Talk over coffee with my mother was always a time where she would talk about the past , in a ramble of what had to be done for the day. I’m lucky she visits me in Scotland from time to time and we talk about Australia and our time in Greece as well..She always tells me that I remind her of her mother when I make my dolls. My Grandmother also made dolls. And she also loved cats…..My mother as a very young girl was wild and nomadic and emigrated to Australia when she was but twenty , looking for her fortune, finding love on the way in the eyes of a Handsome man of the diplomatic service. Both my parents of colourful backgrounds with influences of Turkey and Egypt were born and raised in Greece to Greek parents with a sound sensibility of religion . Their parents’ inhabitance however to the lands I mentioned before have always fascinated me to the culture of the time ,where superstition , religion and spirituality played a great role in the time of wars, love, land holding and family ties.
My Grandmother Barbara or in the native Greek ( Varvara ) was the purest of pure, a quiet lady , a beautiful soul who had many many children, some that died in the war, some that moved abroad. Her beauty beyond compare as she was of Ishmir descent from scholar parents. This amounting to her musical skills as she played the Mandolin and sang in a magical way the most beautiful of songs of the time called ‘ Smyrneika’. Songs of smyrna that brought sadness of the time. The ladies in Ishmir , Turkey or ‘ Smyrna’ as the Greeks fondly called it, were of prominent or educated families that brought trade and value to the city. Beauty was also a trait very well held by both the Greek and the Turkish women in the city. It is said that there are no women like the women of Ishmir. Beauty and charm, and many witches were born of this part. The witches of Ishmir were also a great Legend and a major tv series in Greece.
Stories of my Grandmother were always that she had a way of purity about her. She was softly spoken , and she never needed to ask twice. She was never bold, nor rude. Never demanding. Just gentle. When the exodus of the Greeks and Armenians came about in 1922 my grandmother and her family like a lot of prominent families lost everything and in poverty was Brought to Greece. A Greece she knew nothing about. Very similar to myself when I went to Greece in my late teens as I myself was born and raised an Australian. This hardship of returning to a country which is not your own and forced upon you can either make or break you. I think Varvara, and myself did what we best knew how, to explore …and the craft helped us instinctively.
It is said by my family she had a close affinity to animals…her cats and the cats of the neighbourhood, gathering them all to feed, even though in time of war people went hungry..she still had enough to feed them and her seven children. She was dignified and never asked, and somehow , God always provided for all of them. She was happy with what she always had. She would let her long braided hair loose every night in front of the moon and whisper things only she could hear ..then re braid and never utter another word….never a vermon, nor reptile entered their village home. Keeping them all safe.
‘Baladakia’ is the word my mother says she used for rag dolls. When visiting our home in Australia she would always ask my father for scraps of material, who had then left the service and opened a fashion industry alongside my mother. I was lucky to live amongst so much fabric and creative parents. And even luckier to have very briefly have met my grandmother. I was only one…and I know that they say you cannot have memory at such a young age ..but I do. I can remember and elderly lady with silvery hair in the daylight hanging over my crib smiling ever so sweetly at me..whispering beautiful words at me in some form of chant…of course I have no memory of the words but I’m sure they were just as enchanting as she…
This proud soft natured lady has her d.n.a through me and the older I get the more I understand the culture within me. The roots from my parents and my parents’ , parents and the nomadic ,gypsy charm with the religious ,spiritual beauty of this life in the craft I am a part of. To me religion , spirituality and witchcraft is one but the same. There is no evil here. There is no devil, no satan, no ugly personification of Disney like creatures that many like to think. The craft, the wisdom, the love nature, God, the moon, the animals and all things living and breathing within and without, explained and unexplained is what makes this beautiful world so intricately fascinating and worthy of respect.
My dolls, like my grandmother’s ‘baladakia’ are hymns , gifts of solace to all these beautiful emotions …