Thursday, July 12, 2018

Baba Yaga Folk Lore part 3

Rebecca Tran

In my earlier posts I told you that Baba Yaga was a witch from Russian and Slavic folklore and that she was always described as an old crone. Last post on I talked about her role in folktales and looked at the story of Vasilisa and Baba. If you missed my earlier posts you can find them here Post 1 & Post 2.

Today we will discuss Baba Yaga's house and servants. While Baba herself is powerful and feared she also has servants that are just as terrifying for petitioners to deal with. For the most part, Baba Yaga seems to want to keep it that way too. Even asking about her servants can get you killed.

No matter what version of Baba Yaga you read her house is almost always the same. She lives in a
cottage in the woods surrounded by a fence made of the bones of her victims. Her house has the legs of a chicken so it can get up and move at Baba's will to make it harder to find.  Only the small details of the house change some say there are no doors or windows or that a door appears with a magic phrase. While others say the windows serve as eyes giving the house a feel of self awareness.

Traditionally Baba Yaga has six servants: three horsemen and three sets of disembodied hands.

The white Horseman is said to represents the day or more specifically the dawn or morning. The red rider represents the sun or mid day. The black rider represents the night. In Vasilisa the beautiful Baba Yaga tells Vasilisa the riders cannot harm her. Baba however gets angrier the more questions she is asked about her servants. Vasilisa doesn't push her luck and stops asking questions after the black horseman.

There is a bit of an argument about the horsemen. Some argue that the horsemen aren't men at all.
That they are merely representations of the passage of time in physical form that Vasilisa can see. Others take things more literally and agree they are horsemen bound to Baba by some contract or favor owed. Another argument says the horsemen control those times of day and if Baba controls the horsemen she controls that as well.

Not much is said about Baba Yaga's hands. Most references mention the disembodied helpers in passing. Baba calls them her soul friends and they do her bidding whatever it may be. It is implied that Baba's whims can be rather cruel and dark in nature however one story I listened to had a soul friend stirring a cooking pot. The soul friends were a taboo subject that not even Vasilisa the beautiful dared ask about. It's one of those things we'll never truly know about.

Join me on July 26  to see how Baba Yaga is making a reappearance in popular culture and on August 9 I will wrap up the series with a special post on Marzanna the goddess of witches.

If you liked this post you'll love Erika Szabo's posts on Mythology found here.

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