Third and Fourth Day at Baba Yaga’s Hut on Chicken Legs, Deep in the Dark Forest

12 10 2006

My third day began as the second, rising with the birdsong before dawn, drawing water and heating it.  Baba Yaga flapped out of her bed cupboard, giving me my instructions for the day.  Today I was to dye the thread in every color of the rainbow, in every intensity and shade, in exactly equal amounts.  No indoor tasks today, I was to prepare soil for a garden all along the bone fence.  I was welcome to shear the sheep and prepare wool for my knitting, should time allow.  Don’t forget to mill the flour to make the bread.


Then Baba Yaga was off in a flurry of rags, pestle and broom.  My little doll and I shared oat cakes and honey, fruit and tea, before starting our work.  She saw to the dyeing of the thread, and gave me a plow the size of a thorn. 


I lingered to watch the red knight saunter past, bringing a rosy dawn.  I plowed until the white knight trotted past, bringing a blue sky of midday.  By then I had turned the soil along the fence breaking clods into fine, rich soil; free of tares, roots and stones.  The soil felt like cool satin under my bare feet. 


When the Black Knight thundered past on his steed, bringing Baba Yaga in his wake, the kettle was hot, table set, bread hot out of the oven, and I sat on a stool by the fire knitting away.  My doll had surprised me with the softest of lambs wool dyed all the colors of the rainbow gradually blending into each other.  She also gave me a pair of knitting needles carved from hard oak, and a split oak basket to hold my work.  The wool was soft in my hands, like cloud, and softening to my hands by the lanolin in the wool.


Baba Yaga said nothing, which I understood to mean she found no fault with my work.  We ate; I cleaned away the supper dishes, swept up.  Baba Yaga puffed her pipe and scowled at the fire.  I knit contentedly, lost in a world of rainbow soft wool. 


“Still no questions for me?” 


Baba Yaga’s question startled me out of my reverie.  “No,” I answered. “I am too tired and too content to ask questions.  The question I am trying to answer is ‘Who am I?’ but that is not a question anyone can answer for me except me.”


I was quiet for a moment.  “I’ve never been curious, never one to ask why or how or what for.  I like to discover things, in books or by observation on my own.  I never ask personal questions, preferring to let others share themselves at their own discretion, in their own time, in their own way.  Here, in your domain, I see many things I don’t want to wonder about or know more about.  Still, I am grateful you are so willing to answer any question I might have, Grandmother.”


Baba Yaga snorted.  “Asking you if you have questions does not imply I will answer them.”     


I sat by the fire and knit until my eyes drooped shut.  I think, but am not sure, that Baba Yaga led me gently by the arm and supported me in my stupor to climb my ladder.  I don’t remember curling under my blankets in the nest of my wool stuffed mattress.  But I do remember my dream.


I am sitting at my loft window, looking out at the night.  Silver moonlight spills over the landscape, changing it to fairy land.  The wind makes music in the trees, through the grasses, through the reeds along the murmuring river.  Deer, rabbits, and other creatures are frolicking in the meadows beyond the bone fence.  Bats swoop through the sky, black dancers on graceful wings.  My heart pulses in time with the music of the night wind.  I hear the wind whisper, “Dance with me.  Dance with me.”  Without realizing what I am doing, I rise, stepping out of my window into the air.  But I do not fall.  I am whisked away like thistledown in the arms of the wind.  We waltz through the sky until the birdsong of morning awakens me.


I am disoriented and confused.  The dream was so real, just a heartbeat ago I was dancing in the arms of mysterious lover, now I am solid and still in my bed in a loft.  Stranger still, my feet throb as if I had been dancing all night.


Yawning I climb down my ladder, wincing as my feet bear my weight on the rungs and support me on the wooden floor.  Baba Yaga is awake before me, she sits smirking as I draw water, heat it, and prepare her a breakfast.  She seems to enjoy my limping about on tender feet.  Today she is in no hurry to fly away.


