The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Prince Danila Govorila
Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose
A witch, who is not Baba Yaga, dislikes a princess and prince (sister and brother), although no reason is given. She plans a longterm trick intended to destroy them. The witch gives the children’s mother a ring for her son the prince, advising that it will make him healthy and wealthy provided he never takes it off. When it’s time for him to marry, he must only marry a girl whose finger fits the ring.
The ring works as promised and there are no problems—until he’s old enough to marry. The ring won’t fit anyone until, on a whim, his sister tries it on and it fits her perfectly.
The boy determines to marry her. She protests, begging him to “think of the sin.” He doesn’t care and, furthermore, he’s in charge. The prince prepares the wedding. The sister grieves and mourns to no avail until just before the wedding some “old women” pass by. In the midst of her grief, she invites them in, offering hospitality which they accept. They ask why she’s been weeping and she tells all. They tell her not to worry and offer a course of action. She must make four dolls, placing one in each corner of the honeymoon chamber. When the brother calls her to the wedding, she should go. When he calls her to the honeymoon chamber, she shouldn’t hurry.
When the impatient brother demands that his sister enter the honeymoon chamber, the dolls suddenly begin to chant incantations. Earth opens up: the princess falls inside and is covered up. Finding herself in a subterranean realm, she begins to walk. Soon she sees a little hut on chicken legs…Luckily (and eventually it is!) she knows the proper charm to get inside the house: “Little hut, Little hut, stand with your back to the forest and your front to me!”
She enters and finds a beautiful girl embroidering towels with silver and gold thread. She is Baba Yaga’s daughter; the two young women form an alliance. Baba Yaga’s daughter teaches the girl how to embroider; when Mom is due home, Baba Yaga’s daughter turns the princess into a needle and thrusts her into a birch broom in the corner to stay safe.
The towels and napkins cited in Russian fairy tales are no mere household goods but ritual objects. Women once wove beautiful fabrics, painstakingly embroidered with age-old Pagan and goddess symbols. These served various functions:
As magical power objects
As sacred offerings to deities like Bereginia or the Rusalka
Incorporated into private ritual
In Prince Danila Govorila, Baba Yaga’s daughter teaches the princess how to craft these towels; in other Baba Yaga stories, these towels are tickets to safety.
Eventually the princess completes her shamanic journey and departs safely in the company of Baba Yaga’s daughter. They go home together where, amazingly, Prince Danila’s ring fits the finger of Baba Yaga’s daughter and all live happily ever after.