Baba Yaga

[Gimbutas, M. (2001).  The Living Goddess.  Uni. California Press, USA].

Baba Yaga – known in Russian Folkore = witch, ogress, or crone goddess.

Ancient Slavic goddess – of death + regeneration. Slavic folktales – mainly Russian – lives in nocturnal darkness, deep in woods, far from men. Folktales – consistently depict her as an evil old hag who eats children, also as a wise, prophetic old woman.

She is tall, bony-legged, pestle-headed in appearance, long nose, dishevelled hair.

Baba Yaga

The Russian witch Baba Yaga at the Uglich Museum of Russian

Myths and Superstitions. Source: Public domain.

Bird = primary animal image, but can turn instantly into a > frog, toad, turtle, mouse, crab, vixen, bee, mare, goat, or inanimate object.

Never talks. Either flies (in a fiery mortar), or lies in her hut, on top of the oven, on a bench, stretched from one end of the hut to the other. The hut – supported on bird legs, able to turn on its axis. The hut = Baba Yaga herself.


Baba Yaga’s Hut by Thomas Denmark. Source: public domain.

Linguistic analysis = reveals prehistoric characteristics. Yaga – from Proto-Slavic (y)ega = disease, fright, wrath. In Old Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovene – correlates with Lithuanian verb engti (strangle, press, torture).

Early form may be borrowed from the Proto-Samoyed nga = god, or god or goddess of death. Slavic etymon baba means grandmother, woman, cloud woman (a mythic being who produces rain).

Baba Yaga = avian nature = archetypal vulture and owl goddess of European prehistory, personifies death and regeneration. In Russian tales – eats humans like a pecking bird.

East Slavic areas – male counterpart = Koschei Bessmertnyi – Koschei the Immortal. Derived from kost = bone. Therefore – dying and rising god – cyclically dying and rising god. Koschei – Baba Yaga = his mother or aunt.

[Rjabchikov, S. V. Some Remarks on the Scythian and Samatian Religion. (1.10.2010)].

Hut – Baba Yaga = 4 legs  27 rays = solar sign. Old Indian ‘hut’ = to shine, to be bright. Russian = hata = hut.

Tabiti = Scythian/Sarmatian goddess of the sun, fire, hearth. This “…corresponds to the characters  Baba Yaga ‘The Old Woman Yaga’, Rozhanitsa ‘The Woman Bearing’, and Makosh (Ma kosh) ‘The Solar Transport Army’ in the Russian mythology.” [Rybakov, B. A. (1987). Yacychestvo Brevney Rusi, Nauka, Moscow].

[Rjabchikov, S. V. The Scythian and Sarmat ian Sources of the Russian Mythology and Fairy Tales. 1.10.2010].

Baba Yaga – corresponds – Scythian goddess Tabiti. Baba Yaga (Old Indian yaga = ‘sacrifice’ = closely related to the fire god Agni. Agni – major role Indo-Arian mythology (Neveleva, S. L. 1975.  Nauka, Moscow).

Baba Yaga – roles = donor, abductor, female warrior. Therefore – hint of Sarmatian women or Amazons.

Baba Yaga – main attributes = fire and horse. Prepares youth for marriage, and burning or boiling of children. She is a sun goddess. Her features = hearth, initiations, connected to the winds and has no husband.

Tabiti = goddess of hearth and home. Depicted on a gold badge – barrow = Chertomlyk. In May the goddess is called Makosh (Ma kosh) = solar transport.

Therefore “…the Great goddess depicted on Old Russian fibula and in the Slavonic art is indeed Makosh (Tabiti, Baba Yaga).” [Belyakova, G. S.  (1995).  Prosveshchenie, Moscow].

[Warner, M.  (1989).  No Go the Bogeyman].

Baba Yaga – the predatory witch – special liking for children. A definite and individual figure. Woodland cottage on chicken’s legs. Flies through the air in a pestle and mortar. Sweeps her tracks with a besom.

Thus – Baba Yaga; Old Hag Yaga = a crone. Fences her domain in forest with bones and skulls of her victims. Snapping teeth on her door as a lock. Hands bolt it, human limbs support it.

Sleeps on an oven at night. Therefore – close cousin of the witch in the gingerbread house of ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Clever children trick her into doing mischief to herself.

Yaga – term disputed > Slavic for ‘grudge’ or ‘brawl’. Baba Yaga – by no means always malignant.

Baba Yaga has witchy traits – in nursery lore often stands in for female ogre. Can take the form or shape of a birf, cat, simple old woman.



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