The Multiplication of Spirit Dolls



My latest dive into the fabulously esoteric world of Morbid Anatomy has been a class entitled "Enchanted Matter, Ensouled Objects, & Bodily Possession" - summed up on their site as:

From Egyptian mummies to animated Classical statues, miracle working body parts to crying statues, mediumship to exorcism, the biblical Adam to The Golem, the idea that physical objects—from statues to rocks to human bodies—might serve as containers for soul, spirit or deity was once extremely common around the world. Traces of these ideas live on in the numinous presence of The Work of Art, the mysterious charge of the uncanny, the persistence of miracle working statues, and the teachings of Carl Jung and his followers.

All of these ideas point to the mystery at the heart of life and the life force itself. The enigma of what, exactly, animates us, enlivens us into more than inert matter, and leaves us at bodily death.

As usual with these classes - and one of the reasons I love them so much - we are encouraged to create a piece of work which reflects our take on the lessons learned.



So many cultures have produced objects which they believed could embody or enclose the essence of a god or other spirit that it makes you wonder - how can such a global & time-tested instinct be entirely without meaning? Having a physical item to relate to as you speak to your ancestors, your gods, your guardian spirit seems like such a natural way to focus attention & intent.

Anyway...My initial plan was to make a doll bearing signs and symbols that would embody the important parts of my life - times, places, concerns and recurrent themes - to reconnect me with various people & moments of personal meaning. To this end, I planned a figure embroidered with map co-ordinates for the three homes that have meant most to me, birth dates of myself & my sons, a wheel of the year to symbolise the importance to me of being aware of the natural rhythms of the land.  Even the fact that her arms are attached with different colour ribbons is a depiction of my personal psychogeology - being most at home on lands which teeter between being earth and being water (does that also relate to my Capricorn sea-goat nature?  Probably.)



The glass eyes are an experiment, responding to one of the class talks (by the excellent Eleanor Crook) concerning Greek bronzes and the notion of the animate idol.  The Greeks often used glass eyes to uncanny effect, as seen in this statue from 4th century BCE Antikythera -

Not sure that they work so well on a small(ish) cloth doll, but I may just need to work on attachment methods, or just live with her for a while & see how I feel.


Her torso bears moon phases & the sign of the Sea-goat, as well as being draped with milky quartz beads.  The latter form a kind of ribcage, for me a symbol of protection, while the quartz itself supposedly purifies the mind and prevents you from exploring the world with preconceived notions or prejudices. It eliminates biases and prevents them from bubbling to the surface. Even those ideologies you buried deep within your psyche are wiped clean, allowing you to approach the world with fresh eyes. (

And she carries a garnet - my birthstone - within her, too.


Alongside this gal I was making another doll based upon the same pattern, a doll intended to be a kind of avatar for myself in a year-long natural dye project. She was to embody the alchemy of the process, the planting, tending, harvesting & extracting of colour from a range of native plants (hence known, unsurprisingly, in my head as "The Alchemist")

Here she is as a work-in-progress.

But as the pair progressed, they brought to mind the model of the three-fold soul, a notion I have often run across in reading about both traditional & folkloric witchcraft. The idea of identifying different aspects of the self perhaps originates, or was at least first codified, by Plato who referred to

  • The Logos, centred in the head & associated with the intellect.
  • The Thymos, located in the heart & linked to emotions.
  • The Eros, found in the stomach & associated with base desires.

Much as I admire the classical world, I find its culture, its pantheon of gods especially, rather distant from my own experience. Often good to read about, but not something I feel the urge to bring into my own spiritual practice. (Sorry, Hekate - I tried!)  My heart belongs to a more northern tradition - which is hardly surprising when my veins carry a mix of English, German & Norwegian blood. So this is the version of the three parts which resonates for me:


The Watcher

Conjures up images of a slightly threatening shadow in the depths of the forest, those footsteps that you are certain you heard although you can see no-one. But also known as the Higher Self or Grand Genius, as a daemon or guardian angel, the part of Self and that is associated with the Upper Realms and thus possibly closest to whichever Divine one may believe in. The one overseeing and guiding us to our intended path through life, & the immortal aspect of the soul which is most commonly believed to be reincarnated. So in the end I decided upon a more airy image, a spirit that could be perched in the tree-tops or the early morning mist and not be noticed.


The Crafter

Of course I would choose to work with a spirit with this name; all my life I have made things with my hands, & I come from a long line of other makers (including one grandmother who was a milliner, the other a court dressmaker for Queen Mary - that must have been quite the task when you see pictures of her. "Stern" doesn't come close!) Most closely associated with the Middle World, & also known as the Namer or Talker, this is the part of the Self which remembers, records & recalls our physical experiences and hence is most closely linked with our sense of identity & personality. While some believe it simply ceases to exist after the death of the body, others (who I would hope might be right) see it living on as a nature spirit or spiritual guide. Perhaps my guides have been those previous crafters amongst my ancestors; I should work some nod to them into this piece...


With those two underway, I realised that I really had to begin on the third member of the tribe:

The Fetch

Having begun later, this is still very much a piece in development, but what I had to work with was the notion of the Shadow Self, or even the doppelganger; most closely associated with the Underworld this aspect is concerned with intuition, the subconscious & survival instincts, with primal nature - hence my choice to give her goat horns & cat paws in place of feet. Again, elements of the goat refer to my Capricorn birth sign, while the cat feet are simply because I am never without a feline companion. Cue gratuitous picture of my current cat, Barney:

Back to the business in hand, however... The fox features on account of my having met several in important-feeling dreams as well as their presence throughout my childhood (the whiff of a fox den takes me straight back to those years of exploring in Thetford forest). Once acknowledged & befriended, the Fetch can be an ally, being the part of the self which supposedly travels during sleep & trance states.  Some hold that, upon the death of the body, the Fetch is simply absorbed into the collective world soul, while others think that this is the aspect which may return with a vengeance....  Guess which I am hoping for!




Obviously I still have work to do on the Alchemist & my Beast girl - I feel I need to wait & see what symbols & stones they want to carry rather than force the issue - the messages were loud and clear for the Watcher, so I am hoping that inspiration will similarly strike for the others.

Watch this space.....