Baba Jaga is something of an outsider in the world of the mythos. Not a goddess, more a witch, she seems to have no matching counterpart in any other legends around the world. She is of Slavic descent, represented as a very scary old crone with a wealth of knowledge and tricks to get you motivated to take inspired action. If you fail, she will eat you! Her hut walks on a rooster’s leg – she devours living things – children mostly. She is constantly hungry and her cauldron is always steaming, the fire that heats it up is eternal. So is she. Killing her brings her back to life.
Baba Jaga appears in hundreds of folktales and her origins are as old as the history of storytelling.
Forest is her domain, animals venerate her, and in that sense, she is a Wild Woman, a Woman of the Woods, a Forest Witch.
She travels in a mortar, a pestle is her rudder and a broom sweeps away the tracks behind her. Baba Yaga is always testing the people who wander into her hut, whether by chance or by choice. At times she can become a teacher, she decides on a case-by-case basis whether she will spare the visitor, or kill him.
Baba Yaga does not owe allegiance to the Devil or God or even to her storytellers. In fact, no two encounters with her are the same, no two lessons ever repeat, and each time you meet her, she will bring in you fears you haven’t faced yet. Perhaps her angry voice and life-changing teachings are more needed today than ever, as she seems to be making a bit of a cultural reemergence.
Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés interprets the story of Baba-Yaga in her seminal work on fairy-tales, Women who Run with the Wolves. She wrote:
To my mind, the old Russian tale “Vasalisa” is a woman’s initiation story with few essential bones astray. It is about the realization that most things are not as they seem. As women we call upon our intuition and instincts in order to sniff things out. We use all our senses to wring the truth from things, to extract nourishment from our own ideas, to see what there is to see to know what there is to know, to be the keepers of our own creative fires, and to have intimate knowing about the Life/Death/ Life cycles of all nature – that is an initiated woman.Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Working with Baba Yaga
Working with Baba Yaga can be transformative and a powerful experience. In my opinion, there are three very distinctive reasons to work with her.
- Baba Yaga is the keeper of eternal fire, therefore she can be helpful when your own inner light, energy and hope are depleted. When you’re in the dark night of your soul, when you exhausted all options and there’s just no end to the darkness, Baba Yaga can guide you to find the light. She can warm your spirit up by giving you practical advice, and a step by step guidance. If you wish to spark creativity, move on from a creative block, or tap into the inspiration that lasts, she can be a very helpful hag indeed.
- Baba Yaga doesn’t belong to the Underworlds and heavenly realms, she is very much an earthly being, a wild woman of the woods. She is very connected with animals and probably prefers the company of wild creatures over that of people. So if you need to reconnect to your true nature, and tap into your wild desires and long-buried passions, she would be delighted to take you on an adventure into the dark corners of your inner woods. She will expect from you nothing less than full devotion to the tasks at hand, as that’s the only way you can recognize your true purpose and cut away from the appropriateness of the organized world that keeps you chained to shoulds and needs.
- Baba Yaga in my opinion is also a great Witch to guide young girls, as she is teaching that trusting your Intuition will keep you safe, prosperous and victorious. In the age of constant bombardment of shallow social media posts, where the pictures of ‘happy’ and ‘pretty’ things are never what they really are, trusting an inner self might be tough for a young woman. Teenage girls that resonate with the story of Vassilisa who has to face the terrifying Baba Yaga, might find themself lost in the material world, bullied, neglected or confused. Baba Yaga shows them how to trust their intuition, that gut feeling, and assures them that by staying loyal to that inner voice, they will find happiness, loyalty and love.
My three favorite ways to connect to Baba Yaga.
- Baba Yaga Tarot Spread. I confess, this is not my original idea, but how great that others do this work too so we can all benefit. I have modified the spread slightly, but the credit goes to Tarotpugs.com, run by Stacey (Stasya) & her two pugs, here we can connect to the wisdom of the old witch by laying 7 cards spread as follow:
- What kind of healing do I need at this time?
- What steps are required to heal myself?
- What words of advice, wisdom or guidance do I need to hear at this time?
- What do I need to let go off and let die in order to bring the transformation that I need?
- What fears do I need to release?
- What supports me at this time?
