Unknown Date, The Road to Baba Yaga’s

10 09 2006

Unknown Date, The Road to Baba Yaga’s

The music of the

Island of
Ancestors, the voices of the women whose lives gave birth to my own, haunted me. I did not talk on the way back to the mainland. Anita Marie was sensitive to my mood and shared my quiet. I did not hear the tale of her decapitated friend, perhaps another time.

Bluebird Woman and Wren Woman were quiet as well. I spent the morning pondering the story my ancestor gave me, the retelling of the Creation myth of Genesis in language and order very different from the King James Version.

One of the few things I recall from college Anthropology is creation myths are vitally important because they provide the paradigm upon which the entire culture is based. I compared this new story with the old. The first obvious difference was the gender neutral language.

What would life be like if God were whole? The popular male god is diminished because half of itself is denied to exist. Male and female are both The HOLY ONE. To be blunt a skewed vision of god is a screwed vision.

But what has that to do with who I am?

Sitting on a stone bench in the shade of an apple tree, my thoughts drifted with the fluttering of sun between leaves. My thoughts flowed like water over stones. My heart opened like clouds of rain. And I just knew.

“I am created in the image of The HOLY ONE. I am loved by the ONE WHO MADE ALL. Because The HOLY ONE WHO MADE ALL THINGS created and loves me, I have worth simply because I exist.”

This is who I am. Beloved. Human. Valuable.

I sat until evening, basking in the all encompassing love of The HOLY ONE. I meditated on the identity of The HOLY ONE. Goddess. God. Neither. Both. Life giver. Life taker. Hope. Seasons turning and returning. Being born. Being born again. Immanent. Transcendent. Infinite. Eternal. Temporal. Ephemeral. Everything. Always. Everywhere. Everywhen. Ever within. Without beginning. Without end. This infinite power created me. This infinite heart loves me.

The song of my Ancestors swelled in my heart to flow out of my mouth. I sang until I could sing no more. I danced as I had never danced before, not the dignified, worship dance of the

Island of
Ancestors, but a jubilant dance of praise. I danced until I could not dance more. Then I sat still, resonating with the echoes of the Music of the Spheres, my heart pounding the rhythm of Creation’s Dance.

Bluebird Woman and Wren Woman came to me, holding out their hands and smiling. I rose and went to them.

“You know who you are.” Their happiness for me shone from their faces.

“Yes. I know who I am. I do not know my name; I do not remember who I was. But I know who I am.”

Wren Woman pulled a small hand mirror from her pocket. “Look.”

I looked. My hair was grown to my shoulders. It was the radiant copper of my ancestor. It was my hair and it was beautiful.

We sat in the garden to eat a simple supper. I sat on the ground between them. Bluebird Woman stroked my hair as we ate. They fed me apples, bread, cheese and wine, placing each tidbit in my mouth with their own hands. I lay my head on Wren Woman’s knee, exhausted and ecstatic. We watched the sun set and the moon rise, full of pregnant light as my heart was full of love.

Bluebird woman sighed.

“Dear one, it is time for you to go. You are wholly healed now. You can continue your journey.”

“Go?” I didn’t understand.

“Go.” Wren Woman was firm in her reply. “You need to go back over the mountains into the dark

forest of
Baba Yaga.”

“Baba Yaga?” The name was familiar, but I could not recall how.

“Baba Yaga is a hag, hagia, a wise woman,” Bluebird Woman explained. “Her name means ‘to know, to see, to foresee’ in Russian.”

“She’s a witch and dangerous,” snorted Wren Woman.

“Yes, that too,” agreed Bluebird Woman, drawling out the words as she thought them over. “Wise Women are dangerous, sometimes, if you aren’t honest with them.”

Bluebird Woman reached in to her pocket and pulled out a small doll. The doll was smaller than a coin, pale with dark eyes and rose-red mouth. Golden hair was crowned with a white lace headdress as Russian folk heroines wore. It wore shimmering white, moonbeams woven with gossamer. On her feet were gold slippers. She quivered when Bluebird Woman laid her in my palm.

“I give you this doll with my blessing. She will guide you, advise you. Feed her when she is hungry. Give her drink when she is thirsty. Keep her close and keep her secret. Ask her anything, and she will answer with truth. Plain truth, no oracles.” Bluebird Woman chuckled.

Wren Woman helped me to my feet. She gave me a bag. “Here. These are provisions for your journey. They will last you until you get to Baba’s.”

They walked with me up the mountain path to the peak.

“Well, here we leave you.” Wren Woman was matter of fact. “Walk at night and sleep by day, you cannot find Baba Yaga in the light.”

