healing dolls

Meeting My Medicine Dolls through Alice Savage

StagWoman Sacred Familiar doll drawn by Alice Savage

'I believe in beauty.

I love animals and think they are the best part of us.'  

Alice Savage

I find it very hard to explain to people the full magic of the medicine doll because they are so personal. Each doll has her own personality and medicine and it is so unique and authentic to the doll herself that it will be felt by everyone differently. Just like meeting someone new - we aren't all going to get along in the same way. If I have to put it in a nutshell or acorn shell! I would say that they are magical friends. They are wee medicine women who come to walk beside you for a little while in your life when you need a friend. It sounds simplistic and it is but it is also essentially very true. What I didn't know when I began opening this ancestral medicine again 12 months ago was how many new friends the dolls were going to bring to me.
Last month I was contacted by Italian artist, Alice Savage who told me she was inspired by the dolls and asked me if she could make a drawing based on one. I was so honoured that an artist as skilled and talented as Alice would be inspired by the medicine of the dolls. And I was excited to see through Alice's eyes the spirit of my own dolls. I see the personality and spirit of the dolls clearly as I am making them but I do not put a deep or outlined expression into their faces because I want the new keeper to see her as she needs to see her. The faces are there but they are more etheric, ephemeral - as if behind a veil.
When Alice began to send her drawings through to me by email I was astonished because they had the faces that I had already seen but were also interpreted through Alice's own spirit and because of this they had become a new being at the same time. I don't see them as separate from my dolls but as seen from a different realm and sometimes it's very helpful to me to understand their medicine even more. This happened particularly when Alice drew the DeathDoula as a figure in a madonna-like pose. I was touched that she could feel the grace and compassion that this doll carried in her sacred medicine as midwife to the dying. Alice told me that the dolls were doing their healing on her own spirit as she drew them. They are speaking to her and I love that because they speak to me as I weave them too.

'This one so far speaks to me of the circle of time. It's like if she told me that she is very ancient, that she saw all the ages, and knows everything - she is fierce, not scared, not worried, because she saw all the seasons happening. I put a symbolized moon with the rays of the sun on the corners of the drawing to depict it. There are also some drop shapes (something I use often) to express the tears, but she is no more touched by them. She is sweet, and with the power of survival'. Alice's conversation with MossWitch

As the drawings have grown, I have fallen more and more in love with this collaboration of medicine with Alice. We have had lovely chats about Vali Myers, our love of animals - especially Foxes! We are now creating a project together to raise money for the Koalas at the Southern Ash WIldlife Shelter. I will have more information about purchasing prints of the medicine dolls for the koalas as the collaboration blossoms.
Dear Alice, thank you. It's such a delight to be weaving together across the oceans.
MossWitch medicine doll
MossWitch by Alice Savage
Stagwoman medicine doll by Sacred Familiar
DeathDoula - midwifing the dying

New Medicine Dolls

Owl and Elm Forest Dweller medicine doll
a doll for finding the new path
Barn Owl Feathers, Elm Tree plant medicine
Heart of Mountain Ash Tree Resin
Celtic Sea Salt
Owl and Tree of Life golden talisman

Dragonfly and Mugwort medicine doll
a doll for assisting with change and transition
King Parrot Feathers, Dragonfly talisman
Mugwort plant medicine

Spirit Dolls for the HomeBirth Medicine Tree

Last week I sent two beautiful mamma dolls to be with the Birthkeeper Medicine Tribes gathering this weekend at the Homebirth Australia Conference. I was so happy to weave dolls for the midwives, doulas, healers and educators who together are bringing back the Ancestral Medicine of holding sacred space to birth without fear in our own homes and communities again. 
I felt grateful to have the opportunity to provide dolls for this birthing tribe and it was a small way that I could thank the many midwives and doulas who have visited me in the forest for Ancestral Medicine sessions. It was in fact, the plight of a midwife being treated unfairly in regards to a homebirth that inspired me to become more public with Ancestral Medicine work 3 years ago. A homebirth may not be for everyone but the fact that there are groups who want this ancient and natural practice eradicated and heavily controlled by outside authorities, spurred me on to step out of the shadows and approach the midwifery community. And so Swan Blessing actually began as a service to clear past life trauma of being persecuted as a witch, healer, herbalist, teacher of plant medicines for midwives and doulas so that they would not feel fear in their sacred work of holding space for birth. And now I see people from all works of life - artisans, teachers, mothers and fathers - all coming to reclaim their memory of Ancestral Medicine again. I call it simply Grandmother Medicine because up until just 2 generations ago, these knowings and wisdoms of Birth and Death and everything in between was passed in the family and taught with great love and trust. 
It has been my honour to come to know so many birthkeepers over the last 3 years particularly my sisters at the School of Shamanic Midwifery. These women and men who are brave, honest and funny and so very very wise. How lucky we are that these guardians are back to hold space for our birthing again. 
Paying homage to the sacred birth process I am showing here, for the first time, some of the ways the dolls begin their lives. Here are photos of the dolls birthing themselves with gumnut hearts filled with mountain ash resin in full flow. The wee baby in the papoose was made from an oak acorn. They have a mandala of herbs and plant medicine in their tummies including: Motherwort (known as Lion's Tail), Myrrh, Moss, Wattle and Mapacho Tobacco for protection. 
Love to all who gather this weekend at the Homebirth Australia Conference, blessings on the connection back to your Ancestral Medicine trees and the new fruit waiting to blossom. Thank you for all you do for us and our children and their children to come. 
Womb medicine - Gumnuts filled with Mountain Ash resin 

Oak Acorn and pure Merino Wool 

Plant Medicine Mandala to go inside the dolls
HawkWoman Medicine Doll
Snakeskin over her pregnant belly and Hawk Feather wand
Guided Medicine Doll for New Mamma and Baby 

Spirit Sisters - Women of the Ladakhi by Jimmy Nelson

Ladakhi woman
Before They are Pass Away - Jimmy Nelson

There are a tribe of Spirit Sister medicine dolls that birthed this year that have been very ancient and beautiful and I have often asked them 'where are you from?' Recently I saw the amazing photographs of Jimmy Nelson in his book Before They Pass Away and found the lineage of these particular dolls. I understand now they are Ladakhi and I can't wait to learn and understand more about these adorned and mysterious medicine women. 
"Ladakh (meaning ‘land of the passes’) is a cold desert in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is divided into the mainly Muslim Kargil district and the primarily Buddhist Leh district. The people of Ladakh have a rich folklore, some of which date back to the pre- Buddhist era." Jimmy Nelson

"Festivals and celebrations are unmissable opportunities for the Ladakh to
display goncha, the traditional dress. Typical costumes include gonchas of
velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats. Well-to-do
Ladakhi women have a striking and opulent appearance." Jimmy Nel
son