Tag: Design

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