Vasalisa’s Doll—Reclaiming Intuition and Creativity

Crocheted doll from dreamFor the last couple of weeks I’ve been immersing myself in fairy tales, through a class offered by Billie Ortiz. I’ve sat in a lot of dream circles with Billie over the last twelve years, and her insights into dreams based on the symbols in fairy tales have been spot on. In the dream I worked last week, the one with the blue boat, there was also a little brown doll, named, in the dream, Bot (pronounced Boat). The dream doll is a very stylized toy, one which I knew I could create in the waking world, since in the dream it was crocheted. One of the clear associations that emerged in the exploration of my dream was that the doll represents creativity.

The next day, the fairy tale class started studying the tale of Vasalisa the Wise, using Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s discussion of the story in Women Who Run With the Wolves as a launch point. In the story, Vasalisa has a doll, given by her mother, which tells her what to do when she needs to make a choice, and which helps her succeed in the tasks set her by the fearsome face of the Wild Goddess, Baba Yaga. Estés makes it clear that the doll represents Vasalisa’s intuition, and that the tale itself is about reclaiming intuitive ways of knowing.

Then later in the week, I worked someone else’s dream that featured a doll head.  I’ve done enough of this work to have the sense that the Dreammaker knows exactly who will hear a dream be read, who will be given the opportunity to help the original dreamer understand the dream, and who will do her own work on the imagined version of the dream. In this particular case, for me, the doll showed up three times last week, and in fairy tales, three is a magic number, so I’d better pay attention.

And the closer attention I pay, the more I see that intuition and creativity are closely intertwined. Not just because they both came up in the exploration of my dream, but because they are both connected to vital energy and trusting my own inner voice. According to Estes, “the doll represents la vidacita, the little instinctual life force that is both fierce and enduring.”

 “The doll is 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.

“The doll is related to the symbols of leprechaun, elf, pixie, fairy, and dwarf. In fairy tales, these represent a deep throb of wisdom within the culture of the psyche. They are those creatures which go on with the canny and interior work who are tireless. The psyche works even when we sleep, most especially when we sleep, even when we are not fully conscious of what we are enacting.

“In this way the doll represents the inner spirit of us as women; the voice of inner reason, inner knowing, and inner consciousness.”

My only quibble here is the assumption that this is only the task of women. Men have this deep intuitive knowing as well, or we’d never have survived as a species. The tale of Vasalisa is a tale of the disaffected feminine energy, as Vasalisa changes from being a doormat, never asserting her own will, to a wise woman with the power to shed light on the shadows of her psyche and burn them away. Throughout her transformation, she is guided by the voice of the doll, her intuition, her truest self.

It’s a lesson that contemporary women, at least those who were raised to be “good” and be the “peacemakers” in their families, need to pay attention to. Our culture emphasizes rationalist, intellectual knowing above all, relegating intuition to the realm of unproven and suspect. To stand against that and reclaim our power is to risk, at the very least, ridicule.  As Estés says, “to be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves.” It’s clear that the world needs fewer people who are exiled from themselves, and more who are listening to the guidance of their own greater knowing.

All that, in a dream, a fairy tale, and a doll.





Quotes from Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves p. 81, 85. The chapter is “Nosing Out the Facts: The Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation,” pp. 70-110.

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4 thoughts on “Vasalisa’s Doll—Reclaiming Intuition and Creativity”

  1. Is the doll in that photo one you created in response to the dream? I love the idea of making dream objects real in waking life.

    1. Yes, it is. I’ve tried making other objects from dreams and find the process really anchors the dream’s meaning for me. This one was pretty easy, and is a waking-life reminder to trust my intuition.

  2. It is so magical how these synchronisities have unfolded for you! I’m honored to be “along for the ride” as your deeper understanding of the dream/fairy tale continues to spiral towards your health and wholeness !

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