Baba Jaga Archaic Cave Grandmothers of our Shamanic Past

phaistos-disc-with-womans-face-1

By Phoenix of Elder Mountain ~ In Slavic and some Balkan folklore, there are many stories of Baba Yaga, the fearsome one, the one so powerful she see’s the hideousness in others, and this makes it far too intense to look upon her. And she has a nature to match this power, which is closest to mother earth. She is also known to devours Demons with her iron teeth as a Black Shaman and the shadows of others. You see, those who feared the old ways, reversed everything she was, she was one who hunted demons, but her power was too great, so the fearful projected her as the demon.

Now people accept the tame and dishonored version through fairy tales but her folklore in Slavic villages, although still beloved, her part is played by men in condescending ways (a joke), but those of us who remember, we never accepted such lies of powerful grandmother chiefs of the Slavic and Balkan Tribes. I dedicate this story of Baba Jaga as the same story of the Dark Goddess, the Black Shaman, the Black Madonna, the Bone Mother, Death Mother, Cave Grandmothers and the eldest of the moon cultures before the sun began to rise 2,000 bce.

BABA JAGA / BABA YAGA SYMBOLISM

Origin: Archaic, Cave and Prehistory Shaman
Cultures of woman, up until the 13th Century;
Age: Elder, Grandmother, Chief;
Goddesses: Slavic Goddess Marzanna / Morena (Baba Jaga);
other culture names are many, Lilith, Hecate, Hel, Kali Ma;
World Names: Baba Jaga, Baba Pehtra, Baba Roga, Baba Percht,
Black Madonna, Bird Shaman, Crone Witch, Baba Den, Jezi Baba;
Season of Power: Night which means: Autumn – Spring Equinox;
Sacred Birds and Animals:  Owl, Raven, Thunderbird, Alkonost,
Wild & Domestic Cats, Deer, Pheasants, Chickens (eggs) and Firebird;
Colors: White, red, and Black, Herbs/Flowers:  Patchouli;
Moon Phase: Full Moon to New Moon
Astrological Sign: Scorpio

Fiana Sidhe explains: “Baba Yaga is a very misunderstood Goddess. She is not just the stereotypical wicked witch. She often appears as a frightening old hag, but can also appear as a beautiful woman who bestows gifts. She is wild and untamed but also can be kind and generous. Even in Her haggard form, Baba Yaga has many gifts to share. Baba Yaga is the powerful female elder who guards The Waters of Life and Death. She is the White Lady of Death and Rebirth, and is also known as The Ancient Goddess of Old Bones.

Bone Mother destroy us,
then resurrect us, even as the
earth from which we have our being
is born and resurrected each year.

Collects our whitened bones, pour
the Water of Life and Death upon us
and whisper your magic songs.
Thus, having died, we my return.

The old bones are symbolic of the things we cling to, but must finally let lie. When we experience a death, darkness, depression, or spiritual emptiness in our lives, we journey to Baba Yaga’s hut, where She washes new life into us. She collects our bones and pours the waters on them, while She sings and chants and causes us to be reborn. She destroys and then She resurrects. Baba Yaga symbolizes the death of ignorance. She forces us to see our true, darkest selves, then She grants us a deep wisdom that we can attain by accepting the dark shadows within ourselves.

We can only receive help from Baba Jaga by learning humility. Her gifts can destroy or enlighten us.”In some stories she sleeps stretched out on her ancient brick oven, which she also uses to cook her meals, including demon people that she catches. She does not seem to bother with those who caste judgment upon her. Her modes of travel is of course dream travel, astral travel, and never leaving a trail behind her, she sweeps away all traces of her path, that was the only thing a broom was every used for. It is also rumored that she can fly through the air in the same manner not even in dreams but as a divine one.

She lives in a cottage or hut in the forest to be close to mother earth who she has direct contact with in a lineage over 2 million years old of a tradition. The legends of the spinning around as it moves through the forest or standing with its back towards a visitor and when approached,  is really that the magical powers of Baba Jaga is so strong that it awakens the nature around her and opens portals.

ANDREI LIANKEVICH, PAGAN 4
Belarus, Pagost village (Minsk, the capital).  © Andrei Liankevich

She has an incantation: “Hut, hut, turn your back to the forest and your front to me”. It spins around with blood-curdling wild screeches and creakiness and eventually comes to a stop to face the visitor, where it will lower itself down on its chicken legs and throw open its door. Its windows are sometimes described as its “eyes”. In some stories she has two older sisters, who are also called Baba Jaga, just to confuse you, which is just the triple goddess of old, (her stage as maiden, mother and now wise grandmother shaman) so don’t let that fool you either.  Baba Jaga’s maiden stage is Vasilissa the Beautiful.

