Russian Fairy Tales - Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Russian Fairy Tales
Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose

Russian folktales were not written down until the nineteenth century when many were collected by the pioneering ethnographer Aleksandr Afanas’ev (1826-1871), who published his versions between 1855 and 1864.

There was almost total illiteracy among Russian peasants (serfs) and so these stories truly encompass an oral tradition. Because of the Russian tradition of “double-faith,” ancient Pagan elements in these stories remain fairly close to the surface.

Double-faith is the name given the tenuous but simultaneous practice of Christianity and ancient Pagan traditions prevalent throughout rural Russia, despite opposition from the Church.

Baba Yaga casts a dominant shadow over Russian folklore (see DIVINE WITCH: Baba Yaga).

With the arrival of Christianity, Baba Yaga moved deep into the birch forest where she awaits visitors and inspired countless stories. In some, she is a wicked cannibal witch, in others she serves as spiritual guide and savior. She is always grouchy and unpredictable and must be handled with care.

Like Lilith in Jewish fairy tales (see page 487) Baba Yaga is so familiar and so intrinsically part of folk culture that she doesn’t have to be named: references to the old woman in the birch forest are sufficient to identify her.

Baba Yaga, like Hulda, evolved into a bogiewoman, a tool used by parents to scare children into good 'margin-bottom:13.5pt;text-indent:24.0pt;line-height: 14.4pt;text-autospace:none'>There are two typical Baba Yaga story themes:

Image Someone, usually a young girl, is sent to Baba Yaga, usually by a wicked stepmother, who anticipates that this will be a one-way trip as Baba Yaga is expected to eat the child.

Image Someone, a young man or woman, in the midst of some impossible quest travels to Baba Yaga’s hut for assistance that only she can provide. Baba Yaga insists they serve her. Some meet Baba Yaga’s high standards and are rewarded; others are killed and consumed.

There are literally endless Baba Yaga stories, many simply titled Baba Yaga; one could spend an entire night telling nothing but Baba Yaga stories. These are merely a few.