- Names: Nit
- Attributes: Two arrows and a shield, shuttle
- Creatures: Crocodile, snake, bee
- Color: Green
- Plants: Flax, papyrus
- Favored people: Soldiers, hunters, weavers, artisans
The inscription on Neith’s temple in Sais in the Nile Delta (now modern Sa el-Hagar) read:
I am all that has been,
that is and that will be
No mortal has yet been able
to lift the veil that covers me.
Neith, the First One, the primordial goddess, was never born but always existed. Alternatively she is completely self-generated. Neith traveled from the deserts and oases of Libya to emerge as among the greatest of Egyptian goddesses. In one Egyptian creation myth, Neith brought forth Ra, the sun. Then she invented the shuttle and loom, put the sky on her loom, and wove the world into existence. Neith, the first to give birth, invented weaving. Her name may derive from a word for “to weave” or “to knit.”
She is called:
- The Oldest One
- Nurse of Crocodiles
- The Huntress
- Opener of the Ways
- Great Goddess
- Lady of the West
Mother of the Gods, goddess of war and the hunt, she is goddess of the lower heavens, a warrior goddess and protectress. Her name means “I have come from myself,” or self-begotten.
Eternal goddess, universal mother; the Spirit behind the Veil of Mysteries; World Body; Primal Abyss. Her cult was a very ancient one with two queens of the First Dynasty named after her. Often shown along side Selqet as mummy guardian and protectress of marriage. She wore the red crown of Lower Egypt. In her hands she held a bow and two arrows.
Neith is a goddess of hunting. She presides over crafts of all kinds, including witchcraft and warcraft. Amuletic weapons placed in the tomb to protect the deceased from evil spirits were consecrated to Neith. She is the judge of the Egyptian deities. After eighty years, when the lawsuit between Horus and Set in the Court of Deities was still not resolved, Neith was called in to render a decision to which all could defer. (She favored Horus but compensated Set. Neith has historically had a close positive relationship with Set.)
Her ceremonies were of a mystic nature. Neith was worshiped with Mysteries and lantern processions. In December (on or around December 8th), a great festival, called the Feast of Lamps, was held annually in her honor and, according to Herodotus, her devotees burned a multitude of lights in the open air all night during the celebration.
She is the patroness of domestic arts, weaving, hunting, medicine, war, and weapons. Turn to her when working with herbs, magick, healing, mystical knowledge, rituals, and meditation. She is the protectress of women and marriage.
She may be venerated independently or together with her son, Sobek. The Greeks identified her with Athena, also identified as originating in Libya. Many consider Athena to be a Greek path of Neith or at least a very closely related spirit.
Neith appears as an androgynous woman. She wears the red crown of Lower Egypt. She sometimes appears in the guise of a golden cobra, as well. In Iconography, she is customarily depicted with a green face and hands. Neith is portrayed suckling a crocodile at each breast.
The main imagery of Neith was as the deity of the unseen and limitless sky, as opposed to Nut and Hathor, who respectively represented the manifested night and day skies. Her epithet as the “Opener of the Sun’s Paths in all her stations” refers to how the sun is reborn (due to seasonal changes) at various points in the sky, under her control of all beyond the visible world, of which only a glimpse is revealed prior to dawn and after sunset.
It is at these changing points that Neith reigns as a form of sky goddess, where the sun rises and sets daily, or at its ‘first appearance’ to the sky above and below. It is at these points, beyond the sky that is seen, that her true power as the deity who creates life is manifested.
This ancient goddess represents the full ecliptic circle around the sky (above and below). It was this realm, the cosmos below the horizon, that Neith personified, for she is the complete sky which surrounds the upper and lower sky, and which exists beyond the horizon, and thereby beyond the skies themselves. Neith, then, is that portion of the cosmos which is not seen, and in which the sun is reborn daily, below the horizon which may reflect the statement assigned to Neith as “I come at dawn and at sunset daily.”
As the goddess of creation and weaving, she was said to reweave the world on her loom daily. An interior wall of the temple at Esna records an account of creation in which Neith brings forth from the primeval waters of the Nun the first land. All that she conceived in her heart comes into being, including the thirty deities. Having no known husband she has been described as “Virgin Mother Goddess.”
