Silver RavenWolf

Author Blog — The Crow at the Crossroads

How To Make A Spirit Doll — The Journey of Magickal Design


silverravenwolf dolls

Every doll has a soul.

New Moon Spirit Dolls — The Journey of Design

by Silver RavenWolf
copyright 2012

I don’t know why I started designing these Spirit Dolls.  Maybe it was watching Lord Thorn quietly sew together a ritual robe for his friend by hand the other week.

“Why aren’t you using a sewing machine?” I asked.

He smiled.  “I don’t have one.  Besides, I find stitching it by hand more fulfilling.”

I thought about that.  There is a special kind of contemplative joy in working magick while stitching something by hand.  Too, the end product always seems to have more power.

Or, maybe it was because I wrote the article on conjuring bags and my mind simply stepped to the next level.  Or, perhaps a book I was looking at on found object art at the local crafting store sent the creative part of me whirling…whatever the reason, I sat one night at the dining room table not long after my conversation with Lord Thorn and began to doodle on a piece of graph paper.

The doodle grew.  Changed shape.  I pulled out another piece of paper and began to build.  I thought about magick and about how spirit dolls have helped people for thousands of years in many cultures.  I realized such dolls take shape from the depths of their maker’s creativity, fashioned from natural objects to plastic pieces, taking on their own persona.  Over the centuries, dolls have brought comfort and joy, magick and laughter…and, yes, in some cases dolls straddled the line from delightful to creepy to downright scary.

Portrait of a girl with a doll in Denver, Colo...

I thought about how the souls of the dolls begin with a spark of thought, and expand into the material world.  That spark can contain healing and love, or hate and fear.  Each doll has a purpose that becomes a reflection of our society in the moment of its birth.  Every doll has a story, particularly the handmade ones.  Over time dolls from the past tell the current generation of happiness and good times, of challenge or heartbreak.

Decorating a doll they found left by villagers...

Have you ever held an antique doll and truly adored it?  Or, was there one you refused to touch because it seemed…so…gosh!  Yuck!

I am not a “doll” person.  Yeah, I like them okay.  I had dolls when I was a kid.  Played with Chatty Cathy, Barbie (born the same year as I — not funny), and Susie-Smart.  My heart, however, went to Lamb Chop — the puppet, though I never got one.  But, I digress.

As I ruminated over the nature of dolls, I wrote.  As I visualized, I designed.  The words spilled from my mind onto the paper.  For the past thirty years I’ve been striving to mix magick and reality into a single vehicle — to make every moment of my life a welcoming place for mystery and enchantment and to share those bits and pieces with those who chose to listen.  To me, life would be utterly boring without the mystical, the magickal, the knowing that the impossible is just a thought away…

As I designed the first doll, her name came immediately to me — Mama Magick.  What sort of doll would I want sitting on my altar?  What energy would I like to feel?  I decided to use the hour glass shape for two reasons — the idea of birth (and the infinity sign) and that the belly of the Mother contains the birth of our universe.  The belly of this doll would hold herbs, charms, and trinkets to her purpose.  I held my hands over my notes, closed my eyes, and visualized the essence of this doll.

Once I finished the creative design process, I dug through my stash of crafty stuff to find embellishments for the doll.  I realized that there wasn’t any limit to what I could put on the doll nor was there any “right” or “wrong”.  She would be as she was meant to be, I just had to build her.

First, let’s take a look at my initial drawing and thought process.  These are the original pages, now housed in my Book of Shadows.

The pictorial journal below closely follows my original notes.

My first step included cleansing and blessing all supplies, then I moved onto the actual construction of the doll.

silver ravenwolf spirit dolls

With each stage of constructing the doll, I held my hands over the pieces, mentally combining the energy of earth and spirit.

silver ravenwolf spirit doll

During the ironing process I sprayed the material with my activation fluid (see earlier blog article). I also ironed herbs into the fabric on the reverse side of the doll, then brushed them off.

Pieces for dress can be large or small. Numerous or a single piece like this.

I like to add embellishments on things before I put them together; however, you can always add your embellishments after sewing the doll together.

