Friday, 27 April 2012

Witch - good and bad? Russian Baba-Yaga

    For many centuries witchcraft has been treated as a devil's gift, as an evil skill. Yes, indeed, it has many connections with the dark side of the existence, with the unknown powers of nature, which can cause destruction and even death. Not surprising that witch in many cases is depicted wearing a black cloak, may be a black hat, she also has a scary look, concentrated on the magical ritual. The image from the "Snow White and the seven dwarfs" cartoon by Disney is a typical vision of the witch in a popular culture:
Evil witch as depicted in Snow White fairy tale
   By the way, did the witches really look like this ever? If it was so dangerous being a witch, why would they attract more attention with such clothes? So this is I think is a modern delusion about the witch appearance.    However whether there was a witch around, everybody knew it and everybody knew how to reach that witch.
    Here I would like to stop by telling about the witch in Russian folklore. The main and the best known of them is Baba-Yaga (Russian "Баба-Яга"). When I was a child I used to love (!) Russian fairytales. First, my Mum used to read them for me, then I learned reading and could enjoy books myself.
     In the Russian folk tales the character of Baba-Yaga plays an important role for the main hero and his further success.
Usually the main hero whos' name is Ivan comes to Baba-Yaga's small hut called "izbushka" (Russian "избушка") to ask for a help or  for a piece of advice in doing some very challenging tasks. She helps him in return of some favour. So, in this case the witch is marked positively, however she remains a witch. You can read more about Russian folktales in the work of Vladimir Propp "Morphology of the folk tale"
    Baba-Yaga as described in the Russian fairy tales. This picture makes image of Baba-Yaga rather kind and even cheerful, thanks to the beauty of the painting.
Baba Yaga - a traditional character of the Russian fairy tales
   Another image of Baba-Yaga in the painting of the Russian artists of the XX century Bilibin and Vasnetsov reveals horrible sides of the witches nature:
Bilibin, Baba-Yaga
Vasnetsov, Baba-Yaga
   The Baba-Yaga's appearance is not pleasing and granny-like, but terrifying and dangerous, as she is representing other world and linked with it's powers.
   The witch appears as a helper and a dreadful ruiner in many other folklore stories of other countries. I am going to disclose this in the further posts on the topic "Witch - good and bad?".
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

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