“She’s dangerous because she can see things in an uncanny light. She knows human nature as it really is. She’s one of your mothers, she’s my mother too.”
-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD (on Baba Yaga)
When I was a child, Baba Yaga lived on my grandparents fire escape. Now that they have relocated to the spirit world, I’m sure the old witch has moved on, to haunt some other little girl and generally keep an eye on things.
“If you don’t finish what’s on your plate Baba Yaga will eat you up”
“If you’re a bad girl, Baba Yaga will know. She can see near and far.”
In the night, I would run past that window in terror of the things she could do. Eater of little children, flying around in a mortar and pestle, she had the power of fire, of medicine, and of death. When she wasn’t perched on that fire escape in Brooklyn, she made her home at the edge of the borderlands between life and death. Her house was built on chicken feet that could turn in any direction, giving her omniscience. She can occupy many places at once, being magic.
Having only one childhood, and nothing to compare to - I didn’t know that Baba was such an obscure figure. She takes center stage in Slavic folklore and fairy tales, and it is good to understand her value in this world. I think that Americans could use a woman like Baba Yaga.
If you encounter her, she may eat you, put you to work, or give you advice. Do what she asks, and you will be rewarded. She demands that you rely on your intuition when traveling in the borderlands or by fire escape. Don’t be fooled by her ugly toothless face, or her age. Her birch boom can sweep away her own footsteps and can help you remove obstacles.
Why is she dangerous? She’s able to fly, she can pick up and move herself. She doesn’t act her age. She doesn’t accept no for an answer. She has a circle of skulls around her house with flames coming out of their eyes. Sometimes we are in need of fire and she holds the flame. Sometimes she withholds the flame.
If I could go back to that apartment right now, I would ask her for help. Even if I had to accomplish a merciless task, even if I risked being eaten.
I would ask for a little more righteousness in this world, and protection for all of us, but especially young girls. I would ask her to teach us humility and stewardship for this land that we borrow from our children.
Would you risk everything to meet her? And if you encountered her in a quiet forest at night, what would you ask for? If you do encounter the Yaga, be prepared to answer her questions. Are you running toward the truth at the center of the forest, or are you running away from something that is chasing you?