- A final message from Baba Yaga – possible outcome.
- Baba Yaga as an Oracle . The following image of Baba Yaga and the meditation comes from my beloved Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky, illustrated by Hrana Janto. Read the Poem as well as the meaning of the Wild Woman card, and then try this amazing meditation.
I walk in the forest
and speak intimately with the animals
I dance barefoot in the rain
without any clothes
I travel on pathways
that I make myself
and in ways that suit me
my instincts are alive and razor sharp
my intuition and sense of smell are keen
I freely express my vitality
my sheer exuberant joyfulness
to please myself
because it is natural
It is what needs to be
I am the wild joyous life force
Come and meet me.
Baba Yaga (pronounced bah’bye’yegg-ah), Slavic bireth-death wild Goddess, rode about on a mortar – an extremely hard bowl used with a pestle to grind grain, nuts, et cetera. Her ways were fierce and wild, dep and penetrating, and could be interpreted as grinding away that which was extraneous. Baba Yaga’s house stood on chicken legs and danced about. Her time of death was autumn, for she was the life force present in the harvested grain. In Russia, this Goddess was transformed into a witch who lived in the forest and ate children.
Meaning of the Card
Baba Yaga flies into your life in her mortar to help you nurture wholeness by getting in touch with your wild woman. It is time to reconnect with the natural, the primal, the instinctual. It is time to shake out your hair, your body, and shake up your life. Have you banished your wild woman to the dungeon? Have you chained her, muzzled her, caged her, lest people find out you are not nice, neat and clean? Free her! You need her. That wild woman is part of your joy, part of your vitality, part of your creativity. She is you and you need every part of yourself in order to dance wholeness. Baba Yaga says it is most important for you to learn to integrate your wild woman because an unintegrated wild woman creates self-destructive behaviour. The wildness is there and needs to be expressed. It is your choice whether to express it creatively or destructively.
Ritual Suggestion: Retrieving Your Wild Woman
Find a time and a place when and where you will not be disturbed. Sit or lie comfortably with your spine straight and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and release it with a sound. Take another deep breath and release it with a hum. See, sense, or feel the image of a tree. It can be any tree, one you have seen before or one that exists in your imagination. Take a third deep breath and, as you release it, stand before that tree. Walk around the tree. On the other side of the tree you see a huge opening in the trunk. Step into that opening. Once inside the tree, feel yourself sinking. Down, down, down you go, travelling inside the root of the tree. It feels safe and comfortable and you surrender to the sensation of floating down, down, down. As you reach the end of the root, you find yourself on a slide that takes you right into the Underworld, where you land on a soft cushion.
It is time to call your wild woman. You can whistle or howl, chant or sing, dance or play music to call her. When your wild woman arrives, thank her for showing up. Ask her for what you need. You may not know what you need, but she will and she will give it to you. In return, she’ll ask you for a gift. Giv her what she asks for with an open heart. Now ask her if she is willing to come back with you and be part of your life. She says yes and you hug her, and as you do, you feel yourself and the wild woman merging, becoming one. You feel a sense of being augmented, strengthened, expanded. You feel a surge of vitality and joy.
Now it is time to come back. Return to the tree root. Sense yourself floating up, up, up, feeling refreshed, energized, renewed revitalized. Up, up, up until you reach the inside of the trunk of the tree. You step out and take a deep breath, and as you release it return to your body. When you feel ready, open your eyes. Welcome Back!
- Motanka Doll Baba Yaga. Lastly, the most powerful way to meet your Wild Woman is by making a doll that will serve as a guide, and talisman and might bring you all that you need and desire.
I use the old traditional technique of dollmaking from Slavic countries like Russia, or Ukraine called the Motanka Doll. In this creative approach, we get to hear the story of Vassilisa who is on the path of healing and understanding her own power. She is guided by her intuition represented by the doll – a gift that her mom gave her before she died. While we make the doll, we enter a dialogue with our higher self, and with the right intention, we might be able to uncover unseen and hidden truths and set free that which is no longer serving our well-being.
To learn more about this technique, you can join us for a life class in person or online.
I hope your journey to meet Baba Yaga is full of healing, adventures, and wisdom.
May your Wild Woman set you free.