8 Most Interesting Facts About Baba Yaga From Slavic Folklore

One of the most famous figures from Slavic folktales, Baba Yaga, has proven to be popular among those who see her as a symbol of female empowerment and independence. Sometimes, she helps and imprisons, but more often than not, she eats those that cross her path.

Yaga is often described as an “evil witch”. However, there’s no agreement on the use of this term. Yaga first appeared in a book about Russian grammar that was published in 1755 and she has been historically viewed as a trickster character, who helps transform individuals rather than the oral tradition of an evil witch.

One of the most well known folk legends comes from Vasilissa the Beautiful in which she freed from the tyranny of stepmother and stepsisters once Baba Yaga became involved. There are other tales about her such as The Frog Princess and The Baba Yaga and Kind-Hearted Girl where she was cast in a similar role. Many of her tales follow the Cinderella story, though, with a decidedly sinister twist.

Many literary characters, films, and television shows references to her character today, who brings wisdom and power as a way to society. Although she still maintains her sinister character, she is increasingly seen as an empowering force instead of being seen as a source of evil. Here we are discussing the notable facts about Baba Yaga from folklore and myths.

1 Baba Yaga’s is a Ugly Witch With Long Sharp Nose

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

Baba Yaga is usually portrayed as an old woman, who has a peculiar personality and lives in a round hut built on chicken legs that can rotate or relocate at will. This hunchbacked witch is typically seen lying across her stove or extending all the way out into the center with her nose touching the ceiling with one hand while holding a broom in the other. That’s when she disappears by using her mortar-like contraption to propel herself away with one of her hands while holding her broom as she leaves behind no trace of where she went.

2 Baba Yaga Is Purely Cannibalistic Witch Who Catches & Eat Children

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

According to one legend, she lives in a huge oak tree on an island in the middle of a dark lake. She catches children who wander into her territory, cooks them and eats them, and sometimes throws their bones onto the shores of her lake. Many people believe that if you want to avoid being caught by Baba Yaga you should stay away from forests at night, especially if there’s a full moon shining.

Baba Yaga is a mythical figure, and the story of her kidnapping children is meant to warn people not to disobey their parents. In the story “Baba Yaga’s Black Geese,”
When two children decide to go out and explore despite their mother telling them not, one of them is kidnapped and brought back home. The children found out their lesson about listening due to the novel’s magical items and moral lessons.

Baba Yaga is a fearsome Slavic monster who sometimes bears the title of “Wild Witch Of The Wood”.

3 She Is Also Called Baba Jaga

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

Baba Yaga in the Slavic languages is spelled differently. It is Баба Яга in Slovak, Баба Яґа/воровка in Ukrainian and Baba Jaga in Polish. The last three are also translated to Russian as Бáба-Ягá and Bulgarian Баблия-я ÁDä.

4 Baba Yaga Is Catalyst Of Transformation In Legends

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

However, in addition to kidnapping and eating children and being constantly on the hunt for them throughout the day, Baba Yaga also acts as a catalyst of change. There are a number of different stories where she acts as an agent of transformation, helping the heroine or hero help herself or himself towards self-actualization. The more creative tales often have Baba Yaga manipulating others with her magic so that they accomplish their goals. Baba Yaga represents the archetype of the trickster in mythology, who’s intent is to help the heroes even if it hurts them.

5 Baba Yaga Is Trickster Just Like Loki From Norse Mythology

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

Despite the trickster’s negative portrayal in some religious doctrines, the deity is often recognized as a disruptive part of society that exposes shortcomings and encourages change. The trickster was believed to be divine or an emanation from a high-ranking god who interfered in other deities’ lives and even humans, thanks to whatever reason or no reason at all. This event led to new levels of awareness for oneself and the world, most often with extreme highs and lows.

