If you think to Russian dolls, Matryoshkas are the first ones that probably come to your mind.
But there are also some lesser known Russian Dolls.
In good Slavic tradition there are even doll specifically has to do with the prospects of marriage.
Apparently, if a man and a woman have been seeing each other for a long time and the man refused to marry the woman she could place this doll outside of his house. This would alert the rest of the village to his shameful behavior.
The man then had two options, marry the woman, or be run out of town!
However, one of my favorite Dolls is the wishing doll. In short, it was traditional to make a wish on the doll and place it in a secret place in order to ensure that the wish came true.
Basically, in some Russian cultures, a Wishing Doll was traditionally made around this period, in February.
This doll by far, is the most mysterious in local lore.
Old women say that just a century ago every village girl had such a doll, yet no one else, only the owner, got to see it.
Whenever the girl had a wish that she dearly desired, she would take the doll out of its hiding place, sew a little bead on the doll’s dress, and then bring a hand-held mirror to the doll’s face with words: “Look how pretty you are! I gave you this present. Now you grant my wish for me”, or something similar.
And they swear that the wish was granted after that.
Out of all the Russian folk dolls, this doll was most known as a witch’s amulet, and there are two times in the year when it can be created, August, and February.
Dolls crafted in August differ from the ones made in February, both in character and appearance.
Unlike August wishing doll who is “a typical maiden”, brightly-colored and easy-going, February wishing doll portrays a mature powerful woman.
This doll serves also as an “astral double” of its owner and that means that, like any other amulet for protection, it performs a protective function by repelling negativity directed at its owner.
February doll is crafted between January 19 and February 2, or on a Waxing Moon in February, and It is based on a cross made with twigs of protective trees, rowan or pine, but you may choose other trees as a base for your doll including birch, hazel, or fruit trees.
Its clothes are bright, with lot of red color.
If you want make such a doll, you first need to craft a cross of your chosen twigs and tie it, not by chance, with red thread.
Next your wrap some natural fiber, for example flax, hemp, cotton, or even wool around her head and body, if you wish to make your doll plump.
Secure the fiber with red thread if necessary.
Next, you wrap the prepared cross into in white cloth, or a cloth similar to your own skin color, that had been taken from your own used clothes.
And not just any clothes, but the one that had been touching your bare skin and hasn’t been washed for some time (a shirt, a blouse, or even old undergarments), to preserve the doll’s connection with you. This cloth is tied at the neck with red thread and wrapped crosswise around the chest, so that your doll would bear a protective diagonal cross on its chest similarly to a corn doll, or some other traditional Russian amulet-dolls.
Body and, sometimes, clothes for the doll are crafted from pieces of your own clothes that you associate with some happy moments in your life. A wishing doll may wear also an embroidered dress or apron, and a strip of solar symbols is a classic decoration for such a dress. A woven belt that may be as simple as three threads braided together is tied around the doll’s waist. Make a small kerchief and wrap it around the doll’s head for protection.
Traditionally hair of wishing doll is made of genuine flax fiber which has long been associated with feminine magic.
Unlike August doll that wears one long plait along the back, this doll’s hair is kept loose or plaited in four plaits, two on the back and two on the sides but, If you really want to create an authentic image of an ancient Slavic vedunya (wise woman), leave the hair on the back of the head loose, and plait the hair near the doll’s face into two or four thin braids (one or two braids on each side).
Hair is tied to the head with more red thread or a thin red ribbon that once tied would give the impression that wishing doll is wearing a headband.
The doll is made without using any metal, that means a needle and, preferably, scissors and, ultimately, cloth needs to be ripped by hand.
The face of such doll is not marked – it remains blank, so that no evil spirit could possess it.
During its creation, proper attention must be paid to details, as she is a wise and experienced witch (in a positive meaning of this word) who also happens to have your personality.
As she is “born” in February, a winter outfit for the doll is very appropriate.
And remember that it must look pretty!
When making the doll, a wise woman talks to her, sharing her secrets and sacred desires.
It is important that no one sees it, even in the crafting process.
On a Full Moon, traditionally the one that comes closest to February 2, the wishing doll is activated.
According to tradition, a February wishing doll is activated inside around noon or midnight and, to activate it, you would need 13 plain white candles (tealights would work best) that would be arranged in a circle, a sprig of vervain, and some anointing oils (protective oil, money oil, health oil, and youth oil which would correspond to the types of wishes you’d be making with this doll, or plain flaxseed oil which possesses all the needed qualities).
You can add also a few drops of pine essential oil, as pine had been associated with health, protection, and money, and a drop or two of immortelle essential oil, as immortelle is considered to be a plant that helps preserve youth and beauty, some blessed water, and some grain of your choice (wheat is the traditional one).
You would need also small mirror that you would give to your doll.
After greeting the Four Elements, the practitioner welcomes the doll with her own words:
“Hello to you, fair maiden, my newly-acquired friend.”
The greeting is followed by the words of admiration:
“Look how beautiful you are fair maiden…”
or something similar.
Next, she tells exactly why she needs this doll and asks her to help.
The second stage of activation is name-giving.
A sprig of vervain is dipped in water and used to sprinkle the doll with water.
This process is traditionally accompanied with the words:
“I bless you and name you as my loyal protector, reliable and speedy helper, aid in my affairs, granter of my wishes, my dear friend Wishing Doll – (give the doll a name).”
Repeat this process three times.
Next sprinkle some grain on the doll using the same words.
Finally, anoint the doll with the oil, always repeating the same words.
In the end, the mirror is brought to the doll’s face as it stands in the center of the altar.
The ritual ends with the words of gratitude to the Elements, the candles are extinguished, and the doll is left out in the moonlight for a few hours.
The doll is then stored in a special box, with her mirror, a pouch of grain, and a bundle of vervain.
The wishes (that should be to gain something) are best to be made on a Waxing Moon, and they typically come true within a Lunar month.
To make a wish, the doll is taken out and spoken to: “Help me gain this and that. Here is my present for you.”
Let her see herself in the mirror, then show what you’ve got for her.
Unlike with August wishing doll, the gifts are tied to the doll’s belt rather than sewn directly on the dress.
Other ways to do it is thread them and wrap around the doll’s waist like another belt or sew them to the hem of the dress.
If you are wishing for protection, try to use metal objects as your gifts such as tiny mirrors, metal buttons, charms, or small red beads.
Sometimes gifts could be given to the doll without any wishes, such as a bright ribbon or a colorful thread on the wrist.
Like many other cultures, other traditional dolls are specifically used to bring rain, while clever dolls are filled with bristles like a broom thus turning the chore of cleaning into something adorable.
Another ingenious design was a doll full of tea leaves: simply pat the bottom and fill the room with the aroma of tea.
And none of this dolls have faces, because their used to be a belief that if a doll had a face an evil spirit could over take it. Many of these dolls were used to ward off the evils of the world in addition to the uses above.
Either way these dolls are essential to understand the Russian cultural history and I hope to fill a home with tea filled dolls!
May your most sacred wishes come true!
Images from web – Google Research