Although she is mostly portrayed as terrifying, she can also shape shift into the role of a helper and wise woman and looks quite loving. Like all forces of nature, she to is often wild and untamed, and because of this she can also be kind. Her freedom comes not from duty, nor men but from mother earth, and the man who has called her a witch, did not know the difference between a witch and a shaman and either do many witches, but regardless, witch was a word that stood for ugly and out of issues of control, projecting the ugliness of control onto Baba Jaga.

Baba is the true sense of a balanced elder woman, as healer she expresses love to community, and as a powerful woman in both the mystical heroines roles, she has a pure heart. The hero or heroine of the stories are often the crone’s (crown or wise grandmother elder) searching for wisdom, knowledge and truth. There’s also an incantation to be said to Baba Jaga, the hero must say:

“Hey you old woman, first you satisfy my hunger then you satisfy my thirst then let me wash myself in your banya (sauna) then let me sleep in and then you ask me anything”.

grandfathers time

Usually Baba does as the hero pleads her as she is the Guardian spirit and keeper of the fountain of the waters of Life and of Death and the Forest Spirit in both the elder woman and young maiden ages. Baba Yaga rules over the elements and her realm is the forests of all the Slavic lands including Russia. Her faithful servants are the White Horsemen, the Red Horseman and the Black Horseman which are the also the Colors of almost all Slavic folk dress colors

When Vasilisa the Beautiful asks her who these mysterious horsemen are she replies: “My White Dawn (Spirit or Birth); my Red Sun (Menses Blood or Life); and my Dark Midnight (Death and Rebirth)”Among those who honor her, in her divine dark goddess or shamanic form, whom she calls “her soul friends” and whom she is reluctant to discuss with visitors are the three bodiless pairs of hands, which appear out of thin air to do her bidding. In older teachings, Baba Yaga is the Primeval One or the Primordial Arch-Goddess, Goddess of wisdom and death, the oldest wisdom on mother earth and the oldest teachings who belong to the grandmothers or (bone mother).

ereshkigal

Thus that is how she in the very end became Baba Jaga, the ugly one, and lost was her respectful Black Shaman and Bird Tribe leadership in Natures Culture (which is now returning as religions begins to die in their seasons of death or the great shift its called today).

Pre-History
As more and more burials are revealed on earth, finding burials of prehistory shamans seems to be showing up lately, and you will find many of them are women, although archeologists tend to down play their roles as powerful leaders, powerful spiritual leaders and powerful shamans, we learn the other sources from scholarly woman, female shamans and powerful mystic women.

As the researchers believe, “The interment rituals and the method used to construct and seal the grave suggest this burials of an ancient shamans are ones who are also leaders. One of the earliest known graves from the archaeological record is the elder or old woman in question who was buried with ten large stones placed on parts of her body meant to keep it in a certain position, indicating her status was the highest within the community of the Middle Eastern Natufian Tribe.

“The burial of this woman is unlike any burial found in the Natufian Tribe or the preceding Paleolithic periods. We argue that this burial is consistent with expectations for a female shaman’s grave,” shared the specialists. Along with her body, a series of items was placed in the grave, such as whole tortoise shells, as well as body parts from a  leopard, an eagle, two martens. Tortoises, cow tails, eagle wings, and fur-bearing animals continue to play important symbolic and shamanistic roles in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide today and it seems that woman was the greater number of shamans around the world.  It seems that the woman in the Natufian burial was perceived as being in a close relationship with these animal spirits.

Baba brings wisdom and death (just like the wild nature does) and through death, comes rebirth. Behind her story is the figure of the primeval pre-pagan shamans of death and rebirth, whose harvest holds the promise of winter survival and new growth in Spring. The “old woman” of Slav inhabitants of Eastern Europe. Baba passed into Slavic folk legends by Religion who hated woman having spiritual and healing powers, and then began to call her a witch (meaning evil) to destroy elder women and grandmothers wisdom of the Moon Cultures.

orthodox qoute

Kochamy Baba Jaga, We Love Baba Jaga, волимо Баба Јага, Baba Jaga milujeme, Biz baba Jaga seviyorum)

“Baba Jaga’s Tale’s are before time, before religion, even before dinosaurs. Her rivers are the harvest, the deepest rest (sometimes called death),  thankfulness and cycles. Her symbols are corn sheaf’s, wreaths of wheat, corn, rye and wild flowers. This Lithuanian/Russian/Polish Goddess of death and regeneration is typically represented as woman and her power. The world does not like powerful bossy grandmothers and women, and thus like most dark goddesses she was judged harshly, seen without wisdom and immortality. But they were wrong, like nature, always returning, she too has returned, only when the world needs her most.

