June 19, 2013

Baba Yaga: The Slavic Goddess of Death

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , at 7:44 pm by Babs

It is only through examination of our dark side that we can hope to be reborn.  It is in crossing the comfort zones and visiting our shadowed selves that we can empower ourselves spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

The ancient Slavic Goddess Baba Yaga is the wild old crone guardian of the Water of Life and Death.  She is the Goddess of Death and Birth associated with autumn, who sings while sprinkling corpses with the Water of Life to let them be reborn.  Although she is fearsome to look upon, like all forces of nature that are often wild and untamed, she can also be kind.

Often depicted living in the deep center of the earth, or in a hut built of human bones, complete with bone fence with inset skulls whose eye sockets light up in the dark.  And it’s a mobile home; it runs around supported on gigantic chicken legs.  She represents the power of old age, of which, and of the life cycle that is birth, death, and rebirth.  She is therefore also associated with birch forests (birch being the tree of beginnings and endings).  Another image is that of “White Lady” or Death Crone, as she is stiff and white and carved of bone (she can also be referred to as Goddess of Old Bones).

Baba Yaga’s own eyes turn humans to stone,  and her mighty mouth has knives for teeth.  She can also pole herself around in a giant pestle and mortar which she also uses to grind up and un-petrify her victims.

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

In Russian folklore there are many stories of Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch with iron teeth.  She is also known as Baba Yaga Boney Legs, because, in spite of a ferocious appetite, she is as thin as a skeleton.  In Russian that’s: “Baba Yaga Kostianaya Noga”.  In some stories she has two older sisters, who are also called Baba Yaga, just to confuse you!

Her nose is so long that it rattles against the ceiling of her hut when she snores, stretched out in all directions upon her ancient brick oven.  Not being a boringly conventional witch, she does not wear a hat, and has never been seen on a broomstick.  She travels perched in a large mortar with her knees almost touching her chin, and pushes herself across the forest floor with a pestle.

Whenever she appears on the scene, a wild wind begins to blow, the trees around creak and groan and leaves whirl through the air.  Shrieking and wailing, a host of spirits often accompany her on her way.

Being a somewhat secretive lady, in spite of the din she makes, she sweeps away all traces of herself with a broom made of silver birch.  What are brooms for anyway?  She can also fly through the air in the same manner.

Baba Yaga lives in a hut deep in the forest.  Her hut seems to have a personality of its own and can move about on its extra-large chicken 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 around; 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 its chicken 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.

When a visitor enters her hut, Baba Yaga asks them whether they came of their own free will, or whether they were sent.  One answer is the right one!  Thankfully, she appears to have no power over the pure of heart, such as Vasilisa and those of use who are ‘blessed’ meaning they are protected by the power of love, virtue, or a mother’s blessing.

Baba Yaga rules over the elements.  Her faithful servants are the White Horeseman, the Red Horseman and the Black Horseman.  When Vasilissa asks her who these mysterious horsemen are, she replies, “My Bright Dawn, my Red Sun, and my Dark Midnight”.  Amongst her other servants, are three bodiless and somewhat menacing pairs of hands, which appear aout of thin air to do her bidding.  She calls them “my soul friends” or “friends of my bosom” and she is more than a little reticent about discussing them with Vasilisa.

Another strange character who served as a herdsman for Baba Yaga is the sorcerer Koshchey the Deathless.  And here’s a mystery for you: While she is giving instructions to Vasilisa, Baba Yaga mentions that ‘someone spiteful’ had mixed earth in with her poppy-seeds.  What could she have meant?  Could Baba Yaga possibly have an enemy?  Would anyone dare to risk incurring her wrath?

Although she is mostly portrayed as a terrifying old crone, Baba Yaga can also play the role of a helper and wise woman.  The Earth Mother, like all forces of nature, though often wild and untamed, can also be kind.  In her guise as wise hag, she sometimes gives advice and magical gifts to heroes and the pure of heart.  The hero or heroine of the story often enters toe crone’s domain searching for wisdom, knowledge and truth.  She is all knowing, all-seeing and all-revealing to those who would dare to ask.  She is said to be a guardian spirit of the fountain of the Waters of Life and of Death.  Baba Yaga is the Arch-Crone, the Goddess of Wisdom and Death, the Bone Mother.  Wild and untamable, she is a nature spirit bringing wisdom and death of ego, and through death, rebirth.

