Workshops: Making Medicine


Spirit Doll made by Emile Gautreau, Métis Elder

‘Spirit dolls’ are tiny representations of the human figure used as personal amulets, fertility or power figures. They are teaching and healing tools made for ritual and protection, to cure or keep away illness, and as an ancestral tribute, among many other purposes. Spirit dolls or images and rock art of the human figure are found in all the indigenous and tribal cultural contexts in which I have worked as an archaeologist and anthropologist. While they may be called ‘dolls’ they are not necessarily made for children as playthings although children form conceptions about their worlds and cultural worldviews through them. In western culture, they draw on Jungian psychology and consciousness studies, bridging the gap between ‘art’ and ‘medicine’ as in art therapy.

This workshop is based on a collection of ‘spirit dolls’ and rock art images from different parts of the world where I have carried out ethnographic research on shamanism and indigenous knowledge – the Canadian Arctic & Subarctic, Siberia, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, South America, the American Southwest, the Maritimes, and India. Participants may work in 2D or 3D but are encouraged to collect materials locally, and to invoke ‘spirit’ when doing so and when making their piece.


Marilyn Walker: Medicine Sticks

Talking Sticks or Medicine Sticks are used in ceremony – communal or personal – and engage the maker with the spirit of the materials incorporated and their meaning for the maker. In this workshop, stones, bones, feathers, wood, and plants are collected in a respectful way to express the heartfelt devotion of the maker for the natural world and especially for the place in which they were found.