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Brave Vasalissa and her wise doll

Written on December 12, 2010

Baba Yaga soft white hairThe folk tale ‘Brave Vasalissa and Baba Yaga’ is an ancient female initiation story (see previous post). Last Saturday I had the pleasure of leading a workshop for a group of women in which we explored this rich tale and made a doll as a talisman of the story. Some of the women knew each other from the Jung Society and also from the last workshop we did there on Inanna, the Sumerian Goddess of Fertility. In the story of Vasalissa the heroine starts out in a very similar predicament to Cindarella. Now don’t judge Cindarella by the Disney versions you may have seen or even the sanitised fairytale books you may have read.

Go to the older Grimm’s editions to discover the rich imagery which was originally there. In older versions, when the mother dies, she gives Cindarella a tree and tells her to water it with her tears. Cindarella does so and a white dove comes to live in the tree. Then as she has need, the tree throws down three gowns for her to wear to the ball: one sparkles like the moon, one like the stars and one like the sun! But I digress…in the story of Vasalissa, the magical gift from the dying mother is a hand-made doll, which can guide Vasalissa through life. The mother tells her she must keep it secret, feed it and listen to it and it will guide her. The doll is of course a metaphor for intuition.

To start off we went around the circle telling anecdotes of our female ancestors and the blessings and curses they had bestowed upon us. Then I told the story. I told a version quite close to the one in “Women who Run with Wolves” by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes. I¬†LOOOVE telling this story! I love all the stories I tell, as I only tell stories I really love, but I relish in particular tales of the feminine, with rich, earthy, powerful women characters. You cannot get much more powerful or earthy than the wonderful witch, Baba Yaga. I love enacting the house with the chicken legs as it runs and twirls. I love becoming Baba Yaga and commanding the house to “Rise and run!” I love all the rich imagery in the tale: the three riders on horseback- one white, one red and one black; the Yaga’s house that appears a hovel from the outside, but is larger inside; the three initiatory tasks and the three pairs of magical hands that appear in the air…Finally, I love the triumphant ending. Vasalissa returns empowered and wiser, as does Inanna when she ascends from the Underworld.

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We then discussed the story, the imagery, the symbols and archetypes as well as the nine psychic tasks as outlined by Estes. With so many Jungians in the room and a few therapists as well, this was a rich discussion. We talked about the lessons in the story for us to nurture and nourish our¬†creativity and feed our creative fire in order to cook great things up in our lives. We discussed the story’s relevance to modern culture and specifically to our own lives. We discussed our own experiences with becoming women. Next we decided what we wanted our doll to embody. By then it was time to bring out the doll’s and the stuffing, the fabric’s, trims and Alpaca wool for the doll-making part of the day. We chatted happily.

At times, the chat died down as the women became completely absorbed in their creative task. I love that sound: contented, busy silence. Soon it was time to show our dolls to each other, admire them and take photo’s. I had to take a photo of the women taking photo’s, because they looked at their dolls with the kind of doting grins adoring mothers have when taking a photo of their cute toddler! The women went home very content with their dolls. I got quite a few kisses and hugs. Twas a heart-warming day and I look forward to the next workshop! Warm thanks to Pam Blamey for hosting the event and making us welcome in her beautiful home! (See also my previous entry on the last Baba Yaga workshop I ran last year.)

Vasalissa ceative mess

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