To me, one of the most important steps in creating the Spirit Doll was to incorporate charms, chants, and sigils directly on the doll. I drew these with black, indelible marker.

Sigils and incantation on the Mama Spirit Doll.

Herbs used for the Transformation Doll.

These are the two brands of stuffing I used for the dolls.

I used two types of stuffing to give the body of the doll more personality. To keep the beads in the arms while I stuffed the chest, I used yarn bits to tie off the arms from the body. Once the chest area was stuffed with the soft stuffing I took off the yarn bands.

I’d never constructed a fabric doll before, so this was a new experience for me.  Being a perfectionist, it was very hard for me to just let go and let the doll “become”; but, I overrode my itch for perfect and let the bohemian take over.  During the entire process I blended magick with physical labor, savoring the crafty procedures right along with the magickal applications.  At each step I concentrated on the soul of the doll — Her ultimate purpose — that spark that I wanted to share with others.

Due to the added weight of the beaded stuffing, the dolls can be positioned easier. Here’s Mama Magick hanging out in the Magnolia tree.

When I finished Mama Magick, I went on to complete two more dolls — Mama Fortune and Mama Transformation, changing the pattern of each just a little bit.  For example, Mama Fortune has a wider dress body.  Mama Transformation has a flat edge to the bottom of her dress and a rounder head.  Along the way, I experimented with the face.  Mama Magick has traditional doll eyes that I found in the bottom of my sewing basket.  Mama Fortune has button brads for her eyes.  Mama Transformation has no face, as the face of transformation belongs to her eventual owner.

The hair was my final challenge on each doll.  For the first and third dolls, I used crochet chains.  The second doll (Mama Fortune) I sewed most of the yarn strings into the seam of the doll, then topped this with a finished crochet chain after the doll was stuffed.

Mama Fortune is highly embellished with numerous good fortune items. The herbs inside the doll include Frankincense, Myrrh, and Cinnamon.

I also changed sewing techniques a bit.  With Mama Magick, I hand stitched the entire doll.  Mama Fortune, on the other hand, was put together with a sewing machine and hand stitching. Mama Transformation has a lot of hand embroidery. I found I actually preferred the hand stitching even though it took longer.  For all three dolls I did most of the embellishing on the front of the doll before actually putting the doll together, making sure that I didn’t place any embellishment into or over the seam allowance (I used 1/4 inch).

Mama Transformation has no face, as her “face” belongs to her owner. This is the third pattern with the flat bottom to the dress. Her dress has a lot of embroidery work and a special key — that of love — because we must love ourselves to transform.

The final test with any of my projects lies with my children.  Like a kid myself, I often show them things I’ve done, prefaced with, “I need you to be totally honest — if you hate it, tell me so.”  When I showed the dolls to my youngest daughter, I received a resounding, “Mom, these are cool!”

When I showed them to my oldest daughter she said, “Mom?” (pause) “These are…creepy.”

She ran her hand over the box. “But, I want one.”

Dolls.

Whisper.

What do you hear?

Note:  If you have more ideas for Spirit Dolls, or would like to share pictures on my author page, please feel free to do so.  Below you will find pictures of all three patterns used.

Oh, wait.  How do you activate the dolls?  I’m so glad you asked.  You merely…

stick a pin in them, then…

Make a wish.

Spirit Doll Pattern One — Designed for Mama Magick by Silver RavenWolf

Spirit Doll Pattern Two — Used for Mama Fortune designed by Silver RavenWolf

Spirit Doll Pattern Three — Used for Mama Transformation designed by Silver RavenWolf

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87 thoughts on “How To Make A Spirit Doll — The Journey of Magickal Design

  1. Valerie S. on said:

    These dolls are soooooooo gorgeous! I LOVE them all, but I feel especially drawn to Mama Transformation. Her colors are sumptious! Thank you so very much for posting these magically crafty articles. They are a visual feast. :)

  2. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for the pictures of each step! I am a visual person and having pictures to reference makes a HUGE difference! I would love to try and make one of these one day!

    So often we elevate others and think that we cannot do the things they do. Seeing that you took notes and drew your ideas on plain old grid paper and that you brainstorm like the rest of us, makes me realize that I can do this and other projects like it!