“Today I want you to plant the garden with every herb and flower known by a name, any name, by every people in the world.  Use seedlings or seeds or grown plants, but do it.  Arrange them by their medicinal virtues.  Set up the looms for weaving.  Mill the grain for bread and bake it.”


I nodded, struggling not to yawn.  Baba Yaga sauntered away, well after the Red Knight on his red horse.


I brought out my little doll, declining to have any wine, as I was sleepy enough already.  She brewed me a strong, bitter beverage that helped me perk up.  She spat on my hands and set me to work on threading the looms, and she began work on the gardens.


We finished by midday.  I stopped to wave at the White Knight trotting past.  He did not acknowledge me in any way, but I sensed I was recognized. 


I slept in my loft until late afternoon, waking in time to set the table and lay out the viands my little doll had prepared before the Black Knight galloped past drawing down the twilight.


Baba Yaga whisked in with the dark.  The evening passed as the evening before, Baba Yaga asked me if I had questions, which I did not.  I went to bed before I was stupid from exhaustion. 

That night I had the same dream, dancing in the arms of the wind through the moonlit meadows and woods, across the sky, over the sea.


When I woke I was stiff and sore, though less so than the day before.  And there were leaves in my hair with an elusive scent, one I remembered from my dream.  Do we smell in our dreaming?


I dressed and climbed down from my loft, preparing tea and stewed fruit to top our morning porridge.  Baba Yaga instructed me to weave cloth today, in patterns never before seen anywhere on earth, using all the thread I had spun and dyed.  Of course gardening and housekeeping were assigned as well. 


My little doll spat on my hands again, and I began to weave.  “Think of everything that gives you pleasure, and simply weave.  What you make will be as unique as your fingerprints, as the iris of your eyes.  I’ll take care of the drudge work.”


And so I wove, humming to myself, dreaming of dancing with the wind, of the feel of my yarn in my hands as I knit.  I thought of the sweet wine and fresh bread, of honey and ripe berries.  I conjured back the memories of my grandfather and the smell of his cherry tobacco.  Other faces came to mind, at each image my heart leapt in recognition.  I knew these were people I loved.  I thought of the Knights of Red, White, and Black, their nobility astride their magnificent horses.  I thought of colors, of loving, the scent of spice, the darkness of pine forests, autumn mists rising form woodland lakes…


My thoughts wandered, from peaceful scene to peaceful scene.  I hummed as I wove, singing snatches of half remembered songs.  The rhythm of the shuttle was as the purring of a cat in my lap, soothing and enchanting me. 


By the time the White Knight rode past, slowing to nearly a stop, I was finished.  I spread the cloth out on the ground, admiring its beautiful patterns and colors.  I wrapped it around me like a sari, and began to dance and laugh and sing.


Baba Yaga arrived home early, while I was spinning in whirling ecstasy wrapped in my cloth.


“You are finished.  Fold up the cloth and bring it in to me.”  Baba Yaga entered the hut on chicken legs as one to the manor born.


I slowly unwound the cloth from my body and folded its kaleidoscopic beauty into a neat bundle.  Slowly I walked to the hut, wriggled myself inside and stood.  I held out my beautiful cloth to Baba Yaga.  She grabbed it and threw it into the fire.


I gasped and sprang to the hearth to retrieve it, but it was too late.  The fine wool cloth burned quickly, and I burned my hands for my folly.  My hands stinging from the flames and eyes stinging from tears of shock and grief, I sputtered out my first question, “Why?”


Baba Yaga’s smile was twisted.  “Ah, at last, you have asked a question!  I might answer you, but first you must answer a question for me.  How is it that you, a mortal, can complete the tasks which not even I, an immortal, could complete?”


I remembered Bluebird Woman’s admonition that Baba Yaga accepted only the truth, and my doll’s warning she could not be fooled with a lie.  “Bluebird Woman gave me a little doll.  I feed her and give her drink, and she helps me.”