She is the Alkonost, and the Phatasmagorical and she is women who are not afraid of the shadow yet live a sacred life. As both young and old, she reawakens in us an awareness of a time when time never existed, but nature and her ever-moving wheel of life and seasons, signify as women, our centered power of truth and an ally of natures magic.I know first hand this life, it is treacherous, full of judgments by others, a dark night of the soul for lifetimes, a sorrow and grief that comes from the inner world, not an outer one. Yet when her initiations are completed, she and this life’s fate is self affirming, entering the dimensions of mother earth and the old grandmothers of the caves and forests throughout all no-time – have witnessed all births of souls over and over.

autumn slavic

She is the ultimate destroyer of shadow souls of living human beings (incarnated) and the judge of humans who sell their souls and the destroyer of the middlemen of soul bargaining. Baba Jaga knows her clan as those who can shape shift into Thunderbirds and Firebirds. The pagan and indigenous souls know her as the owl – as a warning to stay away from divinity that does not sell its soul for anything. Following her traditions won’t make you well liked by any human but without her, karma can never be repaid from any lifetime. Those who do not honor her power this lifetime, will the next.  Thank you baba jaga, baba yaga, we older souled Slav’s honor your dignity and kindness and your warrior skills all at the appropriate moment.

Dea Phoebe says: “So, while she is certainly a dark Goddess, a death Goddess, and may even seem ‘wicked’ in ways, Baba Yaga is hardly the villain of her stories and she is not a nice or a civilized Goddess like many who try to fit every goddess into Venus clothing. In the story of Valalisa the Wise, triple Goddess imagery repeats throughout – in Valalisa and her doll’s white, red, and black clothing, (colors traditionally associated with the Maiden, Mother, and Crone,) in the repetition of threes throughout the story (three colors, three enemies in the stepfamily, three riders, three tasks, three questions, three pairs of hands) and in Valalisa, (the maiden beginning her journey), her mother (who has given Valalisa gifts to guide her), and of course, in Baba Yaga as the crone.

As a denizen of the deep forest, Baba Yaga is the wild aspect of the psyche, what Estés calls [in her book Women Who Run with the Wolves] the Wild Hag or the Wild Woman —not the gentle grandmother that bakes you cookies and tells you stories, but the stern grandmother that might just smack your rear with a spoon and tell you to smarten up! She is not pretty to look at, and she represents the deepest mysteries of death. No wonder she has a reputation!

dark goddess

Besides the villages in the Slavic lands where men now took over and dressed as her in Village festivals and rituals since the 13th century, Baba Yaga returned into the general public as a fairytale in the late 1920s and by the 1970s she was a component of many ’70s art-cinema oeuvre, Valentina (Isabella de Funes) is a popular fashion photographer who works as much as possible in all strata of society. In her journey and mingling she comes across an older woman named Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker of How the West Was Won/Baby Doll), who takes a shine to her in a more than friendly way.

Valentina says her pleasantries and moves along, thinking nothing of this encounter. Soon enough, Baba Yaga visits Valentina’s studio to drop off a doll for “protection” and to check out the place and it’s inhabitant.  Valentina’s life starts to get crazy, and it all stems from Baba Yaga’s visit and strange manner. Will she escape? What exactly is going on? Why are there Nazis? All answers in due time.

Baba Yaga, the film attacks about a dozen major fetishes of ’70s European art film directors all in the span of about ninety minutes. We get sex, violence, fascism, revolution, hippies, revolutionaries, women’s liberation, and S&M all in that time frame. Much of the run time is devoted to Valentina’s decline into what she believes to be madness, but is, in reality, a spell cast by Baba Yaga. I won’t divulge any specific plot points, but suffice it to say that Yaga’s interest in Valentina is more than friendly.

