baba yaga

She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

October, 2017

Baba Yaga

(Photo Credit – journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com)

In Slavic and Russian folklore, Baba Yaga is the old woman of autumn. She was a fearsome witch-like woman with iron teeth, who rowed through the air in a mortar, using a pestle as an oar. As she travels, she sweeps away all traces of herself with a broom made of silver birch.

She is the epitome of the fairy-tale witch, who lives in a hut deep in the forest, this hut having the legs of a chicken and would spin around and around. Its’ windows are its’ eyes. This hut is surrounded by a fence on which skulls are placed, with eyes a-blazing. She would scare people with just a look, and her appearance would cause the wind to blow wildly, leaves blowing helter-skelter. It is said that her traveling companions were spirits. She has bodiless pairs of hands that act as her servants and could call on the White, Red and Black Horsemen. She was also called Baba Yaga Bony Legs, as, even though she had a ferocious appetite and ate those who did not complete the tasks she had given them, she was extremely skinny. She had two older sisters, both of whom were also known as Baba Yaga. She would sleep sprawled out on her stove, which was the length of the hut and her long nose would hit the ceiling as she snored.

Baba Yaga would always ask visitors if they were sent to her, or if they came of their own free will. She had no power over the pure of heart or were protected by love or virtue.

One of the most famous stories of Baba Yaga was about a young girl named Vasalisa.

(Photo Credit – Wikipedia)

Vasalisa was the daughter of a merchant, whose wife dies when the girl was 8 years old. While on her deathbed, the mother gives Vasalisa a small wooden doll. She told her that if Vasalisa fed it a small amount to eat and drink if she were in need, then the doll would help her. She did so and the doll comforted her. Eventually, as men will do, her father remarried, to a woman who had two daughters of her own. This woman was very cruel to Vasalisa, who was always able to do all of the chores assigned to her, with the help of her little wooden doll. Her stepmother would not allow her to be married before her own daughters and send all suitors away, as they had no desire to wed Vasalisa’s step-sisters.

On a day that Vasalisa’s father left on a trip, the stepmother sold his home and moved them to a hut in the forest, which was very dark and gloomy. She gave each of the girls a chore to do and put out all the fires in the hut, except for one candle. The older step-sister sent Vasalisa to see Baba Yaga to fetch more light. With the help of her doll, she knew where to go, and so she went.

As she traveled she passed a man, dressed in white, on a white horse; then a man dressed in red, on a red horse. She soon came to a house which stood on chicken legs, whereupon she noticed that the fence was made with bones. A man dressed in black on a black horse, then rode past here. She was frozen with fear and so Baba Yaga found her when she returned home.

(Photo Credit – Pinterest)

To earn the fire, Baba Yaga told Vasalisa that she must perform certain tasks or she would be killed. Vasalisa cleaned the house, the yard, washed Baba Yaga’s laundry, cooked her food and on and on. Vasalisa was exhausted and scared that she would never complete the tasks given to her. Her small wooden doll once again came to the rescue, completing the work while Vasalisa slept. Each of the horsemen rode by again, and when Baba Yaga returned home, she found nothing that she could complain about. She allowed Vasalisa to ask questions of her, and when she inquired of the horseman, Baba Yaga explained that the white one was Day, the red one the Sun and the black one, Night. She also asked Vasalisa how she was able to complete her chores and was told that it was by the blessing of Vasalisa’s mother. Baba Yaga threw Vasalisa out of her home, not wanting any blessings. She gave Vasalisa a lantern made out of a skull that was full of burning coal for her family. When she returned home, she learned that no one in her family had been able to light any candles or fire while she was gone. Vasalisa’s step-mother and step-sisters were burned to ashes by the coals in the skull, and so Vasalisa buried the skull so that no one else would be harmed by it again.

In origin, Baba Yaga was an ancient Birth and Death Goddess, whose death in autumn, led to new birth in spring. She lives in the last sheaf of grain harvested and whichever woman would bind that grain would bear a child that year.

She is the Arch-Crone, the Goddess of Wisdom & Death, who brings the death of ego, the re-birth through death. Baba means “grandmother” or “old woman”. She is the Eternal Mother. She is the Earth Mother, wild but kind, as the Earth is in both it’s gentle rain and it’s furious hurricanes. She is the Guardian to the Fountain of the Waters of Life and Death. She is the Ancient Goddess of Old Bones. She brings us from our darkness to Light, death to re-birth.

She is the Wise Hag, giver of wisdom and magic gifts. She is all-knowing and all-seeing and shares her gifts with those who are brave enough to ask. She keeps her promises to those who come to Her.