Baba Yaga erupted with fury.  “You despicable little cheater!  Leave at once!  Go, get out of my sight!”


I glimpsed my little doll at the edge of the doorway and grabbed her as I ran past.  Baba Yaga threw coals at me as I ran past.  The gate flew open letting me free.  I ran as if my life depended on it, as perhaps it did.  Baba Yaga did not give chase.  At last I fell breathless, weeping, under an oak.


I felt the tremor of my little doll in my pocket.  I pulled her out, and gave her a crumb of bread from my pocket, a drop of water from a dewy leaf.


“What happened?” I rasped, between pants for air.  “What was wrong?  I did everything she asked of me.  Why did she say I cheated?  She never prohibited me from having help…”


“You didn’t cheat.  Baba Yaga has given you a gift.  Let’s get up into the tree and sleep.  Things will be better in the morning, and you will be able to think better then.”


So we spent the night in the tree, or at least I think we did.  I remember falling asleep, and I remember looking at the stars glimmering through the leaves of the oak.  The wind stirred the leaves gently.  I heard Wynd whisper, “Dance with me.  Dance with me.”  Strange, the mysterious dance partner did not have a name last night…


I gave my hand to the air and was swept away in a waltz, until I awoke in the tree to the music of birdsong, stiff and sore.


The little doll helped me find wild edibles for our break fast.  We drank at a gurgling streamlet, bubbling up through wintergreen from the earth.  Nothing ever tasted so refreshing. 


We walked along, the stiffness working itself from my body.  We came to a hot spring and I bathed in the sulfur heat, thinking of Baba Yaga and what gift she had given me.  My little doll sat by my head, combing my hair.


“Can you give me a hint?”  I asked, half serious and half teasing.


“Yes.  Baba Yaga knew I was with you all along, because I am a part of her as she is a part of me.  We are both faces of the Goddess.”

That clue did not help, except to reassure me that my little doll was honest saying I did not cheat.  But if I did not cheat, why had Baba Yaga say I did cheat?  My little doll said she gave me a gift. 


So I listed what I did know.  I completed everything Baba Yaga told me to do, and completed it well, with out cheating but with the help of my little doll which is a facet of the Goddess, as is Baba Yaga.  Yet, Baba Yaga was not satisfied and sent me away.  She burned my beautiful cloth, and my knitting was lost to me as well.  I wanted to pout.


“Why did she burn the cloth?”  I asked my little doll.


“To trick you into asking a question.  As long as you did not ask her a question, she could not ask you a question.  She knew all along you are reticent to ask questions, especially if you are afraid.”


That seemed more than I knew about myself.  But my little doll was right; I was timid to ask Baba Yaga questions.  She is dangerous, after all.  I did not hesitate to ask any question of my little doll, for she was so loving and helpful.  Still, I knew asking her what the gift Baba Yaga gave through her inexplicable behavior was a question she could not answer.  Somehow I knew the answer was linked to the fundamental question: Who am I?


Soaking in the hot water, feeling the in and out of my breathing, the soothing brushing of my hair, the sound of the water and the music of small birds, I was lulled into the land between waking and dreaming.  The in-between place where answers lie waiting.


I remembered myself as I was, trying to be perfect so that I might be worthy of love.  And failing, for I cannot be perfect.  For Baba Yaga I had been perfect, and still was discounted.  If perfection made me worthy of love, Baba Yaga should have loved me, not rejected me.  My little doll loved me without asking perfection, willingly helping me to succeed. 


So what is the gift? 


Perfection, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with my value.  I deserve love simply because I exist.  Those who make performance conditional to loving me do not love me.  Love accepts the beloved with out demanding they meet expectations.  I can let go of trying so hard to measure up.  I can accept myself and my best efforts as good enough.  I can choose to love those who cannot love me.  Gratitude welled in my heart to Baba Yaga, and to my little doll.


A saying rose in my mind, and I spoke it aloud.  “You like someone because, you love someone although.”


