Did you know the name Matryoshka means “little matron,” or “mother” in Russian?
Do you have a set of nesting dolls?
My friend, Kathy Gould, who manages a charity fund ministering to families and children in Ukraine, gave me these dolls years ago. They enjoy pride of place on the top shelf of my bookcase now.
I wrote about these dolls in a blog post published in December 2013. The largest one, encasing all the others, tells the story of Christ’s nativity, the WORD becoming flesh, the wonder of the incarnation. The first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew traces the lineage of Christ from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Joseph, Mary’s husband, the Mary who as a virgin gave birth to Jesus, called Christ, the embodiment of the human and the divine.
Un-nested, they form a sloping line across my table, narrating the life of Christ from birth through The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Ascension.
Sue Monk Kidd and Matryoshka Dolls
In her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees) speaks of endless renewal and ongoing transformation as the generations evolve.
What her grand-daughters heard her say:
I told them “ , , , how our unfolding line of mothers and daughters. How we’re nested in one another and birthed one another. I told them we were connected not only through blood, tissue, and female likeness, but [also] through feminine heart, memory, and soul. “
She references C. G. Jung when she quotes him here: “Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother and every mother extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter.”
Rather like nesting dolls, don’t you think?
Citation for the quote from Jung: Jung, C. G. and C. Kerenyi, Essays on a Science of Mythology, Bollingen Series 22 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press 1963) 162.
Matryoshka Dolls and You
- Do you know the name of your grandmother / great-grandmother / or great-great grandmother on either side of your family?
- What significance do these women have in your memory, or in your life?
- If you have a set of Matryoskha dolls, what name would give to the first (largest) doll? The last one?
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I will take a short break from blogging until January 2019. In the meantime, do savor this joyous season!
What a fitting analogy; and what a blessing to have a wedding portrait of your grandparents. Happy Holidays!
You’re # 1 today, up early, Lynn!
Yes, I am fortunate to have a copy of this portrait. This plain Mennonite bride is wearing a fancy fabric. on her wedding day. Happy holidays to you and your family too!
Good morning, Marian! What a lovely gift from your friend. Matryoshka dolls always fascinate me. I mentioned them in something I wrote recently (not on my blog). Older daughter and I are getting more involved in genealogy, so all of this resonates–especially that quotation from Jung.
Enjoy your break, and the holiday season!
I’m glad you can explore family genealogy with your daughter. It’s like a treasure hunt, or maybe a scavenger hunt . . . you never know what will turn up! Thank you, Merril.
I never had my own nesting dolls, but I remember my aunt did. As a little girl, I’d play with them for hours, lining them up in different formations. My maternal grandmother is the reason my faith is so strong. I miss her every day. Have a wonderful and safe holiday, Marian!
Your maternal grandmother would be so proud that you have created faith-inspired novels. I glad too you have the warm memory of playing with nesting dolls. Thanks for the good wishes – you too!
I think my granddaughter Julia, who has always loved the Matryoshka dolls I brought back from Prague, is ready to ponder that Jung quote if I can simplify it enough for her. Thank you for that gift, Marian. I will print out the quote and place it inside the doll so that I can read it to Julia next time she comes to visit me.
Enjoy your own reliving of the Jesus story this Christmas. May you and your family have a very Merry one.
You are experiencing generativity with Julia even now ~ jubilation too as you care and share!
I too remember Prague as a beehive of artsiness, black light shows and Dvorak, but I don’t remember Matryoshka dolls there.
Merry Christmas to the Showalter and Hershey clan in this joyous season!
I’ve never seen nesting dolls like yours. They are stunning. I knew my grandmother on one side of the family but not the other. The one I remember was gutsy! She’s an inspiration.
Writers need gumption and you have it, Arlene! I’m glad you remember your grandmother with a gutsy spirit and that she serves as your muse. Thanks ~ and a happy holiday to you.
Your nesting dolls are quite unique. Thank you for sharing them with us!
My grandparents [both sets] passed before any of us kids were born. My mother’s father was named Patty, but that is all I know of grandparents or earlier.
Blessings to you, and all the faithful readers here.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Ginger. I’m glad you enjoyed the nesting dolls. When I look up and left (to give my neck a rest) I see them sitting on my one and only bookcase. Have a wonderful holiday season! 🙂
I have a set of Matryoshka Dolls that were given to me many years ago. There are five layers. They all have the same image on them. Yours are very beautiful. What a priceless gift.
Both of my grandmothers were believers. Neither is living. I was named after my maternal grandmother.
