Our stories are our medicine, our soul vitamins as Estes calls them. One of the ways that we find the Wild Woman is through the telling of stories, the singing over these bones. It’s these bones that show us the door to our scars, and it’s through our deepest scars that Wild Woman is most easily reached.
Myths and fairy tales are often a very powerful teaching aids. They frequently describe a journey of discovery about the nature of the world or the nature of the self, and some are initiatory stories of young people going through rites of passage which take them from childhood to adulthood.
The myth of Baba Yaga has inspired may artists and writers. In ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells the story of Vasilisa the Wise. Over the years I have used this myth to inspire participants who come to my Writing for Wellness classes to, amongst other things, Sing over the Bones.
Baba Yaga (properly pronounced Baba Ye-gar, with the emphasis on the second syllable) is a character who appears in hundreds of Russian and Eastern European stories and fairy tales. She is known as ‘old bony legs’, and is notorious for eating children. She lives in a clearing in the woods1, in a hut that twirls around on bright yellow chicken legs. Its bolts and shutters are made of human bones. There is a fence around it made of human skulls.
Her method of transport is a huge mortar and pestle (she uses the pestle to punt the mortar to make it fly) and she uses a broom to erase the marks of where she has been.
Baba Yaga sleeps on her enormous oven, which is sometimes used to cook children. She uses a large wooden spatula to push them into the oven and then locks the oven door. She eats an enormous amount of food – enough for ten men.
Participants who come to the House of Baba Yaga are challenged to complete a number of tasks for Baba and, upon satisfying her that they have completed an initiatory journey, have been photographed with a diamond-encrusted toad to mark completion.