Unique Goddess, mysterious and great who came to be in the beginning and caused everything to come to be . . . the divine mother of Ra, who shines on the horizon…
- Other names: Damballah Weddo, Da, Papa Damballa, Obatala
- Manifestation: Damballah is a huge snake, so big his body forms seven thousand coils
- Color: White
- Day: Thursday
- Plants: Bougainvillea, trees in general, but especially the silk cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) and the Royal palm.
- Altar: Keep shallow vessels of clean, fresh water for him to curl up inside.
- Holiday: March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)
Once upon a time, there was only Damballah. He lay beneath Earth, a great snake, cushioning and protecting it from falling into the watery abyss below. Although he lay still for a long time, eventually he had to move. His movements raised mountains and created valleys. Stars were shaken up into the sky. Sacred waters were released, forming oceans, rivers, springs and streams.
The first rain began to fall, and Aido-Hwedo, in the guise of the first rainbow, appeared. Damballah and Aido-Hwedo fell in love. They remain in love today. The intensive all pervasive power of that love infiltrated the entire universe. That power is manifest in human beings in the form of white liquids: milk and semen.
Associated Catholic Saint Patrick (who drove the snakes out of Ireland), and sometimes also Moses, whose staff transformed into a snake to prove the power of God over that wielded by Egyptian priests, Damballah is the primordial snake Iwa of life, wealth and wisdom. He is venerated in Dahomey as well as Haitian Vodou. He may also survive in the New Orleans folk saint Blanc Dani.
Damballah is among the most beloved and important Iwa. He associated with creation and is viewed as a loving father to the world. His presence brings peace and harmony. He bestows wealth, prosperity, good health, and fertility to devotees and can expose the location of missing treasure.
Damballah and his true love, the rainbow serpent, maintain the balance of forces, which sustains all ife on Earth. As a source of life, he is also strongly associated with water and regulates moisture and the rain.
He is incredibly old and powerful and is usually not bothered for trivial matters. He can be extremely generous, however, and so may be approached when one is genuinely desperate or really in trouble. Despite his venerable age, he remains interested in people. He will engage in sacred marriages with women but also occasionally with men.
Dambullah appears in dreams. He does not communicate well. You must pay attention. He is so old and primal that he is pre-articulate; he emerges from a time before speech. Damballah may hiss or make whistling noises but does not speak human language.
When he possesses a human, he does not speak but instead only hisses and whistles. His movements are also snake-like, and can including slithering along the ground, flicking his tongue, and climbing tall objects.
He is a stickler for cleanliness. He doesn’t like strong, pervasive odors of any kind, but especially tobacco. If you smoke, then do so far from his altar space or anywhere associated with him. He may object to cleaning products with strong odors too, as well as air fresheners with strong aromas. Rooms should smell clean and fresh. Open a window to aerate them. He does not object to light floral odors, like rose or orange blossom water, and traditionally expresses a fondness for Pompeii Lotion, a cologne product found in botanicas and spiritual supply stores.
For a very traditional offering, make a bed or hill of white flour on a perfectly clean, pure white plate. Nestle one whole, raw white egg into the center of the flour and serve.
Other offerings could include white candles and white foods like rice, milk, whole raw eggs (leave them plain or rub gently with rose or other mildly scented, fine quality floral water), corn syrup, white chickens, or white flowers. More lavish offerings might include luxurious white fabrics, crystal or porcelain eggs and/or snakes.
Veve for Damballa and Ayida-Weddo:
From; Encyclopedia of Spirits
- Titles: Daughter of Nature, Goddess of Creation, Water Mother, Sky Mother
- Other Names: Luonnotar, Luonotar
- Origin: Finland
- Depicted as: Virgin floating on the sea
- Feast day: August 26
The name Ilmatar is derived from the Finnish word ilma, meaning “air,” and the suffix -tar, denoting a female spirit. Thus, her name literally means “female air spirit.” In the Kalevala she was also occasionally called Luonnotar,which means “female spirit of nature” (Finnish luonto, “nature”)
The story is as follows:
In the beginning, says the Kalevala, there was only Ilmatar, the void and a great deal of wind. She was alone in the beginning of time. She lived in the heavens, but eventually she grew restless and slipped into the vast cosmic sea. She floated and frolicked for centuries on this primordial ocean, counting rainbows and letting the wind play in her hair.