Yes, I appreciate my set. The fact that they came from my friend who serves in Ukraine makes them extra special. I like your name Marie, echoing as it does the name of Jesus’ mother Mary. I have always wondered what the “L.” stand for though. 🙂
I was given a set, Marian, when I lived in Kazakhstan. Mine has a political motif, beginning with Lenin, Stalin, Gorbachev. There’s one before Putin, a poor likeness of Yeltsin. It gathers dust in the corner of my office, but they also speak to your theme, via Sue Monk Kidd, I now realize. You’ve given me a new way to look at them. Perhaps I’ll keep them dusted better as a result. Thanks.
I’m glad this post has given you a new way of looking at your nesting doll set. I’ve never seen any with a political theme though. But I’d be careful about dusting too much. You may be disturbing valuable DNA – ha!
And oh yes, I know my maternal side back to 1620 (Marie Prower Martin is mine). On my father’s side, one of my great grandmothers came from Vienna. But his mother’s father came from Scotland. And some day I hope to go back.
Austria and Scotland, and who know what else? Ancestry tests are being promoted, especially at Christmastime. I guess I should send off for a kit to trace my genealogy before Germany and Switzerland.
Yes, I’d love to visit Scotland again too, heath and highlands. And storytelling galore. I hope you are still enjoying the season with your family. Thanks for taking time to post here, Janet!
I have always loved matryoshka dolls and have two sets. This analogy is perfect. I know the names of my great grandmothers and even those before them. We tend to keep the memories of our ancestors alive in our family. Now I am a great grandmother and just did a presentation at my great granddaughters school. Have a wonderful Christmas Marian!
You are “great-er” than I, Darlene, but I don’t wish for any great-grandchildren any time soon. My oldest grandsons are only fifteen.
I think you are enjoying this Christmas in Canada. Right? Have a wonderful holiday season.
We seem to start our families early. I had a marvellous time in Canada with my mom, son and family. Nice to have all 5 generations together at Christmas for a change.
I followed your fun trip with fine family on Facebook. What a wonderful family you have, spanning 5 generations. I’ll be lucky to see four. My grandchildren are teenagers, so I’m not longing for great-grandchildren just yet – ha! Happy New Year to you too.
What a magnificent quote about mothers and daughters! I’m going to send it to my daughter -and to my friends who have daughters. When my son and his wife lived in Prague for a year, they brought me a nesting doll set. I never realized why I love it so much – it’s a beautiful long-lashed woman, and inside is a child, then a smaller child, then a smaller one, and ends with a baby. Mother to Child. Interestingly, with all the toys I have in my closet for my grandchildren when they visit, this nesting doll is the one they return to time after time.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, my friend.
Children and adults are intrigued with nesting sets I think, because they go from large to small. Pulling one doll out of another, it’s exciting to imagine how little the smallest one will be ~ come to think of it, birth in fast motion.
Merry Christmas to you and your family too, Pam!
And then, of course, I put a timing component to it – to see how fast each grandchild can put the nest set back into place. They are all very competitive. 🙂 xo
I loved reading this! Even though it is a reminder to me that there is sooooo much that I don’t know! It makes me wish I could go back to my childhood and begin to learn all over again! I would have so much information to indulge in…! I know my grandparents names from three generations ago on both sides of my parents families. My mother’s family came from Norway; my father’s family came from Scotland and Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland and would love to go to Norway, Thanks again for waking my sleeping mind up to new avenues of information!
I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m just now reading Linda Joy Myers’ Song of the Plains, in which she recounts her story going back 10 generations. Last most children, she passed through childhood without learning many of the details, so her research required going to the courthouse for records, even traveling to Europe. In case you are interested: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32445645-song-of-the-plains?ac=1&from_search=true
It’s always good to hear from you., Anita. Merry Christmas to one and all. Maybe you’ll have a white Christmas! 🙂
In the Spanish tradition, we all have 2 surnames, the first is our father’s and the second our mothers, so we know our grandparents’ family names on both sides of the family. Also, the women keep their maiden name when they marry, so I know both my grandmothers’ surnames too. Unfortunately, we lived away from both sets of grandparents and we didn’t see them very often and I never felt close to them.
We have a set of Russian dolls that Peter was given by a student when teaching English when we first met, but they are all the same. I love how yours are all different and what they depict: the images are beautiful.
Thank you for mentioning the Spanish tradition of naming. My mother’s oldest brother was named Landis Metzler, Landis being his mother’s last name, so family origin is strong in my mother’s Mennonite community too.
Feliz Navidad to both you and Peter. 🙂
Feliz Navidad. 🎄🎄🎄
Just lovely Marian! Thank you! All the very best Christmas wishes to you and family. Jung’s quote is so apt. Renewal renewal renewal – through the Word become flesh…
Thank you, Susan. I knew the Jung quote would resonate strongly with you. Yes, renewal, and the never-ending cycle of life.
