Thursday 27 February 2020

Folkloric Dolls: Bulgarian Martenitsa Welcoming Spring

I've recently learnt of the Bulgarian custom of making red and white woollen dolls to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Pairs of these dolls, called Martenitsa, are made to celebrate Baba Marta Day, on March 1. Baba Marta means "Grandma March". The pairs of dolls, one male and one female, are traditionally worn on clothing or hung on trees until the first blossom is seen.

That wouldn't quite work in London, as  blossom is already starting to come out this year. I'm not sure if that's due to climate change or if London is generally warmer than Bulgaria in early spring. However, it is a lovely custom and I have made the pair of dolls you can see in the photo.

They are hung on my twig tree in my witchy room at the moment, but on March 1 I will either take them outside to put on my apple tree or give them to someone to wear as a gift. Both are correct things to do according to the traditional folklore. Tying the dolls to a fruit tree for the month of March is supposed to ensure a good harvest in the summer. If you wear them on your clothing, you are asking Baba Marta's blessings for an end to winter.

An alternative to making dolls is to twist strands of red and white wool together and hang them from a tree. If you are going to leave any yarn on a tree outdoors for more than a short while, try to make sure it is 100% pure wool because artificial fibres don't biodegrade and can be harmful to both fauna and flora. Also, if it isn't your own tree, ask permission before putting any offerings on it.

The pattern I used for my Martinetsa came from my book Pagan Portals - Poppets and Magical Dolls, and I also shared the pattern on my blog. You can view Poppets and Magical Dolls on Amazon

(Note: I earn commission from some links. This helps support my blog at no extra cost to readers)

Links and previous Related Posts


Lana said...

It is I, your local Bulgarian immigrant, here to announce how excited I am that you wrote about this custom!
According to our legends, the male and female dolls are called Pizho and Penda, respectively. Some say they were siblings, others - lovers, but in either case the white is meant to symbolise snow, and the red - the setting sun, both in celebration and hope of the warm spring to come. We also see Baba Marta as the personified form of March - a fickle, old lady whose mood changes like the weather of that month (oft because her younger brother Frost/Snezhko likes to steal her drink from her).
When I was a child/teen, the most popular martenitsi would be woven red-and-white bracelets. We'd keep all of them on one arm only and see how many we can pile up, haha.

Badwitch said...

Lana - thank you so much for your comment and for all your information on the custom!