She began to long for a son.Her longing was so great that the East Wind itself took pity. She found herself buffeted and tossed by the wind’s tempestuous love-making until, exhausted, she could bear it no longer and collapsed. During this storm she became pregnant. And there, inside her, was conceived Vainamoinen, the child of the wind.
The goddess floated for centuries on this primordial ocean, unable to give birth because there was no land. She prayed constantly to the god Ukko, the highest of the gods, to help her. After seven centuries or so she began to give up hope, and Ukko took pity on her and sent a duck.
The poor bird was desperately looking for somewhere to land so she could make a nest and lay her eggs. When Ilmatar saw the bird’s predicament, she helpfully raised her knee and the bird came swooping down. Half a dozen cosmic eggs were laid, followed by an egg made of iron. The bird then gathered them all up, sat upon them and went to sleep.
Luonnotar sat and watched the bird eagerly, happy for something to finally be happening after centuries of loneliness and boredom. She became too excited, however, her leg began to heat up, she became extremely uncomfortable. Slowly, carefully, she began to stretch out her leg.. and slowly, inevitably, the seven eggs rolled off and fell majestically into the raging sea.
Now, cosmic eggs are delicate things, as soon as they fell into the waters, they broke open. Ilmatar watched in amazement as the broken shells of the eggs formed the heavens and the earth. The yolks became the sun, the whites the moon, and scattered fragments of the eggs transformed into the stars.
And thus the world was formed. As for the iron egg, the black yolk became a thundercloud.
Ilmatar was delighted with events, and busied herself shaping the lands and adding finishing touches. Even though dry land was now available, Ilmatar continued to carry the child within her for thirty summers while she finished her work. Eventually, she felt a stirring inside her. Vainamoinen had woken up after 30 years of being in the womb and was eager to see the new world. He had quite a struggle to get out, but he managed in the end and eventually, Ilmatar gave birth to Vainamoinen, a bouncing bonny old man, and the worlds first shaman, who then finished her creation.
Compiled from various sources
In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being (or one of a trio of sisters of the same name) who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman. Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs (or sometimes a single chicken leg).
Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out. She offers comprehension, not comfort. She sometimes plays a maternal role, and also has associations with forest wildlife. She is a many-faceted figure, capable of inspiring those who seek to see her as a Cloud, Moon, Death, Winter, Snake, Bird, Pelican or Earth Goddess.
Baba Yaga is an enigmatic spirit who rules the conjunction of magic and harsh reality, of limits and possibilities. This Death Spirit provides fertility when she chooses, but she also consumes those who disappoint her. She is iron-toothed, boney-legged, and wears a necklace of human skulls. Her home is surrounded by a fence crafted from human bones and, when inside of her dwelling, she may be found stretched out over the stove, reaching from one corner of the hut to another.
Like her compatriot spirits, Kali and La Santisima Muerte, Baba Yaga encompasses all the mysteries of life and death; contemplate her in order to begin to comprehend these mysteries. I don’t suggest contacting her (the Baba has little patience; don’t waste her time without good reason), a kind of magical contemplation is recommended instead.
Connecting With Baba Yaga
The Baba Yaga’s Feast Day is usually celebrated on the first full moon in November, but a connection can be made at any time during the year.
- Build an altar featuring birch wood and leaves, animal imagery, a mortar, pestle and broom, and especially, food and drink.
- Baba Yaga is always voraciously hungry. Offer her real food or cut out photo images for the altar. She is especially fond of Russian extravagances like coulibiac.
- Offer her a samovar with blocks of fine Russian caravan tea and perhaps a water pipe.
- Sit with the altar, gaze at it from different angles, play with the objects and see what comes to mind.
Be patient, and expect that it will take time to achieve a connection and a response.