Merry Christmas to the Scotts in South Africa, where you are enjoying warmer weather, I have no doubt. 🙂
Marian — I love how the nesting dolls were likened to an “unfolding line of mothers and daughters. How we’re nested in one another and birthed one another.” That’s excellent!
And I love when I see freshly minted Luna Bleue nested in your arms, or grandad Len’s. That’s excellent too!. Thanks for joining in here, Laurie. Happy holidays to you all!
I have never seen nesting dolls that depict the life of Christ!
When I visited my cousin on my father’s side of the family in Germany she gave me a set of nesting dolls. As young children she and her sister were refugees fleeing Ukraine during WWII the same as our family. They were sent back to Ukraine, living a life of hardship and deprivation, while our family escaped and eventually came to Canada. If there had been no war we would have played together as children and grown up together. The nesting dolls remind me that we are all one family and that we need to work hard at peace making.
Your grandparents’ wedding picture is interesting. I think you resemble your grandfather!
Like you, I am all for peacemaking and restorative justice as opposed to war. Your observation expresses that feeling so well: ” . . . we are all one family and that we need to work hard at peace making.” Yes, and I do appreciate that my nesting dolls depict the life of Christ. More than one commenter here mentioned nesting dolls that were all alike and didn’t tell a story.
I do indeed have my grandfather’s complexion.
Thank you for commenting once again, Elfrieda. Merry Christmas to the entire Schroeder family!
I know my grandmothers’ names on my mother’s side back 3 generations. As I’ve become a grandmother myself, and have watched my daughters nest their little ones and then also watched three of those little ones get pushed out, I feel so so fortunate to have these gifts–all eight of them (daughters and now grandsons). Have a great time off of blogging and enjoy your own family and friends. Auf weirdersehen and Bis später!
Faith and family are the cornerstones of your life, pretty obvious from your blog and other writings. I suspect that you are more aware than most of your maternal lineage.
Auf weidersehen I recognized immediately but had to look up Bis Spater. Curious readers: It’s “See you later.” Merry Christmas to you and your freindschaft, Melodie!
As a former professor of German, I can’t help it. The correct spellings are
“auf Wiedersehen, “bis spaeter” and “Freundschaft.”
I am amazed at how much German the Mennonites who came to America more than a hundred years ago still know and practise!
Of course, you must correct the spelling here. My addition was “freundschaft,” the spelling of which I found in a book of poetry entitled Sleeping Preacher by author Julia Kasdorf. Not knowing German, I assumed it was correctly spelling with the letter “i” in the published collection. Apparently not. Thank you for calling attention to the correct spelling, Elfrieda.
Your nesting dolls are lovely! We used to have some, but I can’t find them after our move…
Ah, Fiona, you’ll find then, or you can enjoy mine on the page. All the best this season! 🙂
I have been very blessed with some record keepers in my family, so I can trace my family tree back several generations, and have some recorded snippets of their stories. I have shared some of it with my kids so they will understand that they are part of the story too, and will just add to it in their own lives and legacies. Merry Christmas Marian!
You are blessed to have a recorded lineage. I believe record keeper translates to “writer,” and you are carrying the torch to the next generation. 🙂
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
HI Marian, your post brought memories of my maternal great-grandmother, Rose. I don’t have any material items of hers but I do have treasure memories of a strong woman with an unwavering faith. She planted the seeds of faith in me! What a blessing. Love how you have described the nesting dolls here.
“A strong woman with an unwavering faith” are words I would use to describe you as well, Kathy. Great-grandmother Rose’s gift to you has far more value than anything material. I’m glad you enjoyed the nesting dolls description.
Merry Christmas to the entire Pooler clan. 🙂
I may have seen nesting dolls at my grandmother’s house . And I’m going to check out Sue’s book, thanks. Happy holidays Marian. 🙂
Your fuzzy memory may be a reality, who knows. Sue Monk Kidd’s book is a totally different “read,” especially if you know her from The Secret Life of Bees, which explores the power of sisterhood and the power of the feminine, as you probably know.
Enjoy the season, Debby. Vacation awaits in 2019!
Thanks Marian – can’t come soon enough! 🙂
Yeah, right! 🤪
Such a lovely gift of those dolls , they have always fascinated me but didn’t really know their significance .
I think Sue Monk Kidd is an excellent writer one of my favourite books is Secret Life Of Bees . I must read her new one .
My mother’s mother was a Mary and my Father’s mother was Gertrude . My sister named her sewing machine Gertrude after her because she encouraged her to do crafts .
