Vassilissa La Bella by Adrienne Segur
"The doll is the symbolic homunculi, little life. It is the symbol of what lies buried in humans that is numinous. It is a small and glowing facsimile of the original Self. Superficially, it is just a doll. But inversely, it represents a little piece of soul that carries all the knowledge of the larger soul-Self. In the doll is the voice, in diminutive, of old La Que Sabe, The One Who Knows."
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes
For some time now, I've been stuck inside one story that Dr. Estes relates- that of Baba Yaga, Vasalisa, and the small doll given to her by her mother just before she dies. I began re-reading Women Who Run with the Wolves this past winter, but have remained with Vasalisa for more than three months, unable to press into the next chapter. I have blamed the busyness of school, graduation, moving... but the truth is that the image of Vasalisa's doll has been a thorn in my soul, one I can't seem to pluck out. I was struck all over again by the potent imago of intuition being represented as a figure outside oneself- in the form of a child's toy. It reminds me of the 'imaginary' friends so many children have...
I didn't really play with dolls as a child. I was more the stuffed teddy bear type, and was convinced they held parties every time I left the bedroom. I did, however, have a fascination with faeries, pixies, elves, and all magical beings in general that has remained with me to this day. About three years ago I had a dream about a redheaded faery that I eventually named Fiona Braveweather, and I have since begun shaping a story around her adventures. Fiona has become a sort of alter ego; a symbol and character that embodies all the many dreams, fears, triumphs and failures I create in my own daily life. I'm not sure if there was an exact moment of recognition or if it was a gradual dawning, but it came to me while reading Vasalisa's story over and over that Fiona was my own psychic version of the doll belonging to Vasalisa- the intuitive 'larger soul-Self' whispering wisdom and direction along my own path, most especially in my dreams at night.
Being a highly visual person, and one who finds deep meaning in symbols I can hold and touch, I knew I was going to have to locate the perfect doll at some point. I kept my eyes open, searching through shops I love, with no success. Then, just last Sunday at the Oregon Country Fair outside of Eugene, she found me. Nestled into soft moss, watching the bustling forest avenues writhe with fairgoers, she peered out at me, an amused and deeply wise expression on her elf face, red hair streaming across her porcelain shoulders and down her back. Green eyes sparkling, pointy ears and all, I found my Fiona. I nearly laughed out loud when I saw her- could she be any more perfect? But of course, no. She was meant for me, my home, my heart.
My stomach did a somersault as a vivid memory from my childhood washed over me, causing my heart to kick up a notch in my chest. I gently touched her tiny sculpted hand, remembering one Christmas when I was about 9 or 10 and begging my parents for a porcelain doll. I have no idea why I would have asked for such thing, but I had the intense urgency of a girl, that feeling that I must have a doll. I wouldn't have had a clue what to do with her, and porcelain dolls are hardly meant to be played with, and besides, I was much too old to find pleasure in that sort of play anymore. But that magical December morning, the prettiest doll stood under the tree, silvery brown curls cascading over her laced shoulders and blue gingham dress. She was a treasure I kept for many years. Over several moves and more years, she was misplaced, or damaged, or both. I cannot remember now what fate awaited my precious doll, and I never asked for another. But standing in the fragrant Oregon woods, I felt as if I had come full circle, returning to my girlhood delight at a treasure found, and experiencing satisfaction that I understood the deeper value of this talisman, as a woman.
Dr. Estes explains,
The relationship between the doll and Vasalisa symbolizes a form of empathic magic between a woman and her intuition. This is the thing that must be handed down from woman to woman, this blessed binding, testing, and feeding of intuition. We, like Vasalisa, strengthen our bond with our intuitive nature by listening inwardly at every turn in the road. "Should I go this way, or this way? Should I stay or go? Should I resist or be flexible? Should I run away or toward? Is this person, event, venture true or false?"
In the past few days, I have found myself in a situation where my intuition is screaming at me- come this way, not that way! Against everything that seems logical, even obvious, I can't shake the feeling that the easy choice is the wrong one. Now, because I know too much of my own soul-speak to choose so blatantly against it, I have to honor the voice within- which was difficult to explain in a reasonable way to my darling husband when the inevitable argument ensued. After many tears, mostly mine, he pulled me to him and asked me to explain why I felt we needed to choose the more difficult, less obvious path before us. "I can't give you any logical, rational reason," I sobbed. "I simply know we have to do things this other way, that it's a spiritual reason, and it's what we're supposed to do." He looked into my eyes and said, simply, "ok." Over the years, learning (sometimes the hard way) to trust the intuitive voice requires much bravery. No wonder Fiona is a Braveweather. It takes courage and resolve to face the storm and choose the less obvious path through the dark forest in spite of the seemingly easier, even sunnier road. That dark path takes you to Baba Yaga's creepy house and the many tasks that await you there that make no sense to you at the time. But in that place, in that confusion and strangeness and anxiety, lie the treasures of wisdom and experience you cannot obtain elsewhere.
When honoring intuitive wisdom becomes the norm, in a life, in a relationship, blessing will always follow. You don't have to know why, or how that will manifest. It simply will. Feeding the doll, honoring intuitive wisdom, being brave in the center of the storm... these are our tasks.
Vasalisa and the Wise Doll by Ruth Brown