“Yes,” whispered my little doll.  “You understand.”


Second day at Baba Yaga’s Hut on Chicken Legs, Deep in the Dark Forest

6 10 2006

The first trills of the morning birds woke me.  I dressed and descended my ladder with dignity this morning.  I started the fire in the hearth, and fetched water from the well for tea, before Baba Yaga emerged from her cupboard over the fireplace.


She snorted when she saw me. 


“Follow me.”


I trotted behind her into the yard.  “Besides spinning the wool into thread, fine thread, mind you, I want you to re-thatch the roof, re-stain the timbers and whitewash the walls.  Clean the chimney as well. I expect it completed by my return. Bake the bread, too, but today you will have to mill the flour.”


Before I could ask “What is whitewash?” she was up and away in her mortar and pestle, sweeping her tracks behind her. 


Entering the dancing hut on hen’s legs was getting easier.  My little doll and I supped on tea, bread and cheese.  She assumed the work on the hut and gave me a spindle no bigger than a dill seed for my spinning.  Considering the incredible job the infinitesimal combs did yesterday, I had no qualms about my success.


I entered the wool barn as the Red Knight was passing, at a steady canter today.  I stopped to watch his passing.  And admire the imposing, regal figure he made bringing dawn to the dark.


Spinning was complete by the time the White Knight rode past on his gleaming white horse.  I stood bug eyed and watched him pass.  His beauty rendered me wordless.


My faithful doll had completed the tasks of thatching, staining, whitewashing, chimney sweeping, and bread baking.  Had the hut not been strutting about on those hideous chicken legs, it would be a quaint little place.  All it needed was roses blooming about it, and an herbal garden surrounding it. 


My doll helped me bathe in a tub of fragrant, hot water. We washed my clothes in the leftover water, the stains coming out of my apron like magic.  My doll then combed my hair while my clothes hung to dry on the bone fence. 


Well before Baba Yaga returned I had the table set and the kettle boiling. 


The old hag clattered in as the Black Knight galloped past.  The stars were hidden by thick curtains of storm.  Thunder made the house jump, lightning illuminated the yard.  Baba Yaga stirred some foul smelling fungi into her cauldron, muttering in her growling rasp of a voice words that made my scalp prickle.    


Fortunately we did not eat from the pot this evening.  Its foul stench made eating the sweet fruit, oat porridge, and thick cream difficult.  I ate what was placed before me without complaint.


After washing dishes and sweeping up, I joined Baba Yaga by the fire.  She puffed away at her pipe, glowering at me.  “Well, any questions for me?”


“Yes, I’d like to know if I might knit in the evenings here by the fire.”


Baba grunted.  I took that for assent.  I rose, curtsied, “Good night, Grandmother.”  And retired.  I found my bed strewn with fresh lavender, welcome and soothing relief from the stench still wafting in from the cauldron.  I was grateful the chicken legs had danced my window away from it.


I undressed, wrapped myself up in lavender fresh blankets, and listened to the wind song and star song lull me asleep.





An Old Favourite of Mine.

12 08 2006

Most of you already know that I am a Witch, I practise White Magic.  I have my grimoire, an Old French word that means ‘A witch’s library’.

A grimoire usually holds books that contain information that the witch uses in the practise of his/her magic.  It will also house books that ‘click’, inspire, teach, or heal the library’s owner.

One of my favourite books (so much so, that I am on copy # 2) is called ‘A Legend of Wolf Song’ by George Stone.  The theme of the book is to not be afraid to do what your heart tells you is right, even if it is totally opposite what ‘the norm’ thinks is right.

Not only does the prose flow and entice one to get lost in his words, the pen and ink illustrations have an appeal that is irresitible.

I found my copy on, and I am very happy with it. 

On my way to Baba’s

10 08 2006

On the Road to Baba Yaga’s 

I trot down the hillsides, leaning back as far as I dare to retain my balance (all of life is the Search for Balance, the gentle voice of my spirit whispers)

One sloping meadow after another, separated by small bluffs, or sometimes a scarring of scree on the hide of the mountain.