Have a wonderful Christmas my friend, look forward to your blogs in 2019 🎄🎄🎄✨🌟
You blessed me today with the thought of naming a sewing machine. 🙂
I just had to look up the meaning of the German name Gertrude, and lo and behold it means “strong spear,” which I guess could refer to the needle bobbing up and down making sturdy stitches. Ha!
You too have a wonderful Christmas. I’ll take a wee blog break and probably return mid-January. Happy New Year in advance, Cherry!
My two grandmothers had the same first name (Henriette) and were born in the same year (1920). I only have positive memories of them, and many. My Oma (grandmother on mother’s side) was my favorite person in the world and best friend, until she passed away last year.
Yes, I have a set of nesting dolls from Russia. I brought them from St.Petersburg one year. Well, I actually have two sets now, as I kept the ones I gifted to my Oma as well. Such a great concept. Just like your post, Marian. I like both the physical and symbolical interpretation.
You are a deep thinker, Liesbet. Thank you for noticing all the nuances.
I’m glad you have only happy memories of your Omas (sweet) because not everyone can say that truthfully. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to both you and Mark. 🙂
I do not have nesting dolls. Yours remind me of a medieval wood carving of the Virgin Mary which opens to an image of God and Jesus inside. I feel a lack because I’m the end of my maternal line. I have photos and their names going back 7 generations to the grandmother and her daughters and granddaughters who immigrated from Denmark around 1880. (It’s C.G. Jung, by the way–forgive intrusive editing, but please let me know when I need an edit.) My middle name Margaret was a name passed along from the maternal line. But since I have sons and no grandchildren, the line ends here. I was closer to my paternal Grandmother (Ziola Edna Munderbach Ware) but didn’t ask enough questions when I was young. I know her only brother and both parents died when she was a young woman in Chicago. Her classical voice and piano training ended up in a small country church near Mexico, MO after she met my grandpa in Chicago and they moved back to the family farm. There was no place I loved more.
Blessed New Year, Marian. I look forward to what comes next.
Elaine, I corrected Jung’s middle initial before I replied back here. I really do appreciate when commenters mention errors; otherwise, they remain mistakes. Another commenter, a former German professor, notices my errors in German words and phrases and always apologizes, but I don’t mind. Ahem . . . .
I suspected you may know something about your family lineage but lack stories. Many are in the same fix. I remember some questions I wanted to asked Mom . . . after it was too late. I found some answers on Anchives.com. You say you have sons but no grandchildren, so it’s the end of the line. But I’m not so sure. Men stay fertile a long time – ha!
You have a soft spot for a family farm in Missouri; I wonder if you’ve been back there as an adult.
Yes, I look forward to what comes next. Better hearing is my wish for you in 2019 – and many other happy surprises. 🙂
Your point about the influence of women in generations past (and future) is a beautiful one. My paternal grandmother, Naomi–the woman I wrote so much about–is very much a part of me, from the books she bequeathed me to the way I set some of those books facing outward on the shelf the way she did. On a completely unrelated but genuinely heartfelt note, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that your new year is off to a great start!
Thank you so much, Rebecca. My memoir edits are taking up so much of my time, I didn’t get a chance to read your comment until now.
I’m glad you have warm memories of grandmother Naomi. Writing about her on your blog helps preserve her memory for you, Sage, your readers, and others to follow.
Yes, I did have a wonderful Christmas and with a goal of finally publishing my memoir this year, I’m forging ahead with a final editor. Yay!
Happy new year to you and your family, too, Rebecca. 🙂
I know the names of my grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great grandmothers, (and their male counterparts), ONLY because two of my older brothers were into genealogy…however, I never met any of them, (not even my grandparents) because they all had died BEFORE I even born…which was unfortunate for me. What was more than unfortunate for my two older brothers is that they were both atheists/agnostics and never accepted Christ into their life, (in spite of my many attempts to share Christ with them) and therefore since they are both dead, they are now suffering in Hell for eternity!
Concerning matryoska dolls…I have five sets of them which my first wife and I purchased in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia while there on a mission trip in 1996…. the two most unique sets are (1) of four former Soviet Leaders from Brezhnev back, and (2) The four major players on the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys team of 1992/1993, (Troy Aikman, etc.)
It’s good to see you here, Jerry, but I’m sorry that you did not get to meet any of your maternal forebears. As to your two older brothers, you have done your best as a witness, but we know both men and women are creatures of choice, so we can’t control the results.
As you are aware, Cliff and I ministered in Ukraine in 2011, which you helped to support. During our 3 weeks stay, Cliff did 19 presentations in schools and churches.
Yes, I have a set of Matryoshka dolls (not 5 sets!) which Kathy Gould gave to me one year. As a matter of fact, I had lunch with her today and caught up with how God is expanding her ministry. 🙂
Again, thanks for commenting here. Do visit again!