Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Poppets for Grief

I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard not to talk about grief in Ancestor Work. Death is such an integral part to the work, that the issues of grieving, working through it and accepting it are pertinent tools. It is natural to fear and struggle with death. Humans cling to our science for answers to give us comfort. Death is perhaps the ultimate mystery for which there can never be any concrete veritas Truth. So we are forced to find a personal truth with which to confront it.

When working through the death of a loved one, the holidays can be difficult. No one wants to be a downer during the festive celebrating of those around them. But grief is a monster that doesn’t take a holiday. The first Christmas without my Grandmother was difficult and I fussed over my Grandpa. The first Christmas without my Grandpa was a solemn affair for my whole family, but we did the best we could, and enjoyed being together. We talked about how much we missed him and shared our favorite stories of Christmases past.

This year will be my household’s first winter holiday since our four-legged companion Luna passed. Decorating our 34 year-old artificial tree, we found a small ornament of a cat with wings that suddenly meant more to me than ever before. And the one with the three cats… I struggle to remember, in idle conversation, that we are only a 2 cat family now. Instead of three cat toys, we bought two. Luna loved sleeping under the tree on the red felt skirt, nestled among the presents, as if we put all of it there just for her pleasure. She would cry and paw at the pile until we tied one of the colorful Christmas bows onto her collar, which she expected much cooing and fawning over.

Making a Poppet
Poppets are not Voodoo dolls, although I consider Voodoo dolls to be a kind of poppet. Use of poppets in folk healing is old and crosses cultures. When I make a poppet for healing, I make the figure of it similar to the being it is meant for.

To make the poppet for my luna-grief, I shaped the fabric into a little dolly. I hand stitched the two-sides together, leaving an opening in the head to fill it and then turned it inside-out. While sewing, I focused my thoughts on happy memories of Luna, who was the first kitten I raised. She was the first being I had to teach and protect and learn to let grow independently which made the sudden loss of her difficult. Not that any loss is easy.

I used a combination of nettles for protection and lavender to ease feelings of grief for filling the inside of the poppet. Another option, and one I use more often, is flaxseed as the base herb. It adds a weight to the fetish that feels good in my hand, and it can be heated in the microwave for a bit of warm comfort. An invisible stitch closed the top and it was finished.

It is not a cure for grief. For me, part of what makes that particular emotion difficult is the intangible quality of it. I can’t go and snuggle Luna to make me feel better, because she’s not here. But the poppet is something I can finger in my pocket, that is not as pathetic as carrying around her favorite little gingham mouse toy. And it’s less permanent than needing something to remind me of her on a daily basis. I will never forget her. The nature of time is to make the hurt less, and part of that is distance. When I think about her with more fondness and less sadness, I will burn the poppet in a fire or bury it in my spring garden and let it go.

I made a grief poppet out a favorite childhood flannel nightgown that I had scraps of the year my Grandpa died. I carried it in my pocket, and when I felt overwhelmed with missing him, I would squeeze it and take in the scent of lavender to ease the emotion. I ended up carrying that specific poppet with me for another few months until I felt like I no longer needed it.


  1. What a nice idea!!! It's so personal, no one knows it's in your pocket, but you feel a sense of relief :)

  2. Thank you for this insight into dealing with grief. May your first holiday without the physical presence of your beloved Luna be as free of pain as possible. ::hugs::


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