Updated: Dec 21, 2020
“People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend.
“For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” —Kahlil Gibran
From Skye Alexander’s “Your Goddess Year“
Dates for Inviting Her: Nov 27–Dec 3
As the sun continues its descent into darkness, we recognize the Russian goddess Baba Yaga, who appears in folklore and fairy tales as a rather frightening character linked with death. Her home in the deep forest symbolizes the secret place where shamanic wisdom and hidden truths lie, waiting for us to bravely seek them out, as well as the isolation of winter when we metaphorically look within and face our fears of death. This week, we honor her and the annual season of endings, solitude, and decline that precede renewal.
Like other winter goddesses, Baba Yaga is linked with darkness, decay, and death. And, like many such deities, she’s depicted as an old woman. Russian folklore portrays Baba Yaga as a cruel and bloodthirsty hag who lives in the forest and dines on children. According to some stories, she lives in a hut perched on huge chicken legs and surrounded by a fence made of bones and skulls. Baba Yaga uses a unique form of transportation to get around the forest: a mortar and pestle, in which she grinds herbal medicines and the bones of her enemies.
Folklore says Baba Yaga had two older sisters and three mounted horsemen who accompanied her and did her bidding. Swarms of shrieking spirits also followed her on her journeys, whipping up ferocious winds. Prior to the advent of Christianity, which demonized many powerful goddesses and female spirits, this frightening deity occupied a position of respect. The mortar and pestle in which she rides identify her as a healer. Her ferocity symbolizes all that is wild and primal in nature.
Old myths called her Mother Time and said she knew the secrets of the Other Side. Baltic lore describes her as a wise elder who guards the Waters of Life and Death. Like many winter goddesses, she represents the necessity of death and destruction before rebirth can occur. We see this idea in a Slavic folk belief that a woman who ate the last grain from the harvest, known as the “baba,” would give birth when springtime came.
Baba Yaga shows you how to confront the dark places inside you without flinching. If you’re struggling with inner demons, she’ll give you courage to stand up to your fears and to rout out obstacles that are interfering with your progress. During times of isolation or loneliness, Baba Yaga teaches the value of solitude in your search for wisdom. If you’re experiencing a death, symbolic or physical, she’ll guide you through the transition and share with you the secrets of life, death, and rebirth. You can also call upon this fearless and formidable goddess to provide protection in every area of your life.
Baba Yaga’s forest represents the unknown, the hidden parts of your psyche, and what Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön calls “the places that scare you.” Walk in the woods and sense the power and mystery that exist there. Embrace the ancient wisdom of the old trees.
Call upon Baba Yaga to lend her fierce power to this herbal protection amulet. She’ll help keep you and your home safe.
Dried basil leaves
Garlic, fresh or powdered
A mortar and pestle
A black silk, cotton, or leather pouch (optional)
1. Put the herbs and garlic in the mortar and pestle and grind them into a powdery mix.
2. While you work, state a protection affirmation you’ve composed to Baba Yaga; for example, “My home is protected by the goddess, and I am safe and sound at all times and in all situations.”
3. Envision yourself surrounded by a ball of pure white light, then expand that ball to surround your home. If you wish, you can add the herbal mixture to a soup or stew—but remember to save some for Baba Yaga.
4. As you eat, sense the goddess’s energy filling you with strength and courage. (Alternately you can fill a black pouch with a teaspoonful or so of the ground herbs that you’ve reserved.)
5. Then hang the pouch on the inside your front door or sprinkle the protection herbs on to your doorstep to keep harm at bay.
6. Finally, offer the remaining herbal mixture to Baba Yaga. Take this to a wooded spot and pour it on the ground, beneath a tree.
7. Thank the goddess for her ongoing protection.
photo by @the_clary_sage