More About Baba Yaga
The ‘old woman’ of autumn was called Baba by the Slavic inhabitants of eastern Europe, Boba by the Lithuanians. This seasonal divinity lived in the last sheaf of grain harvested in a year, and the woman who bound it would bear a child that year. Baba passed into Russian folk legend as the awesome Baba Yaga, a witchlike woman who rowed through the air in a mortar, using a pestle for Her oar, sweeping the traces of Her flight from the air with a broom.
A prototype of the fairytale witch, Baba Yaga lived deep in the forest and scared passersby to death just by appearing to them. She then devoured Her victims, which is why Her picket fence was topped with skulls. Behind this fierce legend looms the figure of the ancient birth-and-death Goddess, one whose autumn death in the cornfield led to a new birth in spring.
Baba Yaga is a Slavic version of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death, the Dancer on Gravestones. Although, more often than not, we consider Baba Yaga as a symbol of death, She is a representation of the Crone in the Triple Goddess symbolism. She is the Death that leads to Rebirth. It is curious that some Slavic fairy tales show Baba Yaga living in Her hut with Her two other sisters, also Baba Yagas. In this sense, Baba Yaga becomes full Triple Goddess, representing Virgin, Mother, and the Crone.
Baba Yaga is also sometimes described as a guardian of the Water of Life and Death. When one is killed by sword or by fire, when sprinkled with the Water of Death, all wounds heal, and after that, when the corpse is sprinkled with the Water of Life, it is reborn. The symbolism of oven in the Baba Yaga fairy tales is very powerful since from primordial times the oven has been a representation of womb and of baked bread. The womb, of course, is a symbol of life and birth, and the baked bread is a very powerful the image of earth, a place where one’s body is buried to be reborn again.
It is interesting that Baba Yaga invites Her guests to clean up and eat before eating them, as though preparing them for their final journey, for entering the death, which will result in a new clean rebirth. Baba Yaga also gives Her prey a choice when She asks them to sit on Her spatula to be placed inside the oven: if one is strong or witty, he or she escapes the fires of the oven, for weak or dim-witted ones, the road to death becomes clear.”
Baba Yaga lives in the middle of a very deep forest, in a place which is often difficult to find unless a magic clue (a ball of yarn or thread) or a magic feather shows the way. The old hag lives in a wooden hut on two chicken legs (sometimes three or four legs are described).
Usually the hut is turned with its back towards a traveler, and only magical words can make it turn around on its chicken legs to face the newcomer. Very often, the hut revolves with loud noises and painful screams that make a visitor cringe. This serves to frighten the reader, showing the hut’s old age, and to show that Baba Yaga does not care about her hut’s well being.
- Baba Yaga fairy tales can be found at Widdershins.
It is also fascinating that some fairy tales describe the hut as being a unique evil entity: firstly, it has the ability to move on its chicken legs. Secondly, it understands human language and is able to decide whether and when to let a visitor enter its premises. Finally, the hut is often depicted as being able ‘to see’ with its eyes (its windows) and ‘to speak’ with its mouth (its doorway). I also cannot help feeling that the hut is able ‘to think’, and one can observe these thoughts as wild powerful clouds of steam emerging from the hut’s chimney. What powerful imagery!
Baba Yaga’s hut is often surrounded by fence made of human bones and topped with human skulls with eyes. Instead of wooden poles onto which the gates are hung, human legs are used; instead of bolts, human hands are put in; instead of the keyhole, a mouth with sharp teeth is mounted. Very often Baba Yaga has her hut is protected by hungry dogs or is being watched over by evil geese-swans or is being guarded by a black cat. The gates of Baba Yaga’s villa are also often found to be guardians of Yaga’s hut as they either lock out or lock in the Witch’s prey.
Baba Yaga – The Black Goddess – An Essay
For those of you who enjoy a more scholarly approach to the goddess, here is an essay by an anonymous author about Baba Yaga, the Black Goddess, and what her mythology represents.
Baba Yaga and her Magical Colts
I have been thinking and thinking about the image and story of Baba Yaga now for months and wondering how girls and women can resolve the seemingly paradoxical story of a bony heartless witch with the image of innocence of a rejected and abandoned girl. The following essay outlines how we use myth and story to perpetuate unconscious mindsets and it also unveils the gifts that these stories unfold in our inner psyche.
