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

June 6, 2013

Hel: Queen of the Underworld

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , at 12:15 am by Babs

Hel (“the Hidden” from the word hel, “to conceal”) is the Norse goddess of the dead, ruler of the nine worlds of the Land of Mist, Niflheim or Niflhel, located in the far north – a cold, damp place that is home to frost giants  and dwarves.  Her hall is called Elvidnir or Eliud/ Eljudnir (misery) and her table is called Hungur (hunger).  The name Hel was applied both to the Queen of the Underworld and the land itself and it is thought that the land gave the Queen Her name.  In the late Christianized form of the myth, when Hel became Hell, she was said to be the daughter of Loki, who was equated with Lucifer.

She is the sister of Fenrir (Fenris-wolf) and Jormungand (Midgard serpent).  The asen knew about the anger which those three represent to them, so they threw the Jormungand in the sea, where she grew to the Midgard serpent that surrounds the whole world.  The chained the Fenrir with an unbreakable ribbon.  Finally they put the third child of Loki into the Underworld.  There Hel was the mistress of nine worlds, which were part of Helheim.  There she ruled as Queen over those who did die of age or illness.

Helhaim is the realm which has 32 rivers that all come from the spring Hwergelmer.  One of these rivers (Gjoll) surrounds the whole realm.  There is a bridge over Gjol called Gjalarbridge, on which the giantess-virgin Modgudur (Modgud) keeps watch and asks those who come there: What is your name? What is your family? Afterwards, she shows the arrivers the way to the palace of Hel.  Her palace is guided by two virgins (Bigvor and Listvor), who have iron blood.  If this blood falls on the earth it causes quarrel and war.

Her realm was not a place of punishment, but the home of those, who did not die of wounds or in battle.  Normally their afterlife there was peaceful.  Over the times and through the Christian belief her realm turned into the horror-afterworld, the hell.

In appearance She is said to be a fearsome sight.  She is described as being piebald, with a face half human and half blank, or more usually, half alive and half dead.  It is told that when She was born, disease first came into the world.  She was said to sweep through towns and cities bringing plague.  If she used a rake, some would survive; if a broom, none would.

She has two aspects: first she is honored Queen of the Underworld, but she is also one of the demons that want to overthrow the Gods.

She has a knife which is called Sultur (gluttony/ voracity).  Her bed named Kor (exhaustion).  The blanket of her bed is Blickandibol (slander).  Her servants were called Ganglate (go slow) and Ganglot (go lazy).

When the beloved Baldar was killed through Loki’s treachery, the entire world bgged Her to release him from death.  Hel agreed, but only if every creature on earth truly mourned for him.  So beloved was Baldar that everything – gods, humans, animals, trees, stones – wept for him.  All except an old giantess, called Thokk, who was Loki in disguise.

Hel in a reading can represent a time of simultaneous endings and beginnings, the point at which the circle is completed.  She can also indicate integrity, as opposites unite to form a stronger whole.  Alternate spellings: Hella.

Due to her remote and lonely home, she was not part of many Norse myths and therefore has little detail surrounding her.  Hel’s possessions are described thus:

She has great possessions there; her walls are exceeding high and her gates great.  Her hall is called Sleet-Cold; her dish, Hunger; Famine is her knife; Idler, her thrall; Sloven, her maidservant; Pit of Stumbling, her threshold, by which one enters; Disease, her bed; Gleaming Bale, her bed-hangings.  She is half blue-black and half flesh-color (by which she is easily recognized), and very lowering and fierce.

– Brodeur translation

Later in the same source it is described how Hermoor tries to retrieve the dead Baldar’s soul from Hel.

Now this is to be told concerning Hermodr,  that he rode nine nights through dark dales and deep, so that he saw not before he was come to the river Gjoll (or Gjallar-river) and rode onto the Gjoll-Bridge (or Gjallar-Bridge); which bridge is thatched with glittering gold.  Modgudr is the maiden called who guards the bridge.

It has been suggested that this description of Hel is of later date, and that She originally was a much more neutral goddess over the realm of shadows, where all, both good and evil, courageous ad cowardly, gather after death.  This can be seen as being supported by the etymology of Hel (Lat. Celare, Ger. hehlen), meaning the “hider”.  It is important to note that also the noble Baldar and the brave Sigurd are sent to Hel after their deaths.  Bishop Wulfila uses the Gothic word Halja to translate the Greek “Hades”.

Viktor Rydberg, in particular, advocated this view.  In the book “Our Fathers’ Godsaga” he theorizes that the correct name for Loki’s daughter is in fact “Leikn” and that, in Christian times, She was confused with Uror, one of the three Norns and the dis of fate and death.  Rydberg’s theories are not generally accepted.

