Ukrainian Motanka Doll

Motanka is Ukrainian magic voodoo-like doll

According to researchers, motankas are not game dolls. They were associated with the rite of fertility and procreation.

Motanka doll was probably used in the agrarian cult. O. Naiden points out that the “doll” was popularly called a bunch of ears, which was left at the edge of the field, twisted in the course of the sun and decorated with bright ribbons. It was used in rituals dedicated to the future harvest [4].

The obvious connection between motanka and the wedding ceremony. Ethnographers have recorded that unmarried girls, making dolls, sang, as a rule, wedding songs. By the beginning of the XXI century. in Ukraine there was a custom of decorating the hood of the first car of a wedding procession with a doll.

Male dolls were not made in Ukraine. And in Russia, for example, they were simply replaced with a stick. The use of dolls in the form of a scoop is known in various rituals of many peoples. In some Slavic peoples at the wedding the newlyweds were given cloth-wrapped pads, which were a symbol of fertility.

In Ukraine, women made a “pad” during the celebration of Shrovetide. According to Oleksa Voropay, married women during this period celebrated births, baptisms, and then mourned the death of the pad and during the week, respectively, wrapped, baptized and burned it [5].

Echoes of magical rituals are found in lullabies, in particular, in the lullaby, recorded in the late XIX century. in the village of Bilokurakine (now Luhansk region):

One was a handkerchief
Yes, and that girl stole,
On dolls podrala,
The dolls did,
The cat married,
I teased the girls.
The furnace was flooded
The dolls were burned. [6]
Researchers associate rag dolls with ancestral worship. According to folk beliefs, inside the doll hides an idol, the spirit of the ancestor [7]. In the Voronezh region, the doll was filled with ashes. Such dolls were given to newlyweds for weddings. In Mordovia, where ash dolls are also made, the ashes in Erzya sound like “kulov”, to die – “kulom”, the deceased – “catch”, which indicates the times when the dead were burned. Thus, the doll, which contained part of the ashes, acted as a mediator between the two worlds [8].

Dolls with crosses on their faces were found in burials in the North Caucasus. We can assume that the doll was to accompany the deceased to the afterlife.

In addition, the cross has long symbolized the sun.

The meaning of the symbolism of faceless dolls is forgotten. Rather, it is an echo of superstitions about the evil eye, the bad influence of the evil eye. The eyes could become a portal to the afterlife, and therefore their images were taboo. Tajiks and Uzbeks considered it a sin to make dolls with faces, because after the resurrection from the dead dolls will have to give a share of their souls [9]. The dolls also did not have names, because, according to popular belief, it could disturb the soul of the deceased.

During the XX century. motanka gradually lost its magical functions. In particular, according to the women of the village of Matusiv, Shpola district, Cherkasy region, after the Second World War, motankas were made exclusively for games. And the children drew their faces to make them look like factory dolls.