The story of Baba Yaga is prime among many images of the Black Goddess. The Black Goddess is at the heart of all creative processes and cannot be so easily viewed. Men and women rarely approach her, except in fear. Women are learning of her through the strength and boldness of elder women who are not afraid to unveil her many faces.
Sofia as wisdom lies waiting to be discovered within the Black Goddess who is her mirror image. Knowing that, until we make that important recognition, we are going to have to face the hidden and rejected images of ourselves again and again.
As women, we are confronted throughout our lives with unavoidable body messages regarding the uniqueness of our form and the inevitable changes that characterize aging and the passage of time. Although aging presents difficult challenges for both men and women, women confront some specific difficulties because of their gender. In traditional narratives, the end of biological fertility has relegated women to the status of “old women” who are stereotypically viewed as poor, powerless, and pitiful in our sexist and youth oriented culture. Baba Yaga, often referred to as the Black Goddess, and Vasalisa, often representing Sophia, are intrinsic to the psyche of girls and women because they shows us that the illusion of form can hide wonderful qualities within.
Baba Yaga, ugly, haglike, flying in her mortar,
seemingly isolated and abandoned,
yet broom at hand, ready to sweep the clouds across the skies
and reveal her hidden cosmic nature
One of the cruelest of stereotypes that older women face is the “menopausal woman.” These are accentuated by the very fact that younger women are often rejecting or distancing to older women in society, unwilling to identify with women older than themselves. These experiences are painful confirmations that the aging woman no longer meets the social criteria of a physically and securely attractive woman. The common result for most women is the activation of shame — as if becoming/looking older means that something is deeply and truly wrong with oneself.
Conscious femininity is a cyclic process and involves an awakened awareness of the triple form of the Goddess – Mother, Virgin and Crone – and how she exists simultaneously and continuously in all of our psyches, each taking center stage in awareness at different moments. These archetypal patterns are considered intrapsychic modes of consciousness in the individual, and the primordial image of a powerful and integrated woman, crowned with wisdom gleaned through real experience, is again reemerging through both the individual and collective psyches of humanity.
First, however, women must learn to embrace, respect and honor their changing bodies, abilities, capacities and WISDOM. We can learn a lot from Baba Yaga!
An archetype is a universal symbol, an inherited mental image to which humankind responds, and which is often acted upon as an unconscious reaction to human experience. These stories are no different and the story of Baba Yaga exemplify this phenomena.
The female experience is symbolized by and archetypally corresponds with the ancient Triple Goddess as the creator and destroyer of all life — “the ancient and venerable female divinity embodying the whole of female experience as Virgin, Mother, Crone.” The archetypal figure representing the end of a woman’s childbearing years, or the “third age” for women, is the third aspect of the Triple Goddess, the Crone.
At the climacteric or menopause, women are often forced to stand precipitously between the culmination of past experiences, to realize that youth is left behind, and prepare a new space within whereby a fresh image will coalesce as she envisions her future. This is real labor. The traditional constructs that are available to women are largely influenced by patriarchal standards of youth and beauty and we need fresh constructs that honor the diversity of life in all of its forms.
When a culture’s language has no word to connote “wise elder woman,” what happens to the women who carry the “Grandmother” consciousness for the collective? Prejudicial (prejudged) attacks throughout history against older women symbolized patriarchy’s feminization of fear: the ultimate fear of annihilation, to be nonexistent (no existence). Centuries-long indoctrination limits our imagination so that we see this ancient aspect of the feminine only in her negative forms. We see her as the one who brings death to our old way of being, to our lives as we have known them, and to our embodied selves.
Our fear of the unconscious makes the Crone or Baba into an image of evil. The prevalence of paranoid masochism finds its expression through feminine perversion. Kristeva writes from “Stabat Matar” that: “Feminine perversion is coiled up in the desire for law as desire for reproduction and continuity, it promotes feminine masochism to the rank of structure stabilizer.” Structure stabilizer! Natural death is to be feared, hidden away, certainly not recognized as part of the natural rhythm of cycles of birth, death and rebirth?
