This article will be covering the Russian Baba Yaga story – one of the most famous witches in Slavic folklore. Was she a real entity…or nothing more than a figure in children’s fairy tales?
Let’s take a closer look…
Baba Yaga’s origins are completely shrouded in mystery. She was first mentioned (in written reference) in Mikhail W. Lomonosov’s Russian Grammar, which was published in 1755.
She is considered an ancient figure from Slavic tradition that probably began in pre-Christian, pagan times.
When cut down, her name can mean a variety of things…
Baba can be translated as ‘an old woman’ or a ‘grandmother’ in certain Eastern European countries. Yaga can mean ‘horror’ or ‘shudder’ in Serbian and Croatian, ‘anger’ in Slovenian and ‘fury’ in Polish.
What is Baba Yaga?
She is described as a deformed old witch with bony legs, a long sharp nose and teeth made out of iron.
She is said to live deep in the forest inside a strange hut that has long legs that look like over-sized chicken legs (yes – you read that correctly!).
This ‘hut-on-legs’ is designed so that it can move around the forest the witch inhabits – making it near enough impossible for people to locate the witch.
The windows of the hut are placed so that they act as large eyes for the witch – wherever she is in the forest she can scan across her whole domain.
The fence that surrounds her hut, is said to be made out of human bones and is topped with human skulls.
When the hut/house is commanded to move – it goes into a spinning motion and then glides over the forest floor. When it is in motion it is said to make a nightmarish screeching sound.
Slavic Witchcraft and The Baba Yaga
There are various versions of the Baba Yaga legend throughout Eastern Europe – she is usually described as being one witch, or one of a trio of witches.
When she leaves her forest hut, she travels the forest areas in a large mortar – using a pestle as a rudder to direct the mortar.
As she travels in this contraption, she holds a broom in her spare hand, to wipe away any evidence of her tracks and her journey.
She also has the power to separate her hands from her body to use them as ‘minions’ to do her bidding.
The Baba Yaga has unique wisdom, truth, and knowledge – if you want to experience this knowledge you need to complete several tasks for her.
If you fail to complete these tasks, and fail to escape her…she will cook and eat you.
Hansel and Gretel
One of the most famous folklore tales involving the Baba Yaga closely resembles the story of Hansel and Gretel.
In it, two children stumble upon her magical hut in the forest, and are not allowed to leave unless they complete a series of tasks. If they fail at these tasks – the old witch will cook them in her large oven.
They manage to complete the tasks with aid of talking forest creatures, a tree, and a gate.
Another famous story that involves this famous Slavic witch is about a young girl, named Vasilisa, who is lost in the forest at night and is looking for firelight.
After completing several near enough impossible tasks, Baba gives her a fire in a skull lantern and lets the young girl return home.
The Russian Baba Yaga Story
The famous witch is known to possess many contradictory qualities – she is omniscient, and she is either ruthless and vile, or beneficent and kind.
She is also thought to have the power to contact mother nature and control her elements.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the Baba Yaga witch, please leave them in the comment section below.