I can still clearly remember travelling in the car with my parents, on our way somewhere in a late autumn evening. The road was quite and without the disruption of other vehicles’ lights I could concentrate to the picture on my left – a deep, dark forest. I felt goose bumps. I just knew that I had to be good and listen to my parents or otherwise they would leave me there in the woods and I would end up in Baba Yaga’s cooking pot. My vivid imagination was running wild. I pictured some children locked up behind wooden bars and others screaming while becoming Baba Yaga’s meal.
My early childhood in Bulgaria was filled with the belief that she was out there, always watching and waiting to get hold of me. My fear was not only brought by the books with colorful illustrations or the almost natural reference to Baba Yaga by the grownups at home but rather by everybody I knew as we as children felt all the same about the old scary witch Baba Yaga.
It is a peculiar fact that most Eastern Slavic believes and superstitions are based in ancient pagan believes and strangely, even the communist regime at the time could not stop people from practicing their traditions, no they couldn’t, they just called them national historical customs.
So what does Baba Yaga look like in the eyes of a five year old? Allow me to first explain that baba in Bulgarian language means grandmother or the term can be applied for any elderly woman. Baba Yaga is old, her teeth are long and sharp and her hair is silver, wrapped in a scarf. She moves very quick and has the ability to fly on a broomstick. Another specific fact is that her house is alive and it stands on two huge chicken feet which enables Baba Yaga to run and relocate. For this reason nobody could say she lived in a particular enchanted forest but she could rather be anywhere and anytime.
Baba Yaga appears in many folklore books as well as in Mikhail V. Lomonosov‘s Rossiskaia Grammatika (Russian Grammer) written in 1755.
You can find her in art, fairy tails and even in Hollywood.