Only when death becomes projected does it become a monster to be feared. There is an unconscious belief that a woman who has outlived her husband has somehow used up his life force. Walker claims that the secret hidden in the depths of men’s minds is that images of women are often identified with death. Women have also bought into this mindset largely because of lost connection with their own spirituality and the natural cycles of nature!
Vasalisa Approaching the Hut of Baba Yaga
To be sent to Baba Yaga was tantamount to being sent to one’s death, but Vasalisa was actually helped by Baba Yaga. By facing her own worst fear — death itself, Vasalisa became liberated from her previous situation and immaturity.
The myths of our society tell us much about the attitudes and world view of the myth-owners, and these attitudes are the products of women’s roles within the wider society. Myth arises out of the collective level of humankind’s experience, which is presented through images and symbols that resonate within our psyche. It is something we inherit from our ancestors and it is expressed through our genetic, racial memory. Kaufert reminds us however, that “myth is a system of values presented as if it were a system of facts.”
The symbol of the Crone is unique to a feminine worldview where the face of the Virgin and the fecund Mother, the Virgin Mother Mary, was absorbed in Western tradition into Judeo-Christian imagery. Likewise, we see the image of Vasalisa embodied as this innocence. The Crone has retained much of her pre-patriarchial character where she has haunted the fringes of Western culture, largely ignored, unacknowledged and rejected; one that often strikes fear into the hearts of men and some women because she has tremendous power and cannot be confined.
“Wise women,” in the past, were literally seen as having the power of life and death. They symbolized maturity, authority, attuned to nature and instinct. They were women whom men could not bind by making pregnant. They personified, as Hall writes:
“That aspect of life that men would most like to control but against which they are powerless: death. The Crone was healer, seer, medicine woman and, when death arrived with inexorable certainty, she was the mid-wife for the transition to another life.”
Baba Yaga’s Hut standing on its magical Chicken-Leg,
yet revolving like the solar symbol it is,
always rising and setting in a new place,
bringing birth — and death — daily.
Over time, and in recent history the Crone became associated with the dark side of the feminine; the withered old hag, the witch. Ironically, the word “Hag” used to mean “holy one” from the Greek hadia, as in hagiolatry, “worship of saints.” And during the middle ages hag was said to mean the same as fairy.
In deconstructing these familiar images of the older aging woman, we must first identify their symbolic roots and challenge them in order to allow for potent, vital images that energize women’s potential creative spiritual evolution. In this quest it is crucial to find valued female images that present creative and spiritual power, that offer a paradigm of ongoing formation and integration. If we do not do so, we risk encountering images of women that reinforce stereotypical models and moreover, can only alienate us from our own truest selves.
The Crone is a figure who incorporates both dark and light, life and death, creation and destruction, form and dissolution. The doll [Vasalisa’s doll, given to her by her dying mother] becomes the symbol of the Sibyl, a figure of inspiration and intuition. She acts as a guide through the great passages of life, leading a woman into her own inner knowing.
Vasalisa and her doll with the White Horseman of Dawn(who reports daily to Baba Yaga, just like the Red Horseman of Noon, and the Black Horseman of Evening)
We see this in the story of Vasalisa and Baba Yaga, the innocence of the maiden coming of age through a series of tasks. Baba Yaga forces Vasalisa to look within through intuition (the doll) and she awakens to the illuminating light that is carried in her heart. Within the simple limits of a folk story, the interactions of Sophia (Vasalisa) and the Black Goddess (Baba Yaga) are demonstrated. Baba Yaga or the Crone also embodies the inner archetype of Sophia, feminine wisdom.
Hall writes: “Sophia is a Wise Woman, one who epitomizes feminine thought. This thought is of a particular kind. It is ‘gestalt’ or whole perception; it synthesizes and looks at the overall pattern; it is logical but empathetic, and combines acute observation with intuition. It is relational (taking account of the past in order to project forward into the future), and it arises out of care and concern for man and womankind. It uses both the left and right brain modes of thought. It is creative and concerned with vision and solutions — attributes which are an integral part of the Wise Woman.”
