Madame Pamita Talks About Slavic Magic and Baba Yaga, the Slavic Witch of the Woods
“If you follow the guidance within you, you get led to do the right things,” said Madame Pamita, author of “Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft: Slavic Magic from the Witch of the Woods,” which was reviewed here last month.
She has, and amazing things have happened.
“My mom bought me a tarot deck when I was ten years old. She grew up in a magical household. We lived in a magical household. Albeit, it was Catholic magic. You go to church and you light a candle and you’d make a wish or a prayer. That’s candle magic. In being immersed in this magical household … divination was something people did,” she said in an interview on Friday, May 13th, from her childhood home in Santa Monica, California.
She fell in love with libraries at a young age. Because information about magic was difficult to find in the 1970s, she read everything she could find about the paranormal, ESP, pyramids, mythology, ghosts, and similar topics. In junior high, she was excited to find “Diary of a Witch” and other books by Sybil Leek and was on her way to being one. Pamita began finding more and more information, and in her twenties, she studied formally with a feminist Wicca group.
“I liked that path because it was structured,” she said, adding, “I’m not Wiccan anymore. Your spiritual path unfolds and evolves. I see myself as part new thought/Law of Attraction, a big part folk magic, and really an animist — seeing life force in all things — and a spiritualist — being connected to spirits rather than working with deities.”
While employed as a high school librarian, she began doing tarot readings at cafes and bookstores, willing to trade or barter with clients. When she was laid off, she assumed she’d find another librarian position. Instead, she was led to open a small storefront and begin doing readings full time.
Her first book came about when her online friend, author, card reader, educator, fellow Cancer, and editor at Weiser, Judika Illes, asked what she was writing. It was a course for love magic, and Judika suggested Pamita write a book, telling her to send in a proposal.
Feeling there were no tarot books that explored the potential of the cards, how to work with their energy, and use them magically, she wrote the book “that needed to exist in the world,” Madame Pamita’s Magical Tarot.
Just as she never expected to write, and come to love it, she said, “I didn’t think I’d be making candles, but no one was making beeswax spell candles so I said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ I learned how to make candles and I love it.”
Finding only candle magic books that were more like recipe books, she wrote The Book of Candle Magic: Candle Spell Secrets to Change Your Life to teach readers how to create their own spells.
By this time, she was in a larger retail space, which, when directed by spirit, she closed, opened a factory, and transitioned to an online presence. Madame Pamita’s Parlour of Wonders is an emporium where you can book a spiritual session; purchase magical goods; and learn about witchcraft, hoodoo, tarot, and the law of attraction. There is much to explore including free guides and videos about magic, and a Spell Squad you can join.
“Six months later, the pandemic hit,” her second book was published, and she began writing “Baba Yaga’s Book of Witchcraft.”
“If someone had told me what I had to do to write this book I would have never done it. Never! Ever! Not in a million years. It was so many hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of research to compile all this information, and verify this information. It was insane,” Pamita said.
For years she had been trying to learn more about something her Ukranian grandmother would do that involved water, wax, and healing. “That little nugget of information I carried with me like a little seed, always looking to find more information about that.”
At a retreat, she became friends with Katie Karpetz, a Canadian-Ukranian woman who owned a shop called The Witchery.
“She and I bonded over our shared Ukrainian heritage and I went onto her online store and saw this book called, “The Word and the Wax.” It was about Ukrainian wax pouring and healing. Before discovering that book, I thought this was something that was completely lost. That was inspiration for me writing this book.
“Little did I know that it was going to be a task worthy of Baba Yaga. It was the hardest book I’ve ever written, but the book I’m most proud of. It was so much intense, deep, doctoral-level research. I had to look at people’s theses. I had to translate things from Ukrainian to English, or Russian into English. All of this stuff was so challenging. I had tears many time. It was not easy, but I did it. I can honestly say this is the first book in English that talks about Ukrainian practices.”
After seventy-two years of Soviet suppression, Ukrainians began to reclaim their traditions during the last thirty years that had either been abolished or, like Baba Yaga, co-opted.
Pamita explained, “In the old country, you had magic and Christianity and they weren’t mutually exclusive. That’s a creation of Americans since the 1980s. Superstitions are spiritual practices. The one that’s really unique to Slavic magic … and Ukrainian magic is if you find money on the ground, you don’t touch it … particularly if the money was near a crossroads or in the city near an intersection. Why? Because someone is leaving that as an offering to the spirits to get rid of a curse and if you pick up the money, you pick up the curse.
“In slavic magic, we work quid pro quo with spirits. You make an offering to the spirit, and this happens in Celtic magic too, you make an offering to the fae folks, you make an offering to the spirits to appease them or to get them to look kindly upon you and help you. But it’s always done with an offering. You never order the spirits around. It’s not like ceremonial magic where you control spirits, it’s more like we co-exist with them and they co-exist with us, and we want to honor them, appease them, or have a little trade with them.”
Baba Yaga is a spirit existing long before written history. All the Slavic countries believed in the forest grandmother, who was called by various names. Warriors, children, and those wishing to learn the old ways would go to this old, powerful crone to be gifted information or a tool, or initiated into a practice. She didn’t hand out certificates of participation, she challenged individuals with difficult, seemingly impossible tasks. Those who succeeded were rewarded and those who failed were punished.
Research and writing the book took about eighteen months. “It was all during Covid and I was working from home. I had someone else making candles and I was sitting for eighteen hours a day just working. It was such an amazing passion project. The remarkable thing about this, again, blessings and blessings and blessings have come from it. The timing of this, to me, was confirmation of working with a spirit. When I started this book, how would I know that Ukraine and Russia would get into a war and the book would come out right when that happened?”
Teaching and empowering people is Pamita’s joy and passion.
Asked what she wanted readers to know, she said, “Magic is not a religion. Magic can be a part of any spiritual practice. There are religions that emphasize magic, Wicca for one, but there’s been this schism where we think magic belongs with Wicca and if you are practicing magic and you’re Jewish, or you’re practicing magic and you’re Catholic, that you’re bad or wrong.
“Also important to talk about … is this idea of the closed practice and the open practice. I feel you can practice Slavic magic even if you don’t have Slavic heritage, as long as you come with curiosity and acknowledgment.” Using the Motanka, a powerful spirit doll, as an example, she said that you don’t need to be Ukrainian to make one, “but you have to acknowledge the culture and the practices it came from. Be authentic and honest and give credit where credit is due.”
Currently she is making candles, working on a book Stephanie Buscema’s The Silver Acorn Tarot, and co-writing a book about magic with an amazing author. She’d like to be writing more about Slavic magic.
“If you follow the guidance within you, you get led to do the right things,” she said.
She continues to do so.
*all photos provided by Chris Strother
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.