Suggested Mantra: Rebirth

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I am revitalized
  • My insecurity is replaced with wisdom
  • At my center there is an incandescent fire
  • I release myself from harmful judgements
  • My new life path reveals itself to me
  • I say goodbye to destructive influences

Gemstones:

  • Garnet
  • Bloodstone
  • Tourmaline
  • Smoky Quartz
  • Red Stones
  • Scapolite
  • Amazonite
  • Chiastolite
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May 28, 2013

Nicevenn: Goddess of Samhain

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , at 8:58 pm by Babs

NicevennThe Middle Ages of Western Europe are commonly dated from the end of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century until the rise of national monarchies, the start of European overseas exploration, the humanist revival, and the Protestant Reformation starting in 1517.  These various changes all mark the beginning of the Early Modern period that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

The Middle Ages are commonly referred to as the medieval period or simply medieval (sometimes spelled “mediaeval”).  Arguably the biggest milestone in history from which a true end to the Middle Ages can be dated is Humanism.  It is a broad category of active ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appeal to universal human qualities – particularly rationality, common history, experience, and belief.  Humanism is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems, and is also incorporated into some religious schools of thought.

Humanism entails a commitment to the search for truth and morality through human means in support of human interests.  In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on faith, the supernatural, or divinely revealed texts.  Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of human nature, suggesting that solutions to our social and cultural problems cannot be parochial.

Before the demise of much of faith related ideals in existence long before the rise of monotheism there was paganism and folklore.  Celtic folklore has a long and rich history and for this time of year the Celts celebrated Samhain.  The Samhain celebration survived in several guises as a festival dedicated to the dead. In Ireland and Scotland, the Feile na Marbh, the “festival of the dead” took place on Samhain.

Samhain Eve, in Irish and Scots Gaelic, Oidhche Shamhna, is one of the principal festivals of the Celtic calendar, and is thought to fall on or around the 31st of October.  It represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which represents the final harvest.  In modern Ireland and Scotland, the name by which Halloween is known in the Gaelic language is still “Oiche/Oidhche Shamhna”.

Bonfires played a large part in the festivities.  Even into Christian times, villagers cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle upon the flames, cattle having a prominent place in the pre-Christian Gaelic world.  The English word ‘bonfire’ derives from these “bone fires,” but the Gaelic has no such parallel.  With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires.  Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together.

According to Irish mythology, during that night the great shield of Scathach was lowered, allowing the barriers between the worlds to fade and the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world joining with the world of the dead.  At this time the spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living.  The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honor.  In the three days preceding Samhain, the Sun God Lugh, maimed at Lughnassadh (August 1st), dies by the hand of his Tanaiste (counterpart or heir), the Lord of Misrule.  Lugh traverses the boundaries of the worlds on the first day of Samhain.  His Tanist is a miser and, though shining brightly in the winter skies, he gives no warmth and does not temper the breath of the Crone, Cailleach Bheare, the north wind.

In parts of western Brittany, Samhain is still heralded by the baking of kornigou, cakes baked in the shape of antlers to commemorate the god of winter shedding his “cuckhold” horns as he returns to his kingdom in the Otherworld.

The Romans identified Samhain with their own feast of the dead, the Lemuria.  This however, was observed in the days leading up to May 13th.

With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman festival in May) became All Hallows’ Day on November 1st followed by All Souls’ Day, on November 2nd, after which the night of October 31st was called All Hallows Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated to the dead eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as Halloween.

Nicevenn, also known as Dame Habonde, Abundia, Satia, Bensozie, Zobiana, Nicheven or Herodiana is a Scottish Witch Goddess from the Middle Ages.

According to Scottish myth Nicevenn is a crone witch goddess who rides through the night with her followers on Samhain.  Her name can be translated as “Divine” or “Brilliant.”  She is equated with the Roman Goddess Diana.  Tradition places her night according to the old (Julian) calendar, on November 10th.  In modern times she is called an evil faery.

Nicevenn has been called the Scottish Mother.  Her direction is center.  One would call on her to manage Winter, Witchcraft, Divination, Ghosts, Magic, Peace and Protection.  She rules over all Samhain rituals and her symbols are Gourds and Pumpkins. Unfortunately she has no known totem animal.

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