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.

thousand pronged antlers

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.