Motanka dolls were first made in Ukraine over five thousand years ago, to protect people from evil and sickness.
In this workshop Learners will be creating a traditional Bird of Spring. In Ukraine Birds are considered to be symbols of spring. The Motanka Bird of Spring is made to help your dreams for spring come true. As you make your Motanka Bird of Spring you will think about your dreams and wishes and your bird is believed to help make those wishes come true!
All authentic motanka dolls are made by hand. Mothers used to sew them for their children, and people would keep the motanka as talismans. It was believed that the doll could heal a child’s illness, as well as protect the child from evil spirits. It is believed that a mother’s love and care in making the motanka by hand for each one of her kids was what kept them safe.
These famous Ukrainian dolls were not just for children. People would keep a motanka in their home to ward off the evil spirits. When a couple got married they would receive a motanka as a gift and blessing. A bride’s mother would show her approval of the union by presenting the newlyweds with the doll. It would be an extension of her protection of her daughter.
Why Motanka Dolls have no face. In Ukrainian tradition, the face of the doll (not just the eyes) is seen as a representation of the soul. Anything that has a face, also has a soul. This is reflected in many traditions, for example treating domestic animals as though they were a part of the family. It is also the reason why traditional Ukrainian dolls have no faces.
When an object has a face, it is said to have a soul. A soul may be good or bad, and might be trapped inside the doll forever. It is believed that placing a face on a motanka might produce a haunted doll. This is why Ukrainians would not risk the motanka having a soul; it was seen as unnatural for an inanimate object to have one.
Finally, there is the issue of the doll ‘taking up’ some of its owner’s soul. This is a common belief in cultures all throughout the world. The idea is that when you spend a lot of time using an object, part of you stays with that object. That is why motanka dolls are believed to be able to absorb the ailment of a sick child. The problem with this is that if the doll were to be destroyed, the owner might suffer, too. When Ukrainians put a red cross on a motanka doll, instead of a face, it not only prevents the child’s soul from moving to the doll, it prevents the doll from being used to harm the owner.