(Essay 2) Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today: The Relevance of an Ancient Tradition by Jude Lally

Old Antlered One. Art doll by Jude Lally
Old Antlered One. Art doll by Jude Lally

Sacred Becoming the Political

In looking into the theories of the stone goddess figurines and the artists of the cave art, it doesn’t take long before we become entangled in archaeological dogma. In 2009 the Woman of Hohle Fels was found, a carved female figurine dating back to 35,000 BCE. Nowell and Chang (2014) reviewed the scholarship around this finding as well as the mass media reporting. As news of the figurine was reported in the mass media, she was reported with headlines such as “World’s first Page 3 Girl”, “Smut carved from Mammoth Tusk”. Even respected journals such as Nature reported her as a “Prehistoric pin-up” and “35,000 year old sex object”. The locale where she is on display describes her as “Early Mother or Pin-up Girl” as if there are no other possible explanations. Nowell and Chang (2014) explain that the dangers of interpreting these figurines in a purely sexual context obstructs any objective scientific study and results in unintended social consequences such as giving the message that objectification of women is acceptable.


Our Choice of Story

Le Guin (1989) highlights the importance of the story we tell of these ancient ancestors, as the story to which we connect, whether we follow the gatherer’s story or the hunter’s story, can have huge implications. The gatherer’s story is one of creating the first containers and of bringing back extra to share. This extra might be offered in thanks at the shrine, the holy place or the sacred place.

The focus here was on ritual and the community. In contrast, in the hunter’s story which focused around the hero retelling a story of the blood and guts of the slaying, the focus was more on the wounds and the deaths of other hunters. When interpreting the practices of both into the context of modern culture, the first may be seen as the beginnings of caring for each other and communal rituals while the wounds and the deaths of other hunters extends itself to the bashing, raping killing story that is now the dominating story in modern mainstream culture.

I am in recovery. I was born into a warring culture who celebrates the hero’s story – the raping and pillaging story of the land, her resources, the animals, plants and people. I am traumatized by this culture – I have had bad things happen to me but also sometimes my mind fills with an even worse scenario of what could happen.

(To be continued. Read Part 1)

See (Meet Mago Contributor) Jude Lally

Editor’s Note: This is also published in SHE RISES :How Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality? (Volume 2)

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2 Comments on "(Essay 2) Radical Doll Making From Willendorf to Today: The Relevance of an Ancient Tradition by Jude Lally"

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I am appalled at how it is possible to turn a 3500 year old artifact into a sex object. Revolting. Although I never thought about it in this way until reading this article, I too am in recovery from this hideous paradigm we call our “culture”


I have read your article. I also think as does Sara on how awful it is that these dolls are thought of as sex objects. I do wish to share that Brigid was the first Goddess I encountered and have been active in my learning process. May you be Blessed. This is an awful environment we live in. Thank you for sharing, Ocean Star (Steven).