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Baba Yaga :: History 229: The Age of the Witch Hunts

Baba Yaga

baba yaga and the crocbaba yaga

Baba Yaga (or Baba Iaga) was a prominent figure in Slavic Folklore. The first image of her is believed to have arisen around 1755 in Mikhail Lomonosov’s Russian Grammar. It is important to note that descriptions of her vary, and her image and nature are ambiguous. Most often she is depicted as an old and deformed looking woman, and is known for living deep in the forest in a cabin that is supported by oversized chicken legs, which give it the ability to move around on its own. It often spins violently, shrieks, and interacts with visitors. Baba Yaga flies on a mortar which she pushes along by swinging a pestle and hides her tracks by sweeping a broom. Physically, she resembles the typical witch associated with the trials of Western Europe, however there is no connection between her and the devil, and she is not always regarded as evil. She is known for either helping or hindering her visitors, and can be a maternal figure or have a connection with nature and animals. She can also bestow supernatural powers to those deemed pure of heart. When visitors come to her house, it stops moving and allows them to enter, and Baba Yaga usually mentions the “Russian scent,” which is mentioned in other Russian folklores as well. In some cases she can be part of a triplet of sisters who have the same name.

In Russian, the word “baba” has connotations of an older woman, and babushka is the word for grandmother. During the witch trials, the word “baba” was often used for witch, though it does not nearly have the same meaning as in Western Europe. Slavic folklore had a clearly notable impact on the witch trials in Russia, which is one cause for the different types of trials there.


Johns, Andreas. Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale

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