Baba: Please Don't Eat Me!
Looking at the cultural differences of this popular fairy-witch and how she can be used as an ally in your own craft.
“Behave, child! Or Baba Yaga will eat you.” Russian parents have been saying this for centuries. Baba Yaga or “old hag” is a famed Russian fairy who lives deep in the woods inside a little hut made of bones.
A cannibal, this lady is often heavily referenced in horror films, fantasy comic strips, and popular novels. But, hey, just because she eats humans doesn’t mean she is a bad person…right?
Though the main story about Baba is told through the eyes of parents wanting to get their naughty children to behave, there is so much context that is lost and so much wisdom within the spirit of this fairy.
A fairy by nature and a nature by fairy, Baba Yaga is said to be the ruler of the forests, woodlands, and any other earthly place in the world. She loves those who advocate for the health of the woodland. She hates those who jump on the bandwagon of advocation for a healthy environment for their own greedy, selfish needs.
But is she really all that bad considering that she has also been known to protect children, not just eat them?
Sometimes we look at the scariest creatures in the world and automatically cast them out as “demons” or “ugly fiends.” The truth of the matter; humans can be quite shallow.
As the old saying goes; we tend to get scared of what we don’t understand.
(There’s nothing wrong with that, you know. It’s a human defense mechanism that keeps us safe from potential danger. Never feel ashamed of feeling human.)
There is also nothing wrong with wanting to know and learn more about what we don’t understand. I relate this to Baba Yaga. She is such a misunderstood fairy that I think it’s time we clear up some of the spiritual “rubbish” about her.
First off, old hags are special characters in every culture. From the Czech’s Jezibaba to the Welsh’s Cerridwen, both have been mistaken for Baba Yaga. Not as nice as Jezizbaba but not as vindicative as Cerridwen, Baba is someone who is willing to be your ally.
She is known to protect children from evil stepmothers and she is also known to help you overcome your adversaries. Her fairy magic is able to transform, inspire, and heal.
Unlike her counterparts, she is able to command animals and objects. Her little hut, or Izbushka, is her sanctuary and she uses bones to signify her territory. The bones, in my opinion, symbolize not her victory over human or mankind, but rather her magick.
In some magical cultures, like forms of Paganism, bones from animals are used in rituals, spells, and invocations. Today, some choose to use the bones of dead animals to honor them and to awaken the animal’s spiritual energy. These animals are not killed or sacrificed by human means but rather meet a natural or other cause of death.
We can learn from Baba Yaga that everything, no matter how scary, has meaning. That meaning helps us to learn and grow just like a birch tree in the forest. In this way, we can look at Baba Yaga as our ally.
Invoking her in times of uncertainty or unknown, she will be there to help us take a bit more control over our emotions and guide us to understand the deeper meaning of circumstance.
It may be scary to recognize her as an ally during tumultuous times because who really wants to think about suffering?
But suffering, for many of us, is inevitable. For those of us with deep hearts, suffering is also tangible. We can use it to create something beautiful. Baba Yaga, can help us with that.
So, the next time you take a walk in the forest and hear the faint sounds of singing, think of Baba Yaga tending to her skull garden - she might just let you inside her hut for some Kvass!