    Thanks again for being the amazing teacher you are, and taking the time to show us in plain and simple steps, your process from conception to completion!

    • I am a visual person, too. Sometimes, I look at instructions and read them over and over again, thinking, what the heck are they trying to say here? Also, I know we have blog visitors who do not speak English. I’m hoping the pictures help them to do the crafts, too. And yep, I love graph paper, lol.

  3. How inspiring!!!
    Thank you and happy Fat Tuesday! = )

    Beee-autiful!!! I shall be taking pictures, but it might be a little later, school’s keepin’ me busy..*lol*
    (((HUGS))) Thanks for being so active again!!!

    Blessed wishes always!

  4. morganarose on said:

    I love these! they have such a look to them, I’m actually thinking of making one for my mom for mother’s day since she’s the one who introduced me to the craft.

  5. Peej on said:

    Wow – thank you so much for sharing this – and in so much detail. I want to run out and make one (or two. Or three). I am not very creative, nor can I really sew… but jeepers, I am INSPIRED.

    I have made at least two poppets before, each taking approximately four hours a piece. You’re right; hand stitching seems so powerful. I know I fell into a trance state as I stitched up the sides.

    I love the idea of these. You’ve got my mind churning! Thanks!

  6. Kit on said:

    These are very cool looking. I don’t know if I’d try to attempt them as I am emphatically NOT a crafts type person (I’m more a writer than a crafter) but I agree they look great and I love the buttefly on Mama Transformation, because they are absolutely the emblem of transformation. Since you asked for ideas maybe you would make a Mama Health or Mama Success. I love looking at your craft ideas, even if I’m not sure I’d try them. Thank you again for sharing them and keep them coming. Happy Fat Tuesday and Blessed Be!

  7. These are AWESOME!!! I really am pulled to Mama transformation. Just the other week I saw sugalite for the first time and fell in love with it. Beautiful work!!

  8. Patty Curtis on said:

    OMGoddess what a great share. Iam with a group in yahoo and we make goddess dolls and swap them in the mail. these are perfect. you are always kind hearted and shre you crafts…when I was in my space one time I shared a ritual and you like it so much you asked me if you could use it. and I said that I would be so honored.but it has been so long and this witchie mind it getting old. yea I am an old crone of 60. well thanks again. love,light and peace.
    Patty Curtis,Rhode Island

  9. I love Mama Magick. I think they are a little creepy, but they remind me of my first VooDoo doll. She scared me until I got used to her, then I thought she was awesome. Mama Transformation doesn’t give me a creepy vibe, oddly, I think it might be the lack of face. Seems like it’d be the other way, doesn’t it? Are these going to end up in your Etsy shop?

  10. Patty Curtis on said:

    good morning: I am going to be making one of y our spirit dolls today.looks like fun.
    Patty C Rhode Island

  11. davidjamesdipardo on said:

    oooooh! These are so cool Silver! I’ll definitely be making some of these!
    Great post!

  12. I love these, especially the purple one! I do all my stitching by hand too; I no longer own a sewing machine… well because I gave up on them LOL apparently me and sewing machines don’t get along. Now if only I could get into the crafting mood (sigh). Fabulous post Raven! I love love love your crafty posts!

  13. moonbear67 on said:

    Love these, and what a fantastic idea! Can’t wait to get started on my own!!! :) Thanks for sharing these with us!

  14. Salm on said:

    I´m 44 years old, but the teenager inside of me does love these !!!!

  15. Valerie on said:

    These are the most beautiful and amazing looking dolls and the instructions are great with so many pictures!! I love Mama Magick the best. I will defintely make one of them but perhaps later in the year. Still dealing with the hassle of the house move. Slowly but surely things are coming together and I just made a Braucherei Protection Amulet last week. Thank you again for all the wonderful posts. I LOVE your blog!!
    Love and Blessings
    Valerie

  16. I cant wait to create my muma dolls, you are so in tune with us all..bless your creativaty and gift of sharing, youre a treasure silver:)

  17. Marlene on said:

    I ABSOLUTELY love these dolls. What a great idea. I don’t have a crafty bone in my body, unfortunately. But it doesn’t stop me from trying. I think it is the intent not the looks that is the real magick. I also like the idea for Mama Healing and Mama Sucess. Also, perhaps, a Mama Protection. How about a pet protection, etc. one? Thank you for the details. That really helps. You are teriffic.
    Blessings and hugs.
    Marlene

    • You don’t need a bit of crafty expertise, just the desire to create. You’ll be amazed at what you can do!