She is the Crone within the Triple Goddess.

As Goddess, Her themes are the harvest, prosperity, rest and giving thanks, bringing us awareness of the Wheel of the Year. You can bring Her prosperity to you by bringing a wreath of harvest items into your home.

(Photo Credit – Etsy.com)

Her symbols are corn, sheafs of wheat and wild flowers.

Her colors of White, Red and Black, the colors of Her horsemen, the colors of the Maiden, Mother and Crone.

Stones: Black tourmaline, smoky quartz

Her season is Autumn and She is the Waning and Dark Moon. Her tree is the silver birch.

Her festival is celebrated on January 20th.

The following is an excerpt from The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marachinsky, with artwork by Hrana Janto.

“I walk in the forest

and speak intimately with the animals

I dance barefoot in the rain

without any clothes

I travel on pathways

that I make myself

and in ways that suit me

my instincts are alive and razor sharp

my intuition and sense of smell are keen

I freely express my vitality

my sheer exuberant joyfulness

to please myself

because it is natural

It is what needs to be

I am the wild joyous life force

Come and meet me.”

***

About the Author:

Susan Morgaine is a Daughter of the Goddess, Witch, WriterTeacher, Healer, and Yogini. She is a monthly columnist with PaganPages.org Her writings can be found in The Girl God Anthologies, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak” and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess, as well as Mago Publications She Rises, Volume 2, and “Celebrating Seasons of the Goddess”. She has also been published in Jareeda and SageWoman magazines. She is a Certified Womens Empowerment Coach/Facilitator through She is the author of “My Name is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess”, one in the series of the “My Name Is………” children’s books published by The Girl God Publications. A Woman International, founded by Patricia Lynn Reilly. She has long been involved in Goddess Spirituality and Feminism, teaching classes and workshops, including Priestessing Red Tents within MA and RI. She is entering her 20th year teaching Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, being a Certified instructor through the Kundalini Research Institute, as well as being a Reiki Master. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She can be found at https://mysticalshores.wordpress.com/ and her email is MysticalShores@gmail.com

Goddesses of Sorcery

September, 2014

Baba Yaga

 

Baba1

 

There are many stories of Baba Yaga but most likely her story is very old and comes from the stories of the old Gods long before our modern times. She is a Crone Goddess who is honoured at Harvest and she is present in the last sheaf of grain where she ensures that the grain will grow again. Later on she became, like most Witches in Europe, a scary story to frighten children.

The first clear reference to Baba Yaga (Iaga baba) occurs in 1755; Mikhail V. Lomonosov’s Rossiiskaia grammatika (‘Russian grammar’). In this work Lomonosov lists Slavic gods and their Roman equivalences but Baba Yaga has no Roman equivalent showing her unique status.

In some tales a trio of Baba Yagas appear as three sisters, all sharing the same name. For example, in a version of “The Maiden Tsar” collected in the 19th century by Alexander Afanasyev, Ivan, a handsome merchant’s son, makes his way to the home of one of three Baba Yagas because he is searching for the ‘thrice tenth kingdom”. She sends him on to her other sisters and at the last Baba Yaga he blows three magickal horns (obtained from the second Baba Yaga) which summons the firebird that carries him further on his magical quest and protects him from death. From this reference it’s possible that she was also seen as a triple Goddess.

Baba Yaga can fly but she does not use a broomstick. Instead, she sits in a giant mortar (a bowl for grinding food) with her knees almost touching her chin. She drives very fast across or above the forest floor, and uses the pestle (the grinder) as a rudder held in her right hand. She sweeps away her tracks with a broom made out of silver birch held in her left hand. Wherever she appears, a wild wind begins to blow, the trees groan and leaves whirl through the air.
Her home is a hut deep in a birch forest, in a place that is difficult to find, unless a magic thread, feather or doll shows the way. The hut has a life of its own. It stands on large chicken legs and can move about. Its windows act as eyes and the lock is full of teeth. A post fence surrounds the hut. The posts are made of human bones and topped with skulls whose blazing eye sockets light up the forest. Very often the hut is guarded by hungry dogs, evil geese, swans or a black cat.
The hut can spin around and moves through the forest. It makes blood-curdling screeches. Most of those who go in never leave, as Baba Yaga washes them, feeds them and then sits them on a giant spatula, before putting them in her oven. In many stories, the fate of those entering her hut is in their own hands. A guest may, or may not, fit into the oven, depending on how they sit on the spatula.

