All dolled up: All about Guatamalan worry dolls
Worry dolls ( muneca quitapena in Spanish) originate from Guatemala, the home of the ancient Mayan civilization and one-time cultural centre of the Americas. Tiny little things measuring just a few centimetres, made from scraps of bright fabric and often dressed in traditional Mayan clothing, traditionally they’re given to children who are struggling with nightmares, having a tough time at school, or generally experiencing high levels of anxiety.
The child with the problem is handed a little box or pouch containing six dolls by her mother or a close relative.
Each night, just before bedtime, the child takes a doll and whispers her worries to it. She asks that the worry doll will take away her suffering and heal all of her problems, then pops the doll under her pillow.
In the morning, when the child wakes up, the doll is gone – and so are her worries! However, she does the same thing every night for a week, just to be on the safe side – apart from on Sunday, the day of rest.
Guatamalans believe the doll absorbs the worries, so they’re often thrown away after use – this symbolises the act of letting one’s fears or worries go.
Increasingly, these gorgeous little dolls are used all round the world – and by adults, too. You can buy them off Amazon, or you can make your own (see boxout on p21). But could they help you? Let’s see...