Senior Project: Baba Yaga
In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is an old witch living in the dense, unpopulated forests, far from towns or even the beaten path through the trees. Her hut stands on chicken legs in a clearing fenced in by bones. She flies through the woods by day in an oversized mortar and pestle, and at night she sleeps in her hut. She threatens to eat hapless travelling children, and with that fence of bones, who’s to say she doesn’t?
This is what most people are used to when they picture Baba Yaga:
Creepy, grumpy old lady flying around the dark places in the forest. However, I wanted to go beyond that. After all, my project is all about looking at the human aspects of these characters and the ways they would have interacted with the world.
For Baba Yaga, this meant peeling back the layers to find the woman who survives on her own in a time when just living outside of the town was bad enough, but being a solitary woman was even worse. To live on her own like this, she must have possessed a great knowledge of the plants and herbs of the forest, and being an herbalist, she would seem to possess the powers of life and death.
The text that I drew from to analyze Baba Yaga is Vasilissa the Beautiful, which I read in annotated form in SurLaLune Fairy Tales.