From this story we see that she is connected to the Birch tree. This tree is also the tree of Brighid and the traditional wood that Witches used for their brooms because it is said to sweep away not only physical dirt but also cleanse on the astral level. So Baba Yaga flying with her Birch broom whisks away negativity and brings light and healing. Her fence is made of human bones and skulls which connects her to Goddesses helping with the passage of souls to the otherworld after death. She can carry souls in her mortar to the other side.

 

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The dogs, geese, swans and the black cat are her animals. They protect her and help her in her work. If you want to approach her to ask for abundance or help surrounding death issues you can ask for the assistance of one of these animals. Bring cookies! In the stories from Russia the children gave the dogs, geese and swans cookies and the cat slices of ham. They also tied ribbons on the birch tree to ask for help. In the story they were asking help to flee from Baba Yaga but if you approach her with love and respect they will help you find her in her secret house in the birch forest.
The reason why many people go in and never leave is because she takes their souls to the Otherworld as it is their time to die, not that she murders and eats people! To contact her try placing on the altar a doll tied up with a red thread and a black feather, an image of a black cat, a plate of cookies and some bunches of wheat or corn. You could also place a mortar and pestle as well and a little chicken statue. Have fun with the altar and remember that the Old Woman of Autumn, Baba Yaga, can be an ally and friend like a grandmother. Make sure you are very polite though, as she doesn’t like arrogant or rude people. Sit in meditation before your altar and ask for her friendship and help. Don’t forget the cookies!

 
References

http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/origins117-baba-yaga-and-vasilisa-the-fair.html
Guterman, Norbert (trans.) Russian Fairy Tales. Pantheon . 1973 [1945].
Johns, Andreas (1998). “Baba Yaga and the Russian Mother”. The Slavic and East European Journal (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages) 42 (1).
Johns, Andreas (2004). Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-6769-3.
Monaghan, Patricia. 1990. The Book of Goddesses and Heronies. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Telesco, Patricia. “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.

Myths and Legends: Journeys Through Time

March, 2012

If you’re ever in Russia, you might want to be a careful about going into the woods. Even for a

little bit. Not only are there animals and weather conditions you would probably not want to

deal with…as well as the chance of getting lost, but there’s also Baba Yaga. Who is Baba Yaga?

Well..she’s a witch. A witch of Russian folklore actually. She’s not your typical witch fairy tale

witch in that she flies on a broom and performs magic, spells and what else. Instead, Baba

Yaga has two things.  A moving, living house of which the feet are chicken legs, and a mortar

and pestle which she mainly uses for travel. The stories vary on what her house looks like.

Some say it has windows and a door, some say only a door, while other say no windows, no

door, only a chimney though which she enters and exits. All stories agree though that the

house is a log cabin that either moves around on chicken legs, is surrounded by a fence made

out of the bones of her victims (often children) or both. Oh, it would seem that I forgot to

mention that Baba Yaga was a cannibal. She was particularly fond of children and a good

number of tales involve her seeking out children to eat. Whether or not she ever actually

found any, depends on the story. Mostly she was used to teach a lesson of why a child should

always behave. In a way you could say she was the Russian version of the Boogey Man. Quite

often she fulfilled the role of a donor. In essence, she would help a hero or heroine with their

journey but only if they did something for her in return…and quite often it was unpleasant.

Sometimes she was willing to help, sometimes she wasn’t. Like all beings of mythical nature,

she could be tricked. Especially if one knew the phrase that got her house to show the front

door. If a person uttered the phrase ”Turn your back to the forest, and your front to me.” then

the house would turn around revealing it’s door to whomever spoke the phrase. In some

stories Baba Yaga is accompanied by three riders. One rider dressed completely in

white;white rider, white horse, white outfit. This rider represented Day. A second rider

dressed completely in red; red rider, red horse, red outfit. This rider was the sun and a third

rider who was dressed completely in black; black rider, black horse and black outfit. This rider

was Night. Baba Yaga also has servants…but they’re invisible and inquiring about them would

mostly likely get a person killed. Inquiring about the riders is alright though.   Baba Yaga’s

main mode of transportation is a mortar and pestle. She travels in the mortar at great speeds,

using  the pestle as an oar to direct her. She also sweeps away her tracks with a broom made

of silver birch, so she’s not exactly easy to find. People do come across her though. If they’re

kind, good of heart and pure of spirit…she’s more likely to help. If they’re rude, mean and

just generally unlikeable…she’s more likely to eat them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Yaga

http://www.oldrussia.net/baba.html

http://www.pantheon.org/articles/b/baba_yaga.html

http://www.pantheon.org/areas/featured/witchcraft/chapter-8.html