Associations:

Tree: Elder

Plant: Holly

Sacred Objects: Wells

November 30, 2012

Idunna: Goddess of the Golden Apple

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:42 am by Babs

Idunna (Iona or Ionna) is the Norse Goddess of innocence, fertility & death.  She was the custodian of golden apples which allowed the Aesir gods to maintain their youth.  Loki arranged for the cretin Thjazi to abduct her, but then was forced to get her back, a deed which ended in Thjazi’s death.  Apples are one of the oldest and holiest symbols of life and rebirth among the Germanic folk, appearing as grave gifts from the Bronze Age onward.  The Troth’s quarterly journal is named after this goddess.

Will the Real Loki Please Stand Up? by Magdelan Vertes

Has Loki, the Norse “Trickster” god, been misrepresented as an evil, scheming character, who was even considered by early Christians to be another face of the devil?  Or does Loki have his roots as a much more ancient god, concerned with the balance of nature?  It seems that Loki has all the attributes to suggest the latter.  first, Loki’s name may have been derived from the Sanskrit “Loka”, meaning a spirit undergoing karma – spiritual enlightenment through repeated reincarnation.  Loki, depicted as a handsome, agile little man, with a pointed laughing face, piercing blue eyes, and voluminous flame-red hair in curly locks, possesses sky shoes in which he can travel, with great speed, over land, sea and air – suggesting that he is connected with spirit flight (also being called the Sky Traveler) – and therefore has shamanic roots.  Also, Loki is the most prominent shape shifter in the mythological cycle – yet another shamanic trait.  Loki does not shape shift in any evolutionary order – which may disprove the theory that earthly evolution is a material representation of karma – a belief common among many ancient peoples (suck as the Hindus and Druids).  Despite their lack of science and technology, the non-classical peoples were in fact, as can be seen by their religious theories and practices, much more perceptive about their environment, both in worldly and other-worldly matters, than is often believed.

What can be deduced in general from this information, therefore, is that Loki’s true form presides over and represents the true and pure spirit form – the other form he takes, the bodies the spirit resides in on the earth during karma – for the only way that one can shape-shift in reality is by reincarnation.  As Loki is depicted as shape shifting into a specific form for a specific purpose in every case, this could how that, originally, Odinists believed that spirits could return to Earth in any form for any purpose according to fate, rather than in evolutionary order.  As can be seen from the myth “The Well of Asgard”, Loki changes into a mare in order to lure away a stallion, as a result, becoming pregnant with Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse.  Therefore Loki has the power to change sex as well as shape, and can become a father or a mother.  This alone represents two things: the first that we all hae within each of us, both a masculine and feminine aspect of the spirit, and can express either one irrespective of the sex of the physical body.  The seconde is that i it could exist first in a female body, and then is reborn in a male body, the state of being female in a previous life could still have an influence in the present life as a male.  Both these things can provide an explanation for homosexuality and transvestisism.

Loki is also associated with natural phenomena outside living things, and the reason for his being labeled ‘The Trickster” is the fact that natural forces, whether inside or outside living things are unpredictable and can be most destructive.  In Norse myth Loki’s parents are two fire giants.  Giants are living things and they are led by Utgard-Loki, a giant who is identical to Loki in every way, save that he is much larger.

In “Thor’s Journy to Utgard”, Thor and his friends visit Utgard to discover that all Utgard Loki’s subjects each represent a particular force of nature, after being defeated in several contests with them.  This story bearing the message that man can never have complete control over the forces of nature.  “The Binding of Loki” has the same meaning, as even when bound, Loki causes earthquakes when he struggles to break free.  Loki’s unpredictable side is represented in the myth “Sif’s Hair”, in which Loki, apparently for no reason, cuts off the long golden hair of Sif, a harvest goddess, whilst she lies sleeping and unsuspecting of him.  Loki then compensates for his deed by going to the dwarfs to ask them to make a magical wig of spun gold, which, when placed on Sif’s head, grows as her original hair did.  So Sif’s hair represents a field of ripe corn and Loki a fire would could suddenly destroy it; but if new corn is planted in the place of the original it will naturally grow again, represented by Sif’s new wig produced by Loki’s instigation, and suggesting, therefore, that Loki replaces all he destroys and so presides over the continuing cycle in nature.

Speaking of cycles, Loki is also connected with the seasonal cycle.  In the myth “Idunna’s Golden Apples”, a giant called Thiazzi, persuades Loki to deliver the youth goddess Idunna to him, together with her apples of eternal life.  So after Loki lures Idunna out of her apple orchard in Asgard for her to be abducted by Thiazzi, the gods grow old because they no longer have the apples of youth.  This represents the state of the earth in winter when nothing can grow and everything seems withered and old or dead.  Loki then rescues Idunna and returns her and the apples to the gods who then regain their normal youth and vigor, thus spring comes again.

More about Idunna

Idunna is the Norse Goddess of innocence, fertility and death.  She was the custodian of golden apples which allowed the Aesir gods to maintain their youth.  Originally a member of the Vanir.  She departed Vanaheim to life with her husband Bragi in Asgard.

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