Inspired by the Cornish Book of the Ways by Gemma Gary I decided to test my limited abilities with clay and created a ‘House Doll.’ While creating this special piece I was thinking about the Irish Cailleach Beara. According to the legend, this deity/spirit is associated with the province of Munster, particularly with the counties Kerry and Cork (in which I live). Some stories related to the legend of the Cailleach can be read here. However there is a beautiful film from the Irish Film Board that shows a very vivid and perhaps, ‘contemporary’ portrait of this special lady. The short film ‘An Cailleach Bheara (2007)’ can be seen here.
According to the tradition, a house doll should be placed at the hearth of the home that she is meant to protect. As observed by Gary, “she will provide a terrifying defense against all curses, evil spirits, an all intrusions and ill intent targeted toward the home and its occupants.” (Gary, 2008, at 150). I have stuffed this house doll evoking the legend of the Cailleach with several herbs. Some have been collected by myself while others have been a present of two special ladies from Ireland and England. The doll contains Jasmine, White Sage, Patchouli, Lavender, Marigold (Calendula), Rose, Elderflower, Meadowsweet, Hawthorn berries, leaves and thorns, Mistletoe Berries from the last Winter Solstice and Willow leaves and branches. Her hair and braid is made of wool collected by myself in the Hungry Hill in the Beara Peninsula (West Cork). In other words, from her own home!
I took some pictures during the process of making this special piece. It is worth mentioning that I have never made a doll in my life. My doll was made without any technical guidance but with intuition, inspiration, love for nature and much respect for folk traditions.