I first made her acquaintance when I was introduced to “Pictures at an Exhibition” a beautiful piece of music composed by Modest Mussorgsky. Wonderful music! I was maybe twenty years old and getting an introduction to classical music. Baba Yaga was featured in the last of ten movements of this piece. I raptly read the album liner notes which described the subject featured: the witch Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga has been part of Slavic folklore from ancient times. As described by author Taisia Kitaiskaia:
“Who is Baba Yaga? We can begin with the facts. Baba Yaga is a prominent figure in Slavic folklore, an old witch haunting the fairy tales and woods of Eastern Europe for centuries, if not longer (like her ambiguous character, Baba’s origins are difficult to pin down). She lives in a magic hut, which has big, thick chicken legs and a mind of its own. A fence of bones and skulls guards the house. When she’s not hanging out in her hut, Baba Yaga goes on mysterious adventures in the forest, using a large mortar and pestle to get around. If her mortar drags on the forest floor, she’s quick to cover her tracks with a birch broom.”
Taisia Kitaiskaia has the credentials to be able to write about Baba Yaga. Here she describes herself:
“Born in eastern Russia, I spent the first five years of my life in the woods of Lake Baikal, and Baba Yaga lived there, too. I felt her among the mushrooms and berries and animals; I imagined her sitting in the dark of her hut, knitting something wily and strange. Around her head, she wore a kerchief, like any Russian grandmother, and she did feel like a grandmother to me—formidable and unpredictable, sure, but ultimately nurturing and wise. I trusted her to know all that there was to know. I admired her wild life in the woods. I wanted her near me always, setting an example, looking out.”
Taisia Kitaiskaia is an author who has written two books of advice given freely by Baba Yaga:
“From time to time, humans come to Baba Yaga’s hut—seeking shelter, a special object or person, advice. They find her when they’ve been cast out and abandoned, when all is lost. At this juncture, Baba Yaga can be villainous and hungry, even trying to push the person into her oven for a snack. Or she can be tricksy and demanding, putting the poor soul to work. Or she can be a guardian, giving over all the answers and an enchanted object to boot.”
Here is one example of the advice requested from and offered, by Baba Yaga:
“Dear Baba Yaga,
How do I connect with people on a daily basis in this ever-changing world? How do I know when it’s safe to engage with people I don’t know? I’m well adapted to city life, where ignoring others is an ingrained behavior.
BABA YAGA: All you mammals want, seals or bears or humans, is to squish yr bodies together, rub snouts in fur, be close to another’s warmth. . No mortal is different from you, very few want to hurt you. (How to tame a wild bear? Put out crumbs, lump of meat, rip of bread, with yr own living hand, until the bear comes closer. Every day, call out the beasts with little morsels : bring them the same things you like, nuts & jokes. Many cakes later, you may be less feral yrself.”
“Dear Baba Yaga,
My profession requires me to move often, and while I enjoy the rich variety of experiences and the relationships I’ve developed in each place, I often feel dislocated, fragmented. How can I preserve the best elements of my transient life while establishing and nurturing deep roots?
BABA YAGA: Trees cannot travel & Beasts cannot root, so you must become something in between: a Traveling Gardener of Many Trees. , After rooting a tree in each place; come back oftenly to water the tree, sing yr best songs to its sap, bury sweetmeats in the soil—and if you must be away for long, send messages & delicacies on a crow. Over years, you will be the Keeper of a secret, far-flung forest, though you look like a rover in the desert.”
Here is the web site from which I have harvested some of the above, and from which you can gather even more fragments of advice and real life experiences:
Not a bad find on this week approaching Hallow E’en! This could be an author to enjoy and learn from in the unknown future….