“How do I find her?” I asked.

“Just follow your nose. It is rather hard to not find Baba Yaga, even when you would rather not.” Wren Woman answered.

“Blessed be, my dear.” Bluebird Woman kissed my cheek.

Wren Woman hugged me fiercely. “Blessings upon you.”

With my little doll tucked safely in my pocket, a bag of provisions over my shoulder, I carefully worked my way down the mountain in the darkness.

I walked until day break. I found a venerable oak and climbed up into its gnarled branches until I was hidden away in a nook behind branches. I opened my pack and found wine, bread, cheese and oil. As I began to eat, I felt a quivering in my pocket. The little doll!

I pulled her out, apologizing profusely. Then I gave her bread and oil and a little wine.

“Thank you.” Her voice was clear and melodic, like water rippling over stones.

“You are very welcome.” I looked at her until she blushed. I apologized again.

“I must seem very rude,” I felt as if my mouth were full of marbles. “It’s just that you are so remarkable, so tiny and so perfect. I can’t help but admire you.”

“I understand,” the little doll murmured.

“Can you tell me about Baba Yaga?” I asked, eager to change the subject from my ineptitude to something more cheerful.

“Oh, yes,” she replied. “Baba Yaga is evil and ugly. She is ancient old, older than god, older than dirt. She is very tall, and bone thin. Her eyes are jet black, and her vision is very good. She can tell the difference between a she flea and a he flea at fifty paces. Hair grows out of her ears, but she can hear a snowflake fall. She understands the speech of every living thing, plant and animal, and things that are not living as well – the stones, water, wind and fire. Her nose is like the beak of a vulture, her chin pointed as a spear. She is gnarled and grey. She has never bathed and stinks of decay. What little hair she has is matted and greasy. Her hands are covered in warts, her feet with corns. Her fingernails are long and jagged. You don’t want to know what is encrusted under those nails. Her teeth are iron and spark when she gnashes them.

“Baba Yaga is a Black Goddess. She cannot die and cannot be fooled. She eats children and drinks blood. She commands the sun and it obeys her, she changes the stars in their course, she causes clouds to form in the air and makes it possible to walk on them and travel the country. She can transform herself into anything. She can turn herself into a young woman and then, in a twinkling of an eye turn herself back into an old woman. She likes to transform into toads, snakes, flies. She has to the power to turn people into animals.

“She travels hither and yon in a mortar propelled by its pestle, and covers her tracks with her broom. She travels freely over the world and gathers herbs and other things for potions. She casts spells, discovers secrets for blackmail. She is wise, and if she befriends you there is no better ally. If you offend her there is no escaping her doom.

“Her house is on chicken legs, it travels through time and place. It is surrounded by a fence of human and animal bones and skulls. The gate is latched with a skull clenching tight its teeth. Her cauldron boils in the yard day and night. To be sent to Baba Yaga is to be sent to your death.”

The little doll looked at me. “But you have faced her. You have died and been reborn. You have nothing to fear, as long as you treat Baba Yaga with the respect due an elder.”

The doll looked at me again, as if to gauge my soul. “Yes, you have nothing to fear. Respecting others, even the mean spirited, is imprinted on every fiber of your being. You will succeed. If you need help, I will help you.”

“I have faced her before?” I was staggered, as if the little doll had hit me over the head with a rock rather than spoke to me quietly.

“Yes, when you met Ereshkigal. When everything you were was taken away.”

“Oh.” I was tired and my head hurt.

The little doll looked at me with empathy in her eyes. “Be at peace. When you gave up everything you were, it left everything you are. Let us rest now. Night will be here too soon.”

“When do you think we will find Baba Yaga?”

“Tonight at the soonest, seven nights hence at the latest.”

“Thank you.”

I curled with in the tree branches as best I could, pondering what the little doll told me. At last sleep overcame me, and I had one more night of peaceful sleep.


Wendy Olson




5 responses

10 09 2006
Heather Blakey

This is absolutely extraordinary Wendy. The research and detail is brilliant and I was so pleased you could sleep peacefully with the knowledge that everything you are is what makes you special.

10 09 2006

Wonderful – I love the line ‘when you gave up everything you were, it left everything you are.’ How true.

11 09 2006
Anita Marie

Very Cool Read Wendy!
Anita Marie

11 09 2006

Excellent. Full of everything.

30 05 2007
Ariel Gill

Ahh, Dear One, Blessings of the Black Madonna and Baba Yaga flow forth and out into the Light. Star Sparkles all over you.
— Ari

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