As I have travelled, I have sought gifts appropriate for Baba Yaga.  They are often a symbol for a gift I have been blessed with, for I wish to serve Baba with all of my gifts and skills.

I have a silvery-white feather, that looks as though it ought to have been shed from Pegasus himself, as he alighted on Mount Cynthus, and brought forth the Poets’ Sacred Spring.

It is believed that, if one drinks so much as a swallow of this precious water, they will know poetic fancy, and beautiful words thereafter.

As I wish to share my gift of words with Baba Yaga, this is kept and stroked to its original smoothness. I will bestow her with this as I bow humbly.

There is a sharp-edged stone, to stand for the events that shape us, and carve away what is no longer needed.

I found a wedge of deep green bottle glass, worn smooth and harmless by the gentle insistence of the water.  The glass will shine for the truth, “Change comes Slowly.”

Gathered while they were fragrant with dew, I bear dried flowers and grasses, representing the fecundity, and beauty of creativity.

Finally, I bring a pair of pearl earrings, for everyone’s spirit and creative self is a pearl of great price.

With these gifts in hand I approach Baba Yaga’s home.  It is pouring golden light from the windows and a fragrant curl of smoke punctuates the chimney.

Yes, this has to be the place; there is the fence and gate I have been warned about.  They should be ghastly, yet, they seem comfortable as they are, happy to be performing their function in Baba’s life.

Baba Yaga motions me in with a silencing motion of her finger to smiling lips.  I am waved into a sparsely furnished alcove. 

There on a desk of well-loved mahogany is a stack of parchment and a number of quill pens and pots of ink.  This is where I am to sit and Register.

I begin to fill out my registration; “I wish to serve Baba Yaga in the role of Librarian, so that all of Her precious Knowledge will be saved and shared.”

“I respect the power of the written and spoken word, I honour books by treating them with respect.  I do not break spines, or fold pages over to mark my place.”

“Organisation is one of my strong suits, my own grimoire is eclectic, and well-treated.  My entire library is arranged by the Dewey Decimal System, as are my 45’s, LP’s, Cassettes, CD’s and DVD’s.  I will bring this attention to detail to my work for Baba Yaga.”

“I will honour always, the gift of Baba’s hospitality, and celebrate the knowledge she can impart to me alongside the Flame.”

“In honest humility I give my gifts and time freely and joyously to Baba Yaga.  May She find them to be acceptable.”

Registering With Baba

8 08 2006


At Baba’s Heroine’s are busily registering and letting their passions be known. This is the opportunity to work as you have always wanted to work. In another life I could play music and so I am serenading Baba with a lilting tune before making my way to Cyberia to play before the court. Well! Given my musical ability I may opt to do something else when I actually arrive there. Indeed, I may take up many roles in this ancient city and find time to be a writer of history.

Myth One

7 08 2006

It is a myth that Baba’s House is some terrible dungeon where people live imprisoned, in dread and fear. Baba clearly needs a new PR person who makes sure that happy snaps like this are circulated amongst those who would believe the tales circulated by rejected men who fear death.

Upon your arrival Baba asks you to fill out a registry book outlining your preferences. What kind of work will you offer to do for her? Create a category for yourself – for example gardener – and then post some ‘work’ under this category.