Sophia plays, hides, adepts, disguises, and brings justice. Interestingly, we see these very same qualities attributed to the wise woman as being Vasalisa’s, only not fully formed. Thus affirming the feminist perspective of the Goddess in all of her aspects and that all ways to wisdom are valid paths. Girls and women are encouraged to rely on their own subjective experience or on the communal experience of other women This is a very important point!
From a feminist perspective, the entry into the third phase of women’s life is seen as a time of spiritual questing, renewal and self-development. It is a time where women are encouraged to explore themselves through interaction with other females who are providers of friendship, support, love, even sexual satisfaction, rather than a woman’s family.
Baba Yaga helping young Ivanushka
Likewise, the young girl growing into maidenhood needs the guidance and wisdom that elder women can provide. She must receive the gifts that the wise ones can give her. Baba Yaga may appear as a witch, yet she is instrumental in folk traditions. She aids heroes to find weapons, simplifying tasks and quests when she is treated with courtesy. Her transposed reflection is none other than Vasilisa the fair – the young righteous maiden who defeats her opposite aspect by truth and integrity.
The older woman is the keeper of the wisdom and tradition in her family, clan, tribe, and community. She is the keeper of relations, whether they be interpersonal or with all of nature. Every issue is an issue of relationship. It is assumed that she has a deep understanding of the two great mysteries, birth and death.
Another quality is the ability to be mediator between the world of spirit and earth. She is emancipated from traditional female roles of mothering and is free to make a commitment to the greater community. As a result of this freedom, there is an abundance of creativity unleashed in this phase of life; often expressed through art, poetry, song, dance, and crafts, and through her sexuality as she celebrates her joy (Joussance).
This elder time must again become a stage of life revered and honored by others and used powerfully in service by women themselves. The elder “Wise-woman” can represent precisely the kind of power women so desperately need today, and do not have: the power to force the hand of the ruling elite to do what is right, for the benefit of future generations and of the earth itself.
A powerful Baba Yaga, flying in her mortar,
protecting her forests, and banishing all obstacles with her pestle and broom.
Like Baba Yaga, the Crone must help us by her example and “admonish us to revere all peoples and all circles of life upon this earth . . . not only important for the dignity and self-esteem of each woman, but vital for the countenance of life on our sweet Mother Earth.” Since men define power as the capacity to destroy, the Destroying Mother Crone must be the most powerful female image for them, therefore, the only one likely to force them (us) in any new direction.
A woman who denies her life process at any time in her development, clinging desperately to outmoded images, myths and rituals of her past, obscures her connection with Self, the Divine, and therefore, with her spiritual heritage, the natural universe. The same holds true for our daughters, maidens who are coming of age. There is a kind of internal balance and sense of holiness available to us when we accept ourselves as part of a world that honors cycles, changes, decay and rebirth. It is time for women to reflect and give form to the authentic self in its evolving, formative process.
The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last. She must bear herself, her third self, her old age with labor. There are not many who will help her with that birth. To Crone is to birth oneself as “Wise-woman,” and see the world through new eyes.
We have not had the safety valve of feminine metaphor in our spiritual understanding; consequently, the Feminine, both Divine and human, have appeared monstrously contorted, threatening and uncontrollable.
The Black Goddess lies at the basis of Spiritual knowing, which is why her image continuously appears within many traditions as the Veiled Goddess, the Black Virgin, the Outcast Daughter, the Wailing Widow, the Dark Woman of Knowledge.
The way of Sophia is the way of personal experience. It takes us into the realm of “magical reality,” those areas of our lives where extraordinary vocational and creative skills are called upon to manifest. Those treasures of Baba Yaga and Vasalisa lie deep within each of us, waiting to be discovered.
