Sunday, February 12, 2012

Baba Yaga and the Archetype of the Wild, Wise Old Woman

"There's a saying in our family: Be careful calling forth the great personages of stories; they have keen hearing and are likely to suddenly appear when you least expect them..."

---Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This certainly applies to Baba Yaga. One must have a healthy respect and be prepared for surprises, challenges and strange gifts. Baba Yaga is a figure from Slavic folklore, a dark goddesss, fierce like Kali or Hecate, a wise, wild crone, a demanding figure who may set you off on a heroic task to test your mettle. That's on a good day. When she sees your potential and likes what she sees, she can extend her magic, which she is doing here with the fortunate lad Ivan.

Baba Yaga is an archetype--- which Carl Jung describes as "ancient archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious."

In The Structure of the Psyche, Jung wrote, "The collective unconscious - so far as we can say anything about it at all - appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious..." Jung said.

Archetypes have sweep and magnitude. They bring us out of linear time into the realm of myth and magic.

Which explains something about the fact that Baba Yaga lives deep in a forest in a twirling house that stands on chicken legs.

Naturally I had to write about that when I created lyrics for Baba Yaga's Raga, one of the 12 songs in the musical revue A New Wrinkle.

My house stands up on chicken legs/ it twirls and never sleeps/it makes a fearful frightening sound/that gives the people creeps/ and that's alright, yes that's alright with me."

One of my longtime friends is an archetype known as Coyote Woman. I am attracted to quixotic, mischievous, magical and powerful agents of the imagination, so I suppose it's not that surprising that I invited Baba Yaga to enter my world. Some days though it seems that she appeared before I was aware that I was inviting her. Then it was obvious that I had to write her into A New Wrinkle, my musical revue on aging, as an important character. Not that Baba Yaga could ever be an unimportant character.

So far so good as far as my relationship with Baba Yaga goes. Healthy respect and good motivation help. Clarissa Pinola Estes describes Baba Yaga as, "...a representation of a great woman who sees clearly, is decisive and knows the patterns of the universe." "Confronting and integrating her lessons make the heroines stronger and wiser. In confronting her, the heroines have to listen to their intuition.
Baba Yaga is also unconfined by convention and unafraid to be herself.

In A New Wrinkle she tells us, "You found your inner child years ago, and now it's time to find your inner Baba Yaga!"

I made myself a Baba Yaga headdress months ago-- long gray dreadlocks with silver threads and feathers. I love wearing it.

Last week, a wonderful nose that I ordered arrived in the mail. Baba Yaga has a big nose and I needed one to get into character.

Here are a few of the photos that Helga Motley took in our Baba Yaga session the other day.

the heroinesT

This one is one of my favorites.

What does it say to you?

I'm interested in knowing your reaction to this image and the others here.

Baba Yaga had a very tiny tea cup that day.

These humans, they can't even remember to bring along a proper tea cup.

Bust those nice little old lady stereotypes with a powerful wise woman archetype!

I invite you to listen to the mp3 of Baba Yaga's Raga at our website, where you can also look at the lyrics for the other song that Baba Yaga sings in A New Wrinkle, a funny song about drugs and medications.


  1. Your Baba Raga face and hair tell me she is experienced with much of life. I do remember reading Baba Raga stories to young children when I subbed after I retired. I think I was as interested in the story lines as the children were. She is one of my favorites. -- barbara

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  3. I've just stumbled on your page. WONDERFUL! Your Baba Yaga is incredible. That's my next project. My Baba Yaga is emerging through dreams. I haven't been calling her, I haven't been yearning for her. In fact, I wasn't even aware of her in my psyche. So why now? Is it because she knows that I'm finally ready to welcome and integrate her? I think so. I'm off to your website and mp3. Thank you!

  4. My Baba Yaga has emerged in my Yoga Nidra Journeys...she's here to stay...