Guatemalan Worry Dolls

Many of us have someone in our lives we can share our worries with, someone who is willing to hear our burdens. But for those times we need a little extra support, there are worry dolls.

Worry dolls are tiny little handmade dolls traditional to Guatemala. Originating from the Guatemalan Highlands, they are crafted from sticks, paper, and woven fabric scraps. They are small, no more than 1-2 inches high. If you travel to Guatemala or even Mexico, you can often find vendors selling them as souvenirs.

According to Mayan legend, worry dolls are here to ease our fears and anxieties. Here’s how they work: before a person goes to bed at night, they tell the doll all the problems that have been worrying them. Then, they tuck the doll under their pillow. While the person sleeps, the doll takes all their worries away!

Worry dolls are inspired by the Mayan tale of Princess Ixmucane, the daughter of the sun god. It is said that the sun god granted Ixmucane a very special gift: the ability to take away people’s problems. Over time, people started making dolls in Ixmucane’s honor. They shared their worries with these dolls in hopes that Ixmucane would listen and solve their problems.

While worry dolls may have been born out of a legend, people who use them might find that they provide a very real sense of relief. After all, vocalizing problems and putting worries into words can help us feel better. Perhaps it’s no surprise that worry dolls are now used in places like children’s hospitals, pediatric offices, and even schools.

Humans have long used coping mechanisms, and worry dolls are just one more way people can learn to manage their fears. Though there have been very few studies done on worry dolls, we can see how they might help someone who’s going through a difficult time. Try them out for yourself!

Pictured Above: Cultural Elements Jar of Worry Dolls