an article by Susun S. Weed
is Baba Yaga? She is the Goddess, she is the Witch,
she is the Wise Woman, she is the Crone, she is
Baba is Grandmother. In Tibet, fierce demons are
Yagas. So she is the Grandmother Demon, Grandmother
Dragon, the fearsome, the fierce.
Baba Yaga is the subject of many Russian folk tales
or fairy tales. She is very very old.
How do we know? We are told her nose curves down
and her chin curves up and they nearly meet. Since
the cartilage in our noses, chins and ears continues
to grow throughout our lives, only someone a hundred
or more would have such a remarkable face. Her fingernails,
it is said, are as thick and ridged as roof tiles.
My, what a mineral-rich diet she must have! And
they are stained brown. Any herbalists here who
have noticed such a staining on their hands after
a summer of harvesting? I have. In one of the first
profiles of me ever published, the interviewer remarks
on my brown-stained fingernails.
Baba Yaga lives in a house that nearly defies description,
yet any herbalist would feel right at home there,
overlooking perhaps that the latches on the cupboards,
windows, and doors are human fingers, and that the
door knocker is a toothed snout, and that the fence
is made of bones and skulls. But that all pales
when we step back and see that the whole house stands
atop scaly yellow chicken legs. It moves about at
its own whim, whirling like an ecstatic dancer around
and around in a trance. Baba Yaga is Whirlwind Woman,
Woman with Drum of the deep north, Shaman Woman,
Baba Yaga is the keeper of the eternal fire, the
spark of divine consciousness that informs the best
of every profession, that lives in the best healers
and the most intuitive herbalists. Baba Yaga, like
all muses, like all guardians, like treasure-bestriding
dragons everywhere, is not averse to sharing but
she is demanding.
You must give to her, must do her bidding, before
she will do yours and give to you.
With wrinkles enough to hide the world's secrets
and a store of tales enough to fast talk my way
out of any situation, I am surely the most fearsome
thing ever seen, ever imagined: A powerful old woman
at home with herself. I am Baba Yaga, and this is
one of the stories in my basket.
Yaga's Story of Sassafras
by way, I believe, of Doug Eliott
woman and old man lived together and each did their
chores and they were happy. One cold winter evening,
coming in from tending the animals, old man ventured:
"Old woman, when I'm out on such a cold night
my feet stay warm because you knit me such fine
warm socks. I wouldn't want you to think I was complaining,
but my hands are cold. Do you think you could knit
me some socks for my hands?
Old woman thought for a while, a short while, then
she smiled and said: "Old man, I would love
to knit some socks for your hands. And she took
out her yarn, and she took out her needles, and
click clack click clack, she knit socks for old
Old man was very happy and his hands were warm.
Still, one evening, coming in from tending the animals,
old man ventured: "Old woman. I sure am happy.
My hands are warm now, as warm as my feet in those
fine socks you knit me. But I have to take those
hand socks off to do some of the chores, times when
I need to use my thumbs, and then my hands are cold.
Do you think you could knit me some socks for my
hands that had thumbs?
Old woman thought for a while; she thought for a
good long while; she thought all that night and
all the next day and well into the next night and
all through the whole next day too. Late that evening,
before the warming fire, after all the chores were
done, she smiled and said: "Old man, I would
love to knit some socks with thumbs and trigger
fingers for your hands."
And she took out her yarn, and she took out her
needles, and click clack click clack, she knit new
socks - with thumbs - and trigger fingers - for
old man. Then she took the old hand socks, the one
with a thumb on the left and the one with the thumb
on the right, and she tossed them out back, by the
edge of the woods.
Neither old woman nor old man was happy with the
new hand socks. The trigger fingers weren't next
to the thumb, but across from it. They looked at
each other and smiled.
Old man went out to do the chores with strange socks
on his hands and old woman, she hardly had to think
at all, this time. She took out her yarn, and she
took out her needles, and click clack click clack,
she knit socks with five thumbs for old man's hands.
It took some time, but when she was done with the
last one, she gave them to old man with a grin.
Then she took the hand socks with a thumb on each
side and she tossed them out back, by the edge of
the woods. And old man was very, very happy.
In the spring, out back, by the edge of the woods,
a tree grew, with hand socks for leaves and the
sweet smell of love lived long by two old folks.
We call it sassafras.
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Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
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and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
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and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
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article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2004 - Republished here with kind permission.