Now unless you are familiar with Russian or Slavic folklore you perhaps haven’t heard of the downright scary Baba Yaga. Described as a haggish witch-like creature, Baba Yaga flies around in a giant mortar using the pestle as a rudder and sweeping away her tracks with a broom made of silver birch.
Her main past time is kidnapping young children (who said take-away dinner was a new invention?). Her log cabin house-o-horrors stands on dancing chicken legs, surrounded by a palisade with a skull resting atop each pole.
Now, if that isn’t enough to keep you from stopping by for a visit (remember curiosity killed that poor puddy cat) – the keyhole on the front door is filled with razor sharp teeth. Baba Yaga doesn’t go in for the whole white picket fence look either. Instead, you’re met with a fence made of human bones, with spaces ready for the skulls of those who try to “hero” her out of existence.
One myth does allude to a magical phrase that must be uttered before admittance is granted: “Turn your back to the forest, your front to me”- so hopefully, you wouldn’t do a Hansel and Gretel and end up in the cooking pot through pure blunder.
In some tales her little horror hut is also connected to three horsemen: one in white, riding a white horse with a white harness, who is Day; a red rider, who is the Sun; and one in black, who is Night. Baba Yaga is served by invisible servants inside the hut. She explains the riders if asked, but may kill a visitor who inquires about the servants. Amazingly, there is some good press for poor old Baba out there.
Other tales actually describe her as a force of guidance – there are some stories where she does help with people’s quests. The overall warning is that seeking her help is still a mighty dangerous act – who knows what payment she will extract in return? Emphasis is placed on the need for proper preparation before you even think of seeking her out – and a purity of spirit and minding your best manners. It is said Baba ages one year for each question, so the price must be high. She can reverse the added years with a special blend of tea made from blue roses.
Baba Yaga has had her story retold over and over in not just old folk stories but the modern media as well. She appears in the following comics: Uncanny X-Men, Sandman and Hellboy. She also scored a hefty role in Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment, Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm series and the Primeval: Extinction Event novel by Dan Abnett. [Kim Wilkins's Rosa & the Veil of Gold features a pretty terrifying Baba Yaga sequence, too-Ed.].
So my advice to you- if you ever wander upon a house in a deserted forest- RUN. You never, never know.
MUSIC: The Hut of Baba Yaga – Mussorgsky
When Baba's cooking, pass on the borscht!