6 “Vasilissa the Beautiful” Is The Most Famous Baba Yaga’s Tale

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

A trickster Baba Yaga appeared in the story most famously told in the tale, “Vasilissa the Beautiful”. As she was growing up with her mother and father before her mother fell very sick and asked her to take care of her until she passed on, Vasilissa was given a magical doll so that she could remain independent and rely on it as if it were another closed person during times when she faced difficulties. The doll continued to help throughout Vasilissa’s life, but everything changed when her widowed father married a woman who made herself physically attractive to earn power. With her two daughters, without considering his new wife’s responsibility towards any children, he started to ignore his love towards Vasilissa. For guidance and company when things got incredibly difficult for her, Vasilissa found solace in using the doll until help arrived through more conventional methods.

When Vasilissa seeks a husband, her stepsister’s mother refuses to let her date until they do so. To accomplish this, the stepmother sends Vasilissa on a number of errands and Haunted woods in hopes of getting rid of her.

Here, in this forest outside of witch grandmother’s hut was a patch of green grass with a small cabin-like structure on chicken legs. Old Baba Yaga lived in the house and ate people who came near it. Vasilissa’s stepmother tried sending her into the forest hoping to make her cower before the witch herself, but every time she got out of danger and back home, her stepmother was more agitated by how well she did.

Finally, she arrives home to ask for fire, and she sees three horsemen galloping past: a white rider bringing the dawn, a red rider bringing nightfall but with twilight in tow, and a black rider bringing darkness.

Near the hut were human bones with skulls covering the top of the wall. There was a gate that was made from the bones of human feet and had teeth on it too. As Vaskissa watched, she felt terrified at what lay ahead as limbs and leaves rustled behind them and broke off trees groaning. Baba Yaga flew out of the woods in her mortar.

The old woman, Baba Yaga, asks why the girl is there and agrees to give her fire if she does a job for her.

Vasilissa is summoned by Baba Yaga to a strange world and tasks her with various chores until she earns the right to ask questions. Vasilissa completes her chores, asking increasingly disturbing questions as she goes, until finally Baba Yaga reveals more of the story.

Vasilissa recognizes the threat implied in Baba Yaga’s commands and only questions the riders. She further enrages the witch by asking how she is able to handle all the tasks.

She runs into a woman on the path, who warns her that her mother’s blessings are no longer enough to protect her and asks her to leave.

The witch Baba Yaga sends her home with a gooey, smoldering skull that has been brought in from the forest to burn the evil stepmother and stepsisters. This skull containing the fire burnt her foes (stepmother and stepsisters).

Eventually, Vasilissa takes her doll out of the house and becomes an expert seamstress. She gains the king’s love from being such a skilled craftswoman, and they are now married.

7 Baba Yaga Lives In A Chicken Legged Hut

Baba Yaga Hut with chicken legs

A cabin that looks like an ordinary construction popular among hunter-gatherer nomadic people of Siberia and Tungusic families is actually a tale of a witch. There is no way in or out of this cabin because it’s not built with windows or doors, which was probably done to protect stuff from animals. It’s made from logs or magical chicken legs grown at just the right height. The only way in or out of this cabin is a trapdoor that is between the floor.

The smaller huts used by the ancient Slavs to hold their figurines of gods were similar to the one often described as the hut of Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is a female witch or just like pagan deity who can be found in Slavic folklore, and doesn’t have enough room to fit her legs in her house. It is believed that deceased Slavs cremated relatives of the household in huts like these.

8 Selfish Witch Leaves Away From The Civilization

Baba Yaga from Slavic Folklore

A Slavic witch, or Baba Yaga, rejects what society expects of her. She lives away from civilization in the woods and even rejects society herself. A Slavic witch serves as a reminder to those who wander into the woods. If you go too deep into the woods, Baba Yaga will eat you.

Since Baba Yaga is an anti-social villain that constantly sets herself against the norms of society, she is interesting to many people. At the heart of it, she also represents a reminder for people not to stray too far from safety.