Ukrainian folk traditions are rich in pagan customs which some of these traditions have been adapted in other Slavic countries.
While most Slavic and Ukrainian traditions have been adapted to Eastern Orthodoxy or Christianity, some traditions remain strong and are a nod to the region’s pagan past.
One of these examples of Slavic folk magic is the Ukrainian motanka doll that dates back over 5,000 years.
The motanka (Ukrainian: мотанка) doll is an ancient Ukrainian household item that’s believed to protect and bring blessings to the home and family.
The motanka doll was originally designed for fertility and procreation, but has become associated with healing, protection and ancestors.
Here we’ll explore:
• What a motanka doll is
• What a motanka doll is used for
• How to use a motanka doll in a modern witchcraft practice
• How to make your own motanka doll
• Where to buy a motanka doll
Ukrainian Folk Magic: The Motanka Doll
Motanka come originally from Ukraine but are now found in similar fashions in other Slavic country regions such as Russia and Croatia.
A motanka doll is said to protect the family and is usually passed down through generations from mothers to children.
However, if you don’t have a motanka doll, these can be purchased online from shops and can become a family heirloom.
Motanka dolls are traditionally made by hand, put together and sometimes are made with grains, straw, seeds, leaves, herbs or wood inside them.
Traditionally, it’s said that motanka are not created with needles, knives or scissors as the word “motanka” means “winding” that the doll is wound or spun with thread.
Motanka are never created with a face on them (no eyes, nose or mouth) as it’s believed that eyes are windows to the soul, and anything with eyes has a soul and is part of the family.
A doll with eyes would therefore have the potential to have a soul which could create a haunted doll, therefore motanka dolls were created without a face.
Some motanka dolls have ribbon patterns on the face while others may be blank.
Although the doll is without a face, it is believed that the ancestors are connected with the motanka and protect the family.
It’s believed that a motanka can take upon some of it’s owner’s soul if the motanka is handled often by a member of the family.
It would create the possibility that if the motanka was damaged or harmed, it would inflict it own the owner of the doll which could result from malicious magic.
Motanka dolls can become a household item for any Slavic / Ukrainian family or Slavic witch.
Motanka & Modern Witchcraft Practice
Here are a few ways that a motanka doll can be used in a modern witchcraft practice:
Bond with the Motanka
Creating a bond or connection with your motanka is key to building energy with the doll.
If you have a motanka, spend time handling the doll as often as possible.
This can mean handling the doll, keeping the doll in a place of the home where you spend the most time (e.g. family room, home office room, bedroom, kitchen.)
Keeping the motanka by your bed or in your bed for a while can help establish a link between owner and motanka.
Later in this post, we’ll show why this link/bond with a motanka doll is significant and what it means.
Motanka & the Altar
A motanka can be placed on an altar or some place in the home where it will be around people or the owner of the doll.
As a motanka can be a “house” for ancestral energy, placing a motanka doll on an ancestor altar may also be considered.
Dedicating a motanka doll to connect or honour your ancestors can be a way for working with the doll on an altar or sacred space.
“Charging” the motanka with the purpose to house ancestral spirits at the altar and home may also serve this purpose.
Holding the motanka doll while communicating with your ancestors or keeping the motanka doll in a special place reserved for your ancestral spirits may also be done.
Energetic Connection between Owner & Motanka Doll
As mentioned earlier, the more you handle and spend time with your motanka doll, the bond / link between you and the motanka doll will get stronger.
Because a motanka can take on the energy of its owner, it’s important to not let others handle the doll if they are not part of the immediate family.
A motanka doll can have an energetic link to its owner from repeated contact with the owner, which could be used for harmful magick if the motanka is in the wrong hands.
Motanka are often designed for special occasions and may be given as gifts such as to brides on weddings to avert the evil eye and protect the marriage.
Gifting a Motanka Doll
There’s also the tradition of gifting a motanka for the birth of a child to protect mother and baby from any negative spirits.
There are different colours, patterns and designs of motanka dolls which some are created for special occasions.
A motanka doll can become not only a protector of the owner and family of the doll but later as a family heirloom.
Motanka Dolls & Illness
It’s believed that a motanka can absorb illness from a child, that if a child kept a motanka in its bed while sick, the motanka would taken on the illness.
Afterwards, the motanka would be burned to destroy the illness.
How to Make a Motanka Doll
To learn how to make your own motanka, check out this article with step-by-step instructions.
Being creative with what types of materials, herbs, seeds or grains that are used for the motanka doll, you can create a motanka doll as a spell in your personal witchcraft practice.
Where to Get a Motanka Doll
To purchase your very own motanka, try these shops that offer different style of motanka dolls:
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