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Article ID: 14265

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Section: words

Age Group: Adult

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Apprenticing With Baba Yaga

Author: Sarah Anne Lawless
Posted: November 7th. 2010
Times Viewed: 10,388

When I was twenty years old I moved back to the province of my birth, my home. But no safe home did I move into, no, instead I lived with Baba Yaga upon my return. A small old one-story Victorian house with a Witch’s overgrown weedy garden and sacred trees guarding it all; she opened the front door for me and I willingly went inside. What had I to fear? I had done everything right. I had talked to her many times first, met her, met her friends, and visited her home before agreeing to become her apprentice.

At first I was glamoured by perfectly witchy interior. Plants hung from the ceiling and covered every surface. Brooms and slotted iron spoons hung over the front and back doors. There were shelves on the walls filled with oils, tinctures, and herbs. There were beautiful statues of gods, altars, and a Witch’s usual magpie collection of sticks, bones, and stones.

The Witch gave me a mat for my bed on her dining room floor. Laying there at night I started to see through the glamour’s veneer like a piece of fairy gold from a tale turning into crumbling brown leaves. Moss grew on the windows, seedlings on the edges of the walls, and mold on the ceiling like a tainted virus taking over the house.

For three months I swept and washed her floors, scrubbed her bathroom and kitchen of their eternal mould, cooked meals, took out the garbage, and watered the plants. I was Baba Yaga’s servant. In return she told me she would teach me the arts of Cunning. She said she was a healer, an herbalist, a diviner, a witch. Her words and promises charmed me, but little did I receive from her in exchange for three months of servitude.

I met her past apprentices during this time. They were shells of human beings, bodies with no souls, who had become mad, listless, and schizophrenic. It worried me she saw nothing amiss with this. The glamour she had cast over herself began to crack. I was new to the town and she wouldn’t tell me where to purchase a bus pass and which bus routes would go where I needed.

She wanted me to be dependent on her and keep me close so I would believe her every word. She told me of how men would only take advantage of me and that at my work I would be raped and coming home from work I would be robbed and beaten.

I began to realize how ill Baba Yaga was, both physically and mentally. She should’ve been dead with all her illnesses. “How could she heal others when she can not heal herself?” I thought. Ah, but she could heal herself, but herself alone for she had unintentionally become a dark sorcerer warned of in the old Russian folktales. She fed off the souls of others to stay alive.

She would speak to me of my power and potential and how it could be harnessed, but she did not mean by me. Baba Yaga meant to eat me, to shove me into her oven, to feast of my soul as she had on the others before me.

But like Vassilisa the brave and beautiful I was cunning and pure of heart. I listened to my intuition, the little voice of truth, and I tricked the witch. I escaped her clutches, not unscathed, but with my soul still intact. I left at the midnight hour and did not tell her where I was going. A friend picked me and what little belongings I had with me in her van and drove me to my new apartment. When I arrived at my new home I burned all she had given me and anything of mine she had touched. I quickly learned how to shield and protect myself lest she find me through magical means.

It was not for nothing that I apprenticed with the evil Baba Yaga. She had many lessons to teach me, but at the time I did not value them. She was a mirror of myself, my soul. What I could become if I made the same choices she had made. I was innocent, naive, and trusting before I walked through her door, but when I left I was wary, watchful, and aware of the evils that could dwell within the world as well as a woman’s soul; the lies, bitterness, resentment, and anger, but most of all the fear. Fear to trust and fear to love, lest you be hurt, and also fear to die. If I let fear rule my life I would become her and therefore like my enemies.

She was not truly evil this Baba Yaga, but much evil had been done to her in her lifetime – great evil. She did not tell me so directly, but in the hints she let slip I could read the stains of it on her soul as plain as day. Those she had loved and trusted had hurt her deeply. Instead of letting the evil pass through her and finding forgiveness for herself and the evildoers, she became that which she despised so much and, as many ill and abused people do, she became the abuser.

But unlike her I refused to be abused and left her to her wicked ways. I once wished her dead, but now I only wish her peace, as her soul will not find rest in the underworld due to all her wickedness and the innocent souls she has harmed.

I wish I could say this tale weren’t true, that it was fiction or happened to someone else, but alas not. Sometimes when you go to Baba Yaga for light she gives you darkness instead, reflecting the darkness within your own soul. If you do not accept this truth of yourself you will go mad and live in fear of it, but if you accept your inner darkness and know it is only ever potential, never realized unless you make it so — you will follow the true path of your soul’s journey once more and be gifted with more than you first sought.

This is why Baba Yaga is known in her country of origin as the initiator of children into adults. She is a goddess of transformation and death. For every change that is made, something too must die. To become an adult, the child you were first must die. I hope my story will be a lesson to all you seekers of knowledge and wisdom. Be wary of falling into the clutches of your own Baba Yaga.

If you have doubts about a Witchcraft teacher always ask the wider community and not that teacher’s friends. And for those who have had similar experiences, do not hide them in shame. There is no guilt in falling prey to a predator. It is better to speak ill of those who harm than to allow them to harm again.

For every teacher who led a student into madness, for every teacher who raped a student, and for every teacher who has done much worse - let there be many more who will call them out and never ever let it happen again.

Copyright: Copyright 2010 Sarah Lawless. Please do not distribute or use without permission of the author.


Sarah Anne Lawless

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia


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