Baba Yaga is a mythical crone from Slavic cultures who lives in a hut perched atop enormous chicken legs. Some people see her as a transformative witch who helps people in challenging times. However, she can also be a trickster, especially in the stories where she creates daunting tasks for the children who disturb her.
The first time I dreamed of meeting Baba Yaga, I was twenty-four. I was going through a transformative phase. After growing up in a new age church, I realized I had been unknowingly squelching some of my ‘negative’ emotions for years. I was coming to terms with everything, and had just started integrating my shadow-self.
In my dream, I climbed up an ancient tree, my shoes grasping the rough bark on the trunk. I had no idea where I was going, but I instinctively kept going. Pushing up on a wooden trap door, I climbed up a few rungs and stepped into what looked like a treehouse. When I turned around, I saw Baba Yaga stirring a cauldron over a fire at a hearth. Her face was lined and gray. Warts and pocks marked her face all over, and she was frowning at me. It looked like I had interrupted her cooking.
I shuffled over to a small kitchen table and collapsed into a chair. A feeling of surrender came over me. Despite all of the scary things I’d heard about her and her glare, I wasn’t afraid. More than anything, I wanted to embrace her and sob in her arms.
“So.” Baba Yaga evaluated me with sharp eyes. “I heard you want to be a witch.”
I nodded sadly, feeling shocked at her words. I hadn’t ever said that I wanted to be a witch, but I felt a deep identification with that in my heart. It was like she had read the truth written on my soul.
Baba Yaga turned away from me. For a moment, I was unsure about my fate. Was she going to boil me alive? Then I saw her ladle soup from the cauldron into a wooden bowl. She hobbled toward me, nudged the bowl into my hands, and urged me to eat.
I lifted a spoon to my mouth and swallowed a hearty potato soup. It was delicious, but I could barely eat. I was so overcome with sadness, and was doing my best to try not to cry into it.
She squinted at me. “You know, it’s a hard path.”
I nodded solemnly. “I know.”
Baba Yaga walked back to the hearth. “Well then, let’s get started.”
I don’t remember anything that happened after that. But when I awoke, I remember feeling thrilled. Baba Yaga had taken me under her wing! I felt like I’d just been initiated. I was so honored.
It was another five or six years before I remembered dreaming of her again. My life had settled down somewhat. After a wild tromp across the country as a fire dancer, where I finally proved to myself that I was an artist, I moved back to my home town. Things were looking good — I had a good job with my degree, and I was making payments on my student loans.
In the dream, I climbed up the wide tree trunk easily. I opened Baba Yaga’s trap door with a light heart, feeling like I was coming home.
Baba Yaga smiled at me kindly from the hearth. “You’re ready. You don’t need me anymore.”
I shook my head. It couldn’t be over so soon. I wanted to stay longer. I wanted to come back to her crazy hut again and again. “No.” Worst of all, I didn’t remember any of the lessons she’d taught me.
She shrugged at me. “You’re ready.”
She sent me out of her hut, and I haven’t been back since.
Sometimes, I wonder what she taught me in those dreams I must’ve forgotten. Ideally, I absorbed the lessons without remembering them. I hope they affected my subconscious. The difference in my life between the first dream of her to the second was quite astounding. I grew in terms of confidence, spirituality, maturity, and so much more.
While I can’t say exactly what she taught me, all I can say is that she was a friend and mother figure to me. I’ll always be grateful to her for her kindness. I feel that despite her scary visage, if you approach her with a humble and true heart, she may assist you as well.