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36 thoughts on “Baba Jaga Archaic Cave Grandmothers of our Shamanic Past

  1. Reblogged this on The Bending Moment~Charolette Stoehr and commented:
    While living in Bulgaria, I was thrilled to participate in exchanging Martinitsa. Red and white yarn braided into a bracelet or made into a small doll shape to represent Baba Yaga. It was the Spring tradition to give Martinitsa to your friends and family who wore them on their wrist or pinned to clothing until a budding fruit tree or a stork was seen and then you tied it to a tree branch. The Martinitsa’s were for sale on every corner and I stopped to buy some coming out of the super market. As I walked away with my purchase from a young man, his mother came after me and handed me a larger handmade Martinitsa shaped like a woman and her son translated a blessing from her to me. It was a heartfelt moment in strange and sometimes scary land. Baba Yaga was present.

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  2. Stretching back even further, her association to the big cats, deer and corvids hint to the pre-history Goddess we see in the Guennol Lioness and the plethora of sacred big cat images. Hunter-gatherers worshiping the apex predator who they might steal a carcass from if they treated her with respect. She fed them after taking her own prize share (what we now offer as sacrifice) but she could take their lives too. The eternal struggle between the deer/prey and predator is a perfect metaphor for the Goddess who both gives/nurtures life and takes it. The messenger corvids leading the way to the kill. These interconnected signs cannot have been lost on our ancestors but I suspect that this morphed over time and cultures to become the Baba Yaga we know now.

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  3. This post is like a deep well! Thank you! I tell stories of the Baba Jaga here in Australia and have dug deeper and deeper into her tradition. She is very like the Cailleach of my Irish ancestors tradition. They are definitely kin. Like the Baba Jaga, the Cailleach’s story has be suppressed and distorted over time, but more and more women are returning to those stories and drawing from them. Wonderful to connect with you here. Thanks for all your nourishing work!

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  4. Thank you so much for creating this blog. I have enjoyed reading new information & deep insights into Baba Yaga, & look forward to reading more. I’m really inspired to learn more about folklore and magic from this part of the world…

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  5. I saw her in a dream state. she was sitting in the dark bowl of the earth. Her head covered in the massive head of a wild animal.. bear/ buffalo? She was not evil but she appeared as the ancient healer and fierce. Her head was bowed and her arms were opened wide and she was holding a great vast boundless space. I sat within her for a long while and then she let me go. She still haunts my dreams…I didn’t know who she was until I read this story.

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  6. I am actually nicely surprised of this article. Very good! Baba Yaga is unexplored subject, however, I can add some more details: Baba Yaga is known across the whole Slavic world, not only the Lithuanian, Russians and Polish. She is also the final stage of the Mother Goddess’s three-stage faces as it was mentioned in the article – the Maiden, the Young Women (with its three personifications – the Bride, the Mother and the Whore) and finally – the Grand Mother. The Slavic mythology reflects very old believes, where the spiritual world is ruled by the women (although the head of the clan is usually an old man) and in the context of Baba Yaga’s personality, you may also wish to take a look at ‘samodivi’, samovili’ etc. women’s demons personifications, which give different aspect of the understanding of the Mother Goddess. I love the idea of Baba Yaga being a shaman because it make sense in many ways. Love it. Thank you

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  7. May I simply say what a relief to uncover a person that genuinely knows what they’re talking about on the net. You definitely understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people have to check this out and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.

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    1. Thanks Dave, what a nice thing to say, for 30 years as a shaman I have only had people throw daggers at me when i opened my mouth, so the silence of listening all these years comes out in my entry to Elder stage, I guess you can say, I have paid my dues and life was not going to let me do what my peers had done all these years – which is talk without ‘experience’ – I am all experience and now i talk1

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  8. A few weeks ago, a Sister shared this link with me, but i didnt click through. It wasnt time yet… even though it brough back memories of a Russian Fairy Tale book my Ukrainian grandmother gave me when i was no more than 4 or 5 years old. Baba Yaga terrified me at the time, and i donated the book. I dont remember it before or after, but rather, at the point when my mother asked me if i wanted to give it away. Yes, i did.

    Flash forward some 40 years.

    I experience a spontaneous shamanic initiation. I learn that I am Old Norse third gender/two spirit Ergi. I learn that this IS a part of my indigenous cuture from when the Old Norse were in Eastern Europe. I struggle because coming from Slovak and Ukrainian heritages, I dont have a culturally appropriate name for what I am… and knowing that this was inherited through my paternal bloodline, I cant find words for Ukrainian shaman.

    I learn that I am a darkworker. That Kali is one of my patrons. And that people dont like it when I use my voice. And it’s not just opening my mouth that creates offense… it seems to be the very fact that i *exist* . It would be decades before i understood the value and importance of the outcasting.