Earth Honour Roll – Baba’s House

5 08 2006

Bugs, beetles and gnats surrounded the house and the darkness was pitch coloured, like Baba’s hair.  Belenus and I were peering through the glowing window, like we had when we were small.  It was quiet, and she was stirring her cauldron, singing a melancholy tune about things that were falsely labelled.  Her shelves were full of old jars and tins, and every now and then her wise eyes moved from her attention to the boiling cauldron, to the false labels on the shelf items.  “It never works,” we heard her say under her breath, lamenting in a fine howl “…the parade never stops.  The novelty never stops, the hurrying never stops.  Did I breed a child to make it wild, a world child running amok.”  And suddenly then, she cocked her head, instinct driven as she was, we knew she had sensed us at the window.  “You better own up and say we’re back,” I said to Belenus.  “Why me?  And face her wrath?  You do it, all your talk of circles and seeing things anew.”  Piercing him with my eyes in the darkness, I said, “How would you feel if every word you ever said went unheeded?  You don’t know about that because you are always at one with society.  And people say yes to you, but no to her.  If the situation were reversed, you would be feeling just like that.”  Belenus looked shocked, and shuffled his small hoofs in the dirt.

Baba’s voice called to us, a low dissatisfied query, to show ourselves or risk being eaten by her ill mood, and the creatures in the shadows.  Baba never liked folks messing around, you had to be to the point, and know why you were there.  I felt a bit sad for Belenus, and his pain hurt me, so I decided to move into the house and declare our presence there.  We sat in lame retreat on two wooden stools near a roaring fire.  Baba’s eyes glowed and speared us, not unkindly.  Belenus was shaking a little, and I sighed. 

“We haven’t been able to do what you asked,” I said, making a gesture of impotence with my hands.  “…er…and very little has come to pass.”  Baba sighed, and said:  “What do you mean?  Since you last came you are grown, indeed, much has come to pass.”  In her shelves there was a tiny globe of the world, lit up, suddenly growing larger, and she put down her stirring spoon and reached for the globe, placing it on the table before us.  She eyed the string that accompanied us, wrapped around my hand securely and Belenus’ left hoof, and smiled:  “I see also your navigating methods have changed, also, improved.  But you are still impatient, which is your greatest fault.”  “Blame him,” I said, in a knee jerk reaction, “He is the one who wants things done yesterday and wants to know everything without feeling it.”  Belenus looked crushed.  Baba ignored us, and bade us look at the globe, and spun it in her strong, earth/seed/root-like hands. 

“So many rushing, so many lights burning, but not many in the bodies I see rushing to and fro, too fast to read my signposts, my labels, my directions.  My jars and tins are labelled differently to those in the world, and I was gifted some, for research, as you can see.  Last visitor brought them, there have been many come lately, to be certain.”  I read them, and Belenus did so eagerly, saying the names aloud, “Win now,” “Grow thin”, “Eat this”, “Do this”, “Don’t think”, and “Do that without thinking, and you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams”.  Baba made a face.  That last one was a long one, but Belenus could see it was on dozens of cans.  And as he read them out, his voice became quieter and quieter.  Then he remembered reading something about the Grail, and how its wisdom was paraded before the seeking knight hundreds of times before he became wise.  “So people are looking at the wrong labels after all.  And they sound good, indeed, there is nothing unsound about the words, except a certain lack of something.  A lack of substance.”

“Well done,” said Baba. “Will you both give me your labels of impatience and I will give you a little fire, to stir up your better memory?”  The fire roared suddenly, and we realised compared to it, ours had been all stifled by rules and labels, sticky notes and being called wrong names.  I looked at the shelf of earthly jars and tins, and noticed one labelled ubiquitously “Spam”.  This has become one of the most widely known labels, and everyone knew what it meant, whether it was for their greater good or not, I could not say.  And it actually really didn’t mean anything.  “Yes, yes of course we will,” we both said, our eyes being mesmerised, made heavy by the spinning globe.  She picked up our gifts and held them to the fire light, well pleased by those, but wasn’t very happy about how she had been drawn in the book of fairy tales, but said she would overlook it, as we weren’t the artists that drew them.  Belenus looked relieved.

“Sleep now, but mind, surrender those labels to the fire.  Both of you, curl up by the fire and sleep…just while I tend the cauldron of change, stir things up a little.”  We hesitantly did as asked, and nodded into a strange, but restful sleep as the smoke drifted out of the chimney, and into the dark night. 

(copyright Imogen Crest 2006.)