    • Kit on said:

      Marlene I love your idea about pet protection. I’m sure if there is a pattern out there for these dolls (or if not maybe our dear talented Silver can make one?) then there might be one for dog and cat shapes so that dolls could be made for our beloved pets such as protection and healing. Anyone else have ideas on those lines?

    • Tina on said:

      Yes! One for pet protection would be wonderful.

  18. Ruth Rocchio on said:

    I have been making elaborate beaded spirit dolls for about 12 years and they are so much fun. You can even make them small and wear them as jewelry. I enjoyed your thoughtful blog post, so many times these ideas cycle and recycle. Your take on the process is wondrous. I was going to post one of my dolls for you to see but couldn’t figure out how to! I have added your patterns to my stash of shapes, and am thinking of making them much smaller, about 4 inches tall, and covered with beading. Always great to read your blog! BB!

  19. Peej on said:

    As a single gal, I just thought of a great one for me: Mama Matchmaker!

  20. Silver, once again, you have outdone yourself! These are wonderful! I want to get started on mine right away but…I have to learn to sew first! Thank you so much for sharing all of these great things with us!

  21. Talented, open-hearted lady, thank you so much for this blog! For me it represents so much more than a crafts project or spell work. It’s like a piece of my lost homeland and a kind of trusting innocence that was lost as well.

    When I was little there was a spiritualist in the neighborhood with a beautiful black doll she called Mama Inez. I was pre-kinder and hadn’t learned to write yet but I’d compose letters and petition her in my childlike gibberish and tuck these into her skirt. When I saw the incantations you wrote in the Mama Spirit Doll I suddenly remembered Mama Inez and how I once had unflagging faith that my prayers, whatever they were, would be answered. Recovering the memory in itself is already an answered prayer!

    So while I’ve never made a doll and it’s going to take a trip to the fabric and craft stores to pick up the supplies, Silver, you better believe I’m going to fashion a Mama Spirit Doll of my own!

    The photos, by the way, are particularly helpful, making the instructions and materials real accessible. You’re a great teacher!

  22. Greg Scroggins on said:

    Silver, I am not much on making dolls, but this might be fun to do. I will let you know how it works out for me.

  23. These are so cute :-)

  24. Marlene on said:

    Silver, what about having a pocket on the doll’s dress or animal doll for pet’s backpack to leave petitions, prayers, requests? Tatiana said she tucked them into the dress of Mama Inez. Sounds possible, yes? That way you can change requests for help for someone else or renew the one you have already requested. I really would like your imput on this.

  25. These are amazing!!! Just printed the oil and water candle out the other day to make for a new class I’m taking *so excited*, now I’ll HAVE to make these too!!! LOVE THEM!!! I’ll share pics of the candle and of the doll(s) when I get done!!

    Please add us all to the Healing Ritual!! MDT & JMW in FL and DT & DGT in MI. Thank you SO SO SO MUCH for being YOU and for ALL that YOU DO!!!!

    Much love and MANY blessings to you and yours!!!!
    xoxo

  26. Tina on said:

    I just purchased them from the etsy store. They just spoke to me. :) looking forward to working with them.

  27. Wow Silver these are great! I’ve been making Spirit Dolls for years and always found it was much more fulfilling doing all the work by hand. I felt that I was putting more of myself into each one, it was more magical for me. I may just have to make one or two of your pattern, as it is different from what I make. Thanks for the inspiration!!! Love what you do for our community. Many Blessings. I also make witch dolls, a little more work but also so much fun!

  28. Lily on said:

    As always you bring light and love to your blogs, your creativity and your wisdom! Just when I needed it most. Thank you Silver, love the dolls.

