calling in so many talented artisans from all over the world and for the whole Spirit Weavers community for welcoming us and creating such magical spaces to gather and weave in the redwood forest. I met so many amazing women passionate about their medicine and craft and was over the moon to share medicine dollmaking with sisters from different traditions and cultures under the giant redwoods and to find that essentially we are all the same.

A great way to get a feel for the gathering is to have a look at #spiritweaversgathering on Instagram and you will see lots of photos from everyone who attended.

And so I’m off to make a cup of tea and finish our MoonMedicine letter for subscribers this month and share more about the gathering, the artists and the redwoods. I will also write about the beautiful surprise of meeting so many fans of Australian artist, Vali Myers at the gathering and share a tarot spread called Holding the Vision that came to me just before I left Australia. Our monthly letter is a little late due to arriving home after the new moon – I hope to finish and send it out tomorrow!

If you would like to receive our monthly moonmedicine letter you are very welcome: Subscribe to MoonMedicine

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Julia and Talulah Sacred Familiar

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Spirit Weavers teepee

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Redwood medicine doll Sacred Familiar

From Tree to Tree Dollmaking with the Spirit Weavers

 

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Well it’s almost time for me to leave Sherbrooke Forest to meet our Northern sisters at Spirit Weavers Gathering in the redwood forest of Mendocino, California. I will be travelling with one of my dearest friends, Talulah of Making Sacred to share dollmaking and song circles at this gathering of amazing women sharing earth skills and wisdom. I see this gathering as a beautiful tapestry of medicine from our own ancestral lineages.

This is the first time that I have ever been to America and I am so curious about this journey. The Spirit Weavers Gathering is so exciting to me because it is a gathering based on sharing skills and crafts! There are so many incredible classes being offered it’s really going to be difficult to choose what to do. Have a look at these beautiful offerings – perhaps you will be inspired to attend next year!

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And then of course there are the Redwoods themselves. These were the faerietale trees of my childhood imagination. When I was little I used to stay with an elderly couple after school. They would often be caring for injured and animals and birds. They were important to me because I didn’t have any living grandparents – I see them now as foster grandparents. Their names were Mr and Mrs Elks and they would have been in their 70s. It was during the 70s too and they had this print, Serenity by Paul Detlefson on their wall and I used to sit in front of it for hours. In my imagination I played in this forest often. About 5 years ago I came across exactly the same print in an opshop and now this beloved image from my childhood is hanging in our home. It’s going to be very special to actually meet and sit amongst these giants, and even better to weave medicine dolls in their ancient embrace.

If you would like to get in touch I will be back home in the last week of May.  Tony and Fox are holding space here at home as I move from one forest to another. And I travel with this boulder opal heart to keep them close with me.

See you soon weavers! Love, Julia

Boulder Opal Sacred Familiar

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You are already what you Seek – Medicine Doll as Mirror

Wizard doll by Sacred Familiar

“I wanted a doll that would remind him of who he really is, and oh my goodnes, I could not have orchestrated it more perfectly myself! When Lachlan saw his doll he was beside himself with excitement. He then started connecting with the doll and looked at me and said… “Hey Mum, this doll is ME. It is a wizard, just like me. It has a dinosaur tooth, and I love dinosaurs. It has nature, and I like nature. It has green, and green is my favourite colour, and it was made in Sherbrooke forest, and we love Sherbrooke forest!”

Wizard medicine doll made for Lachlan’s 9th birthday

Over the weekend I received this beautiful message and it couldn’t have come at a better time. To know that a doll has made a child feel this way is all the confirmation and praise I need. Thank you so much Lachlan and Nat – these words make my heart explode with happiness!

Medicine Doll by Sacred Familiar

StarTribes Medicine Doll by Sacred Familiar

At the moment I am writing about the magic of the medicine doll to help me to prepare for Spirit Weavers Gathering in 2 weeks. It’s a hard one to put into words. People often ask me how to ‘use’ a medicine doll and I have come to understand that a doll is always personal, there are no rules. They are holders and vessels for love, for healing and for your intentions. They can be powerful links to ancestors, especially when adorned with sacred family treasures. A medicine doll can help you to access the child within, help you face your deepest fears and when placed beside your bed they can have a strong presence in your dreaming.

And the medicine doll can become a mirror or a bridge to a powerful part of yourself that you might not always be able to express or feel – but you’re getting there! Essentially I feel like a medicine doll is a friend and the more time you spend with this friend the more you love them. Perhaps you begin to tell the doll the secrets that you hold in your heart and cannot share with others. Here is a doll that helped me overcome my own fear. The doll lives with you daily – through good times and bad – the doll is always accepting. And then a funny thing happens – you realise that this friend is also a part of you, perhaps the most deepest and honest part of yourself. And this little vessel has become a being that knows you so well and accepts you completely. Then, that love that you have for this little doll begins to flow back to yourself. You see that you are also a beautiful, magical and creative being. You heal yourself.

Dollmaker Sacred Familiar

Thank you Nadia Turner for this drawing of Fox and I dreaming in a doll together – I think it captures perfectly the essence of enchantment around a medicine doll.

Julia Inglis, Dollmaker - Sacred Familiar

I feel like I am at the very beginning of a long apprenticeship in the craft of dollmaker. I’m grateful to the lineage of ancestral doll makers of the past and for the opportunities to pass this craft on to future dollmakers. And while I am still trying to find the words to describe the ancient connection that humans have always felt for the doll, I have been looking at vintage photographs of children and their beloved dolls on Pinterest.  It might just be me, but I am starting to see that all dolls are medicine.

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