Baba Yaga Rides Again

The full Harvest Moon on Monday marks the time when farmers bring in the last of the summer crops, the late harvest of root vegetables and cruciferous plants that will warm our blood over the colder months to come. The weather is starting to change, the sky to darken, foreshadowing the turning of the Great Wheel towards fall. We celebrate the autumn equinox on Friday, September 23. There's something in the air. Do you feel it? The stirrings of the Wild Woman, the dark goddess who arrives on owl's wings, silently gliding through the forest to awaken us? Do you hear it? The yip of the coyote, the howl of the wolf, the yowl of the cat, as they pad stealthily through the underbrush in search of sustenance?

As September wanes, what does your inner Wild Woman want? Before we start to draw inward, there's still time to dance under the light of the moon, to stir something up in the creative cauldron. What is your passion? Art? Writing? Dancing? Singing? Cooking? Teaching? Nurturing? Healing? If you don't know, it's time to listen to your inner voice, to the Wise Woman within, to The One Who Knows.

You know the story of Baba Yaga, don't you? It all starts with a little girl named Vasalisa, who much like Cinderella, must live under the watch of a horribly jealous stepmother and two mean, ugly stepsisters after her mother dies. But on her deathbed, Vasalisa's mother gave her a little doll, dressed just like Vasalisa. She tells her to keep it in her pocket at all times and to ask her for help whenever she needs it.

So, as in all such stories, Vasalisa is sent out into the forest, into the dark unknown, where the old woman, Baba Yaga lives. Her mission is to fetch an ember from the Yaga as her stepmother and sisters secretly conspired to let the fire burn out. Everyone knows Baba Yaga is an ugly old witch, a frightening hag who flies about in the dead of night in a cauldron with a pestle as an oar. It's well known that she eats children for breakfast and uses their bones for toothpicks. Oh, and did you know her house dances around on chicken feet? Go on, little girl, there's nothing to be afraid of.          

And so the brave, little Vasalisa ventures into the deep, dark woods, just as we all must step into the darkness at times and face our worst fears. What are they?

That you may fail?

Look foolish?

Not be liked or approved of?

Or perhaps that you won't live up to others' expectations?

Name your fear: ____________________

But at each twist and turn of the path, Vasalisa consults the doll in her pocket and is advised which way to go, until at last she arrives at the crazy house that careens about on chicken feet.

Vasalisa sees the fire for which she has been sent inside of a skull perched on a fence post. As she starts to reach for it, the unmistakable cackle of Baba Yaga causes her to pull her hand back in fright. Baba Yaga demands to know why she should give her the fire.

"Because I ask," Vasalisa replies. That is the right answer, Baba Yaga tells her. Why? Because we cannot get the help we need unless we ask.

Baba Yaga tells her she will give her the fire if she will complete the tasks she sets for her, seemingly impossible ones. She must cook three meals and clean her entire filthy house during the night, which Vasalisa is able to do with the help of the little doll. The next night she must sort thousands of seeds from the dirt so that Baba Yaga will have oil the next day. This she is again able to do with the help of the little doll in her pocket guiding her.

Satisfied, Baba Yaga gives the skull with the burning ember inside to Vasalisa. She carries it home trumphantly, much to the surprise of the evil stepmother and sisters who thought they had seen the last of her. And, as is often the case with evildoers such as they, the fire consumes them, and leaves nothing behind but a few charred bones.

And so it is with Baba Yaga, the witch, the crone, the hag -- for hag comes from the word, haggia, meaning holy wisdom -- the wise, old woman who teaches us. Her words are sometimes harsh, her demeanor frightening, her lessons hard. But as the dark goddess, the dark mother, she helps us burn up our fears and transform from frightened little girls into women of courage, women who are willing to take the necessary risks to reap the rewards of consciousness and creativity, to fuel the fires of our passions.

And so, the Wild Woman learns to listen to her inner voice, follow her intuition, and dance by the light of the moon. Are you ready?

If you're in the Triangle, come to my Art & Soul workshops at Dancing Moon Bookstore on Saturday, September 24 and October 1, where we will meet and explore five goddesses: Persephone, the Maiden, Demeter, the Mother, Hecate, the Crone, Kali, the Destroyer, and Yemaya, the Creator, using my workbook, In the Lap of the Goddess: Connecting With the Divine Feminine. Pay by September 19 for a discount. Go here for more information: