Recently I was struggling to keep my chin up about some plans gone awry and my mother surprised me with a little gift. It was a small, colorful bag (pictured left). Curious, I opened it to find five very tiny people made of orange paper clothed in fabric outfits. Along with the mini people was a rolled up piece of paper that said “Guatemalan Worry Dolls” and a brief description of the legend...
Worry dolls, or trouble dolls (Muñeca quitapena), are tiny handmade dolls originally made in Guatemala. I found some history about their origin and lore. Legends say Guatemalan children tell their worries to the dolls and place them under their pillow before they go to sleep. In the morning, they wake with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge to eliminate their worries thanks to the dolls. Let’s hand them out to everyone, right?
The story of the worry doll is a local Mayan legend. The Spanish name, Muñeca quitapena, refers to a Mayan princess named Ixmucane. The Sun God bestowed a special gift to her that gave her the ability to solve any problem that caused human worry. The worry dolls represent Ixmucane’s wisdom.
Traditional worry dolls are made of wire, wool, and colorful textile leftovers and can range from ½ inch to 2 inches. Mine are small and look to be made of orange cardstock paper, bits of black sand, and fabrics that suggest Mayan clothing styles.
The little paper that came with my collection of dolls instructed that I tell each doll a single worry and place them under my pillow before I go to sleep. In the morning, I will have the ability to overcome my worries. I guess only tomorrow morning will tell…
While the accuracy of this legend cannot be proven or disproven, the concept is heartwarming. When issues in life concern you, talk about them. Bounce your thoughts off of those who care about you. You feel better when you air out any consuming thoughts.
Bottling up our worries and fears won’t find a solution, it’ll develop them into tougher pressures to handle. Even when you feel like you have no one to openly talk to, there’s always an ear to listen if you reach out. Look to your surroundings. There are communities, professionals, and hotlines that are a constant resource for those in need. Also, don’t feel like your worries aren’t worth someone’s time. Everyone deserves to be heard.
Do you have a similar item or ritual to the Guatemalan worry dolls? How do you express your concerns?
Let's give away our worries!
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Cover Photo by Abigail Cline