  29. Fand on said:

    THANK YOU. I got in big trouble for making a magick doll when I
    was about 9 years old. When my daughter was 7yrs she had made
    one all on her own. She of course, did not get punished. Before my
    grandmother passed( goddess rest her beautiful soul ), she told me
    that my mother did that too, as did she herself. My great grandmother
    was also a witch. I have so much fun with these and they work! Thank
    you so much sharing your awesome crafts!
    Fand

  30. Pingback: Spirit Cat Pattern for Protection, Success, or Healing « Author Silver RavenWolf's Blog

  31. Fand on said:

    I already started( I feel the magick already) with MAMA TRANSFORMATION. It’s like she was
    already here and was waiting for me! This is so wonderful! I can feel the transforming energy
    within and that began as soon as I started thinking about making her. Blessed Be, Lady Silver!!!!

    Fand

  32. Pingback: How to Grunge Material for Primitive Projects and Petitions — The Magickal Way! « Author Silver RavenWolf's Blog

  33. Ada on said:

    I’m not a regular seamstress and don’t cut straight lines but when I do these things magically everything always turns out beautiful … Definitely going to get some items around and try my hand at making a transformation doll … Fits perfectly with my life and season right now ! Thank u for all of your creative insight and for sharing so much of your workings and crafting !

  34. Wow! What incredible dolls! I have had fabric in my dresser for YEARS that I have been hanging onto for just *the* right craft, and this is it! I am in the midst of a major metamorpohsis in my life, and this is just right! I will also be making one for my mother, who has rejected the magick within her, but can oft be reminded of her personal power.

  35. love all of your creations, I have some much lovely fabric at home I think I’ll give one a go this coming weekend, just not sure whether to make a cat or a goddess <3

  36. Folaafua on said:

    Thank you, thank you & thank you! I’ve been wanting to create a spirit doll for some time. And I just Googled “spirit dolls” and your site came up. I am so excited! Now, I can finally “birth” my spirit doll that has been asking to be created. Your design seems so simple, but it has greatly inspired me. blessings to you.

  37. Chleo on said:

    These are absolutely lovely Silver Ravenwolf. I think they are just beautiful and I really do like the idea of actually putting the energy and magick sown into the very doll. A wonderful idea you have came up with.

  38. I love these, do you sell them?

  39. Love your Spirit dolls! I’m going to make my own some day, hope mine turn out as beautiful.

  40. What a great idea! I can’t wait to do this with my grand daughter. I have many beautiful clothes or fabric that are either worn in places or have sentimental value. I didn’t want to throw them away and have hung onto some of them for over 30 years. I can definitely use some of them for these dolls. Thanks for sharing.

  41. Pretty amazing, I think this is a doable project.

  42. Reblogged this on nikkielefaye's Blog and commented:
    These are lovely :)

  43. Silver DreamSage on said:

    Thank you for sharing this Beauty

  44. SandraLynne on said:

    this is by far the BEST how-to guide for making spirit dolls. Thank you.so much for sharing. Brightest of blessings! Sandra

  45. Arizo on said:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I love the step by step instructions and that you were willing to share your outlines. I was at a loss on how to start sketching my Spirit Doll but I hope that after I start with your outlines my creative juices will get unblocked and start flowing again. Thanks so much!!

  46. stephanie on said:

    So um yeah I’m making these!!
    We are Christian… But we believe in the power of your own mind an heart. My 10 yo found meditation to be very helpful for her. She is homeschooled an gets frustrated sometimes. 10min of meditation clears her head, calms her, an helps her focus.
    She likes her worry dolls, but often loses the little guys. I think these would be fantastic for her. Adding the chakras inside or out!!!
    Fabulous idea!!!

  47. Pingback: Day 227: Spirit Dolls : Deconstruct The Yuck

  48. Elaine McHale on said:

    Silver thank you for the great inspiration you have given me,I am new to beading and I love it, you have given me the kick start for Spirit Dolls that I have been looking for, thanks to you I now know the direction I have been looking for, I am eternally grateful, and will see you on face book. Bless you

  49. Greg Scroggins on said:

    That looks really nice. I just hope I can do that with two left thumbs! I am not too good with stitching but ,I can always try.

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