    This morning, I awaken, the morning after my 50th solar return, to find that Occupy Menstruation on facebook has shared your blog on Carpathian Shaman, the Molfar and the Whisperers. It is the first thing I see and … I’m stunned. Just yesterday I told the universe i was looking forward to the advent of the crone… and … now she is showing up. (Be careful what we wish for..no? 🙂 )

    The Carpathian article has given me so much to work with— I am blogging about its relevancy to my path and what it is opening up for me. I carry strong phoenix (and peacock) energies… and the street I live on is ASHLAND… nope, nothing there at all…

    This long comment is to THANK YOU immensely for your work, for enabling me to recapture a part of my shamanic cultural context. I have no doubt that this was delivered in Divine timing. I thank you for helping me find my way home. May I please have your permission to link to and quote your content in these two works of yours, giving appropriate credit, of course?

    Kind regards,
    Andi

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    1. Wow Andi, what a beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing, I can say my path has been similar, I am the light side of the dark yin medicines, the shamanic woman (yin), except my first shamanic initiation was at 4 years old and didn’t end until 2012, a 50 year long mysticism, animist, shamanic initiation and very deadly, but I made it and have heaven now, the light side of the light and the light side of the dark! I embraced baba jaga very young, to me she was just the real “black madonna” (polish) and my birth name even means black madonna hehehe, but I honor them as one, I honor all things excepet real demonic and shadowy, as a slayer i have to be very focused and clear – but Baba Jaga, aas they are just the cave grandmothers who I attribute to the core of Baba Jaga – also read the Carpathian Shaman article

      No child should have ever been placed in the elder grandmothers lap (of the black madonna), but it was by christian men and thus that is when the folktales of the elder women swallowing and eating babies and children started, it was a rebellion from the shaman grandmothers for their corruption by religious power, and undoing the stories is just as important as learning the stories, I am so glad you connected and we are probably about the same age, please do stay in contact and hopefully maybe someday we will meet! Baba Phoenix (Northwest, Ashland)

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  9. I am a budding shamanic practitioner and a pagan polytheist – or rather, growing into one. There is a lot of Norse Traditions in my practice, but my roots are slavic, I came from Ukraine. In the past year,, quite a few spirits and wights have approached me, but I am trying to piece together who is who, and what is what… I want to be careful. There are some decisions I won’t be able to take back.

    I am deeply drawn to Baba Yaga. Last year, I performed a ceremony during the crying moon to let go of some painful past memories, and she came to me. I distinctly felt her presence, studying and judging me. I stood with my face and heart open, unafraid and honest. This is my way. She did help, but ever since I can feel her, watching and deliberating through the trees, considering in taking me into service to her. Your text above only confirms it, because there have been visions of owls in my lines, that other spirit workers have encountered.

    I have heard some things about working with Baba Yaga, that she is a harsh task mistress (I do not know what that means). I made an offering to her and told her that I am not ready as yet to come into service to her. I am not… I am too new and too fresh to this practice, and I need to fully understand the weight of my choices before making them. But I am deeply drawn to her, to her character, to her knowledge, and to her spirit. I find her harsh, tough, and loving, caring at the same time. She is the grandmother who feeds you and then smacks you on the head for making stupid choices, I think.

    I have read all the folktales about her since I was little, but there is such little actual information on how to conduct rites and rituals to her, and what she is like. There are so many shamans working with deities like Odin where its a snap to find info, but with her – there are a few books, but I have so far found NO FIRST HAND ACCOUNT OF A SPIRIT WORKER WORKING WITH HER. AT ALL. Any advise, knowledge, and information is greatly appreciated. Does she pick at specific ancestral lines to work with, is this why perhaps she is considering me? I work with the plant world very naturally and you write that she is the mistress of the forests – could this be related? What are her likes and dislikes? What does she look for in pupils/followers/spirit workers? Most of all – DO YOU HAVE ANY CLUES TO HER REAL NAME? I speak Russian, its my first language, and baba is a reference to her age. Like almost any God or Goddess, Baba Yaga is her title, not her name. Yaga sounds like a nickname for a deep dark forest, the kinds you find if you make the trip deep into the north of Russia. The kind where as they say “no human foot ever touched the earth”.

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  10. A owl was calling me, took me time to find out that Baba Yaga is calling me back to my witchcraft which I abandoned for no known reasons. Thank you for this article! I added the color blue to one of her colors. Blue is the color of the rose she asks when you calling her for help….

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