May 5, 2013

Baba Yaga

This is a post I've been eager to do for a while now! One of Russia's most well known figures of folklore, the witch Baba Yaga!

Baba Yaga is very popular is Eastern European folklore, and there are several different names for her. She’s called Jezibaba in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Ukranian children know her as Baba Jaha, while in Slovenia she goes by the name of Yaga Baba. She is not a conventional witch. She does not wear a hat, and has never been seen on a broomstick. She instead travels perched in a large mortar, and pushes herself along with a pestle. Whenever she appears, a wild wind begins to blow, the trees groan creak, and leaves crackle and whip through the air. A group of tortured souls and spirits are said to follow her around, howling and shrieking in constant pain, and yet, despite all this noise and commotion, not a trace of her is ever found, as her silver birch broom sweeps it all away. Sometimes it is said that rather being one witch, Baba Yaga is actually a trio of sisters all with the same name, an intent used to confuse any visitors.

The old witch Baba Yaga is a deformed hag with a mouthful of iron teeth. Her back is so bent over from age that she touches the ground with her head. Her nose is so long that it reaches the ceiling of her hut when she is sleeping. She sleeps stretched out on her ancient brick oven, which she also uses to cook her meals (including unfortunate visitors she catches, particularly naughty children).

Baba Yaga is said to live in a hut deep in the woods, set on massive chicken legs that stand and move about at will, and the windows are said to be eyes that the hut watches its surroundings with. A fence made of bones she eagerly collects from those unfortunate to stumble upon her surrounds the hut at whichever location it chooses to settle down at. The hut spins at an unsettling rate when it is standing on the tall legs, or standing idle with its back to the traveler, and can only be lowered and turned to face the visitor to allow entry by a visitor if said visitor utters the proper incantation: "Hut, hut, turn your back to the forest and your front to me."

Baba Yaga is never painted as purely either a villain or a helper, as she seems to decide on a whim depending on the visitor whether or not she will help or hinder. It helps if the visitor has a 'pure heart and soul' but that is not always a guarantee. One version says that she asks you to try and satisfy a number of wishes she has, and if you fail, she devours you. It's also said that she sometimes gives advice and magical gifts to heroes with pure hearts. Baba Yaga is often a warning tale many parents in Russia would tell the children to convince them to behave, as she delights in devouring naughty children.

Her faithful servants are the White Horseman, the Red Horseman and the Black Horseman. When Vasilissa the Beautiful (sometimes called Vasilisa the Wise, a heroine from Russian folklore) asks her who these mysterious horsemen are she replies: "My Bright Dawn, my Red Sun and my Dark Midnight." Among her other servants that she calls "my soul friends", whom she is reluctant to discuss with visitors, are the three bodiless pairs of hands, which appear out of thin air to do her bidding. Baba Yaga is said to be the goddess of Wisdom and Death, and the embodiment of the wild forest itself, which can also be enlightening but deadly.

Tales say that those pure of heart have a much higher chance of escaping the old crone unscathed, but one has to wonder... is exploring those dark, unmapped parts of the woods really worth it?

And as always, if any of you have tales or experiences of your own involving any of these beasties, please post said stories on the monsters' respective pages!!

No comments:

Post a Comment