Baba Yaga and Vasalisa,
Crone and Puella [Maiden]: Two Aspects of One Archetype
This Neolithic goddess, known variously as the “blue hag”, the “Bear goddess” and “Boar goddess”, “owl faced”, and “ancient woman”, has survived through the ages. Coming from the continent, Her worship spread to the British Isles early after the recession of the glaciers. The proto-Celtic peoples honored Cailleach and blended Her varying aspects, creating images invoking both love and terror. The various names (see below) that Cailleach has been worshipped in lend a clue to Her wide spread worship:
Names: Beare, Béarra, Béirre, Bhéara, Bheare, Bhéirre, Bhérri, Boi, Bui, Cailliaech, Cailliach, Cailleach Beara, Caillech Bherri, Calliagh Birra, Cally Berry, Carline, Digde, Dige, Dirra, Dirri, Duineach, Hag of Beara, Hag of Beare, Mag-Moullach, Mala Liath, Nicnevin, and Scotia,
Titles: Ancient Woman, Bear goddess, Blue Hag, Boar Goddess, Creator of Storms, Crone, Duineach, Goddess of Sovereignty, Many Followers, Old Woman, Owl Faced, and The Popular
The Cailleach Beara is one of the oldest living mythological beings associated with Ireland. According to the ancient stories, she has a conversation with Fintan the Wise and the Hawk of Achill and both agree that she has outlived them, saying ‘Are you the one, the grandmother who ate the apples in the beginning?’ (apples are associated with immortality and are considered the food of the gods)
The Cailleach Beara is ever-renewing and passes through many lifetimes going from old age to youth in a cyclic fashion. She is reputed to have had at least fifty foster children during her ‘lives’. She usually appears as an old woman who asks a hero to sleep with her, if the hero agrees to sleep with the old hag she then transforms into a beautiful woman.
In Scotland, where she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter, she is credited with making numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her apron. In other cases she is said to have built the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods.
She is considered to be the daughter of Grainne, or the Winter Sun. She is affectionately known as ‘Grandmother of the Clanns’ and ‘the Ancestress of the Caledonii Tribe’. The legends of the Caledonii tribe speak of the “Bringer of the Ice Mountains”, the great blue Old Woman of the highlands. Called Cailleach, Cailleach Bheur, Scotia, Carline or Mag-Moullach by the people, She was the Beloved Mountain Giantess who protected the early tribe from harm and nurtured them in Her sacred mountains.
The Cailleach Beara is usually associated with Munster in particular Kerry and Cork. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren formed the tribes of Kerry and it’s surroundings. And she is considered a goddess of sovereignty giving the kings the right to rule their lands.
Traits and Abilities:
She herds deer. She fights Spring. Her staff freezes the ground.
She is sometimes depicted as an old hag with the teeth of a wild bear and boar’s tusks or else is depicted as a one-eyed giantess who leaps from peak to peak, wielding Her magical white rod and blasting the vegetation with frost. Cailleach’s white rod, or slachdan, made of birch, bramble, willow or broom, is a Druidic rod which gives Her power over the weather and the elements.
Cailleach is also a goddess who governs dreams and inner realities. She is the goddess of the sacred hill, the Sidhe, and the place where we enter into the hidden realm of the Fey and spirit beings. Sacred stones, the bones of the earth, are Her special haunts. Cailleach is connected to the ‘bean sidhe’ or banshee (which means ‘supernatural woman’) who are the wild women of the Fey.
In Scotland, the Cailleachan (‘old women’) were also known as The Storm Hags, and seen as personifications of the elemental powers of nature, especially in a destructive aspect. They were said to be particularly active in raising the windstorms of spring, during the period known as A’ Chailleach.
Là Fhèill Brìghde is the day the Cailleach gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she intends to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on February 1 is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood to keep herself warm in the coming months. As a result, people are generally relieved if February 1 is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep, will soon run out of firewood, and therefore winter is almost over.
On the Isle of Man, where She is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to have been seen on St. Bride’s day in the form of a gigantic bird, carrying sticks in her beak
On the west coast of Scotland, the Cailleach ushers in winter by washing her great plaid (tartan) in the Whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain (cauldron of the plaid). . This process is said to take three days, during which the roar of the coming tempest is heard as far away as twenty miles inland. When she is finished, her plaid is pure white and snow covers the land.
Cailleach is also the guardian spirit of a number of animals. She is associated with the ancient tradition of herding reindeer. This means that the reindeer (and all deer) are Her cattle; She herds and milks them and often gives them protection from hunters. Swine, wild goats, wild cattle, and wolves are also Her creatures. Cailleach is also a fishing goddess, as well as the guardian of wells and streams.
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