Who is Baba Yaga?

Baba Yaga is a character from Slavic folklore: a bony-legged, iron-toothed, long-nosed old hag who lives in a house with chicken legs deep in the forest. She is so linked to her house that in some stories they have grown together and become one being.

Baba Yaga appears in hundreds of folk and fairy tales and is a fascinating mixture of wise woman and fairy tale witch. Sometimes she helps the heroes of the stories, sometimes she challenges them, and sometimes she eats them. She is wise and wild and powerful. She can be terrifying and cruel, but also kind and compassionate.

Bilibin._Baba_Yaga
Illustration for Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin, 1899

Baba Yaga’s origins lie deep in Slavic mythology. She has been linked to several ancient Slavic deities including the Earth Mother, the Mistress of Birds, and the Goddess of Death. Her house, surrounded by a skull and bone fence, certainly suggests a boundary between this world and the next.

Vasilisa
Illustration for Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin, 1899

 

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