Thursday, August 9, 2018

Baba Yaga Folk Lore Part 5

Rebecca Tran

In the previous Baba Yaga folklore posts, I focused on Baba Yaga and her servants. If you missed those posts you can find them here parts 1, 2, & 3. In my last post (part 4), I focused on Baba Yaga's recent rise in popularity and how younger generations are learning about her through movies and television shows.

For my last post in the series, I wanted to change gears slightly and focus on a figure more awe-inspiring than Baba Yaga. I’m sure you’re wondering who could possibly be more interesting than Baba Yaga. Just to give you a little clue Baba would probably bow before her. Who is this woman? Her name is Marzanna, and she isn’t exactly a woman.

Marzanna is a goddess with many names varying by country. Her specific role as a diety varies by region as well. In the Baltic and Slavic regions, Marzanna is known as the goddess of the death of winter, the rebirth of spring and of dreams. Marzanna has a complicated past that involves a tragic love story. While I haven’t been able to find the whole tale, I did manage to get a shortened version.

Marzanna fell in love with then seduced the sun god Dazbog. When Dazbog tired of Marzanna, he moved onto another. She, however, didn’t take it very well and poisoned Dazbog. In retaliation, Dazbog banished Marzanna to Nav, the Slavic underworld. In this story, the Slavs believe that Marzanna pulls Dazbog into her embrace all winter long and only releases him in spring.

Most traditions agree on her role as a goddess of death, but other traditions state that she wasn’t always so. In Slavic, folklore, Marzanna was once the goddess of fertility and life. Soon after she wilted into an old, ugly, evil, crone. It was probably soon after Dazbog’s jilting.

Other darker traditions, such as those from the Czech’s believe she is the Goddess of sorcery. Some scholars compare her to the Greek goddess Hecate. German and Slavic folklore associated Marzanna with nightmares and pestilence. Even her name in some Russian dialects means ‘hallucination’ ‘vision’ or
‘phantom.’ Words like these strike fear into one’s heart proving that even Baba Yaga has a reason to watch her back.

Traditionally Marzanna is portrayed as an old woman with pale skin, long dark hair,  and sometimes has the claws and fang of a wolf. Some legends go as far as comparing her to Germanic demon “Mare” who would sit on victims’ chests until they suffocated during the night. Those who weren’t afraid of her would see her as a beautiful maiden.

To ensure good harvests straw effigies of Marzanna are carried through the street to a designated body of water to be drowned. The drowning of the effigy symbolizes the death of winter allowing spring to come again band the cycle to repeat. The sacrificial drowning of Marzanna symbolizes the defeat of winter. Many local people believed this practice was essential to a good harvest. After the effigy of Marzanna is drowned the participants return to town with copses made of flowers. They are usually decorated with ribbon or eggshells and handmade decorations. Traditionally these copses were carried by young girls as they went from house to house singing, dancing, and wishing them well. All of the latter activity was a simple fun way to welcome spring.

I hope you enjoyed learning about one of the few people Baba Yaga should be scared of. In my next post on August 15th, I’ll share another fun tale about my spoiled dog Mango. Then on August 30th, I’ll give you a sneak peek at my new book Sweet Surrender.

You can find Marzanna in my novelette Magic Always Has a Price

Vasalisa Fenenko Danilovna is a normal 21-year-old college student. So far life is better than she planned. Vasalisa has parents who love her, straight A's and she's dating the school's star soccer player. There's just one little problem. Vasalisa's a witch who foretold the death of someone she loves.

This does not have a HEA

I am a mother, pharmacist and author. I write fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal romance. I love all things related to books and writing. I am a huge nerd who loves Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and Dr Who. Ten was my favorite. If you would like to learn more about me or my work please visit my page or my website .

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