On the Third Day of Christmas, my Goddess gave to me…
three French hens.
First of all, I must give a shout-out to my friend and fellow Priestess Byron Ballard, who didn’t think it strange at all when I sent her a message asking if she was aware of any Goddesses of Chickens.
Byron immediately steered me towards a goddess that I was vaguely familiar with, but haven’t studied all that well…Baba Yaga.
According to Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being, generally described as being deformed, ferocious-looking, and/or skinny as a skeleton. She dwells deep in the forest in a hut described as standing on chicken legs.
Her hut seems to have a personality of its own and can move about on its extra-large legs. Usually the hut is either spinning around as it moves through the forest or stands at rest with its back to the visitor. The windows of the hut seem to serve as eyes.
All the while it is spinning round, it emits blood-curdling screeches and will only come to a halt, amid much creaking and groaning, when a secret incantation is said. When it stops, it turns to face the visitor and lowers itself down on those poultry legs, throwing open the door with a loud crash.
The hut is sometimes surrounded by a fence made of bones, which helps to keep out intruders. The fence is topped with skulls whose blazing eye sockets illuminate the darkness.
The hut on chicken legs in which Baba Yaga dwells is basically a mythological interpretation of a common building often constructed by the hunter-nomadic peoples of Siberia and used for protection against wild animals. The doorless and windowless log cabin was built upon tall tree stumps, which with their spreading roots often resembled those chicken legs for which the imaginary huts are known. The only access to the cabin was via a trapdoor in the middle of the floor which was only accessible via a rope ladder – thus preventing bears and other creatures from being able to break down the door and raid the food pantry.
Research indicates that a similar but smaller type of hut was utilized by Siberian pagans to hold figurines of their deities. This may in fact have influenced or been influenced by the stories of Baba Yaga, who is described as barely fitting into her cabin – legs in one corner, head in another, and her nose grown to the ceiling.
The name Baba Yaga differs within the various Slavic languages. In Polish it is spelled “Baba Jaga,” and as “Ježibaba” in Czech. In South Slavic languages and traditions, there is a similar old woman: “Baba Roga” – the word Roga implying that she has horns. Baba means an older woman or grandmother in most Slavic languages, while Yaga is a diminutive form of the Slavic name Jadwiga.
But who is Baba Yaga? She is the wild old woman, the witch, the mistress of magick. She is the Crone, the third aspect of the Triple Goddess. She is the Black Goddess, the manifestation of the darkness. Women (and men as well) often approach her with fear, and yet it is through her that we discover the strength and knowledge that comes with aging and the passage of time. Through Baba Yaga we can learn to embrace our changing bodies, abilities, capacities and wisdom.
Baba Yaga is the Wise Woman. She is the keeper of the wisdom and tradition within the family, the clan, the tribe, the community. She is the keeper of relations, whether they be interpersonal or with all of nature. Every issue is an issue of relationship. She is the keeper of the great mysteries of birth and death, and the mediator between the worlds of earth and spirit. She is the hag… the “holy one,” filled with potent creative and spiritual energy.
As we celebrate this Yule season, now is the perfect time to invoke Baba Yaga – the Arch-Crone, the Goddess of Wisdom and Death, the Bone Mother. Wild and untamable, She is the spirit of nature, bringing wisdom…and the deeper understanding of death and rebirth.