by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A caller on our radio show the other day was concerned because a child in her family came home from school one day asking if he could have a “Worry Doll” because he thought it was “cute.” She hesitated, fearing that such an object would “open him up” to evil.
She was right on!
Worry dolls are traditionally made in Guatemala and are used primarily by children who can’t sleep because they’re worried about something. Parents tell the child to put the doll under their pillow before going to sleep at night and, according to folklore, the dolls will take away their worries during the night. Some parents will remove the doll during the night to reinforce the child’s belief that the worry is gone. The dolls can be made by anyone and instructions for their use can be found online.
Legend has it the dolls were first made by two poor children in Guatemala when their mother got sick and the family was out of food. Using twigs and scraps of cloth, the children fashioned the little dolls along with sacks for the dolls to sleep in. The children hoped the dolls would have magical powers like the magical dolls in the stories their grandfather used to tell them. Before going to be bed, one of the children asked the dolls for help, then placed them in a sack and put them under her pillow.
The next morning when she awoke, the dolls were out of the pouch and laid out in a circle on the table. Because she had slept through the night without worrying, the children believed this was a sign that the dolls were magical. They decided to take them to the local market where they sold their “magic dolls” for a hefty sum of money, which they took as even more evidence of the doll’s powers.
Later, when the children returned home, they found the magic dolls they thought they had sold back in their pocket with a tiny note that read: “Tell these dolls your secret wishes. Tell them your problems. Tell them your dreams. And when you awake, you may find the magic within you to make your dreams come true.”
The superstition in all this is so obvious that it barely requires comment. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are four kinds of superstition: 1) improper worship of the true God; 2) idolatry; 3) divination; 4) vain observances.
Worry dolls fall mostly into the second category which includes trusting in the use of good luck charms, rabbits feet, or any other kind of amulet or charm with the belief that it has some kind of power.
From a Catholic point of view, I can’t help but wonder why anyone would teach a child to put their faith in a tiny stick with a few shreds of cloth glued to it rather than to the God whose very name makes demons tremble. Why not teach the worried child to recite the name “Jesus” when he or she begins to worry? Hasn’t this formula been proven by billions of saints and sinners throughout our 2,000 year history?
“In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, walk!” said St. Peter, who was the first to prove that when Jesus said “I tell you most solemnly, anything you ask for from the Father, He will grant in my name,” He meant was He said.
As a result, this name has been invoked to heal, cast out demons, quiet the raging wind, defeat armies and eradicate plagues. Surely it can calm a child’s fears in the middle of the night!
Our caller also made a very good point when she mentioned her fear that using the worry dolls might “open him up” to evil forces. Some of the world’s most renowned exorcists, such as Fr. Gabriele Amorth, Rome’s chief exorcist, say that even the slightest turn toward occultic powers such as these is enough to allow Satan and his minions to gain entrance into our lives.
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