This is not the first time a reader wrote to this blog to complain about their child being introduced to a superstitious practice known as “worry dolls” in school. But this time the parent is allowing us to publish their account of exactly what happened.
For those who are unfamiliar with these dolls, 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.
Unfortunately, the secular ideology that has overtaken our schools is allowing some teachers to introduce this superstition to students.
As this parent explains in a letter to her pastor, she was unpacking her autistic son’s end-of-the-year bundle that he brought home on the last day of school and found a small drawstring bag.
“I laid it aside, thinking it was a sachet made in arts and craft. My husband, George, however, examined it more closely. The bag contained six figures – two ‘adults,’ three ‘children,’ and one ‘dog’. There was an instruction sheet included that identified these dolls as Guatemalan Worry Dolls. It described the ritual that children were supposed to tell their worries to a doll, place the doll under the pillow, and the doll would take their worries away while they slept.”
She continues: “We moved here from Louisiana, where the practices of Santeria and Voodoo are more common. The use of these Worry Dolls are common practice in both of these ‘religions.’ It upset me so I contacted our bishop to ask his advice. He called the item diabolical and suggested we burn it while saying the Prayer to St. Michael. It was then that I knew that it was not just me overreacting. This was disturbing.
“I contacted the school. In short order, the school counselor, called me. She said that she had given these out to all of the fourth graders, and that she knew of other counselors in the area that had done the same. She tried to brush it off as a ‘therapy’ for worried children, saying that she did not mean to tell the children that the dolls themselves would take care of the problem.
“However, if you will look closely at the attached photo of the contents and the instruction sheet, the last sentence clearly says, ‘In the morning, the dolls have taken their worries away.’ As I explained to this counselor, this violates the separation of church and state as surely as would my handing out prayer cards with the Hail Mary on them to all of the fourth grade. More importantly, this is a blatant promotion to our children of witchcraft. If this counselor is to be believed, there are hundreds of households in our area who now have these things in their home. Based on the warm and fuzzy instruction sheet, many parents are probably helping their children to participate in a pagan/diabolical ritual.
“Father, I felt compelled to let you know that this is happening to your flock. I pray for all of the families innocently participating in this sacrilege. Please pray for them, and if you feel it is prudent, warn them that this is not innocent therapy.”
Thankfully, her parish priest did contact a member of the school board who initiated an investigation.
Our reader is right to bring this to the pastor’s attention, and to allow us to caution other parents about what to do if they find one of these objects in their child’s possession. First, destroy it, and then be sure to lodge an official complaint with the school.
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