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Who is Baba Yaga?

17. July 2009 by Gregg 0 Comments

Baba Yaga Witch

Baba Yaga is a figure in Russian and Slavic folk tales. Operating somewhat like the Boogeyman, or the Wicked Witch from Hansel and Gretel, the Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and many other characters that fit into the “Wise Crone” archetype in worldwide mythology.


Unlike witches in Western folklore, Baba Yaga was rarely depicted as flying around on a broomstick. More often, she would float around on a giant mortar, a bowl normally used for grinding plants and herbs. She also never lived in a gingerbread house, or a dark gothic castle. Baba Yaga’s home was instead a small cabin that travelled with her on giant dancing chicken legs, surrounded by a fence made of human bones. She was frequently accompanied by Horsemen wearing white, red and black that represented the Dawn, the Day and the Night.


Although usually filling the role of a villain in most of the old Slavic folk stories, kidnapping children and killing any heroes that crossed her path, Baba Yaga was sometimes depicted as a guide. She was often said to be wise and was frequently shown to have knowledge and powers beyond any other character, hero or villain, in Russian mythology. It was almost always dangerous to ask for the guidance of of Baba Yaga, as she was stricken by a curse that caused her to age with every question she was asked and had a tendency to kill visitors who were too nosy about her home and her powers.


Baba Yaga has appeared frequently in movies, animation and books that use the older Slavic myths as their basis. From her appearance as a villain in Bartok the Magnificent, the prequel to the Oscar nominated musical Anastasia, from the use of a giant castle precariously balanced on a pair of chicken legs in Miyazaki’s animated epic “Howl’s Moving Castle”, the story of Baba Yaga has touched and influenced popular culture all around the world.