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Slavic Folk and the Tarot: Baba Yaga

If you're not too familiar with Slavic Folklore, chances are you’ve never heard of Baba Yaga. She holds a prominent place in Slavic beliefs and tales, and her personality can take on many forms from a mother figure, a supernatural force guiding the dead between the two worlds, to a villain hunting for children. What is consistent about her though is her look – a very large nose and a bony leg. She travels around in a massive flying mortar using her birch broom as a rudder and, last but not least, the house she lives in is one of a kind, it has chicken legs, can move around, and is surrounded by a fence made of bones and skulls.

Just look it up on the internet and you’ll see how very unflattering her public image is. It’s difficult to say who, what, and when created her negative PR. The fact is that, through the ages, many consistently worked on stripping her of any good qualities. One Polish scholar and an expert on the subject, Professor Zygmunt Krzak, said that she represents “the reviled figure of the ancient goddess, a characterisation created by the male religious and secular elites who fought against the matriarchal religion.” Well, that would explain a lot.

Times change and so does our perception, and it is now more common than ever before to hear the view (perhaps still a bit apprehensive) that something doesn’t fully add up in her story. The portrait of Baba Yaga that I have in my mind doesn’t resemble her “traditional” image much. I like to think that she’s someone who’s complex and powerful, and because of her qualities was put in to a pigeonhole.

Identifying Baba Yaga with just one tarot card has also proven a challenge, mainly due to her puzzling and complicated personality. Although I’m still weighing different options, here are my top four cards with their main characteristics that would summarise my subjective view of Yaga’s nature:

The High Priestess – knowledge, wisdom, intuition, secrets, spirituality, higher power and psychic;

Strength – personal power, confidence, courage, compassion, self-control and focus;

The Hermit – intuition, solitude, psychic, contemplation, withdrawal, self-reflection and spiritual enlightenment;

The Moon – intuition, wisdom, magic, unconscious, secrets, deception and illusion.

I’ll leave her single tarot card assignment open for now. In the meantime, I’ll be introducing more Slavic mythological figures and my subjective take on their connections with the tarot.

[Art: Source Internet, artist unknown]

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