Baba Yaga [1]



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Simon E. Phipp
Created On 21 June 1999
Last Updated On 21 June 1999
Copyright (c) Simon E. Phipp 1999

Mythos and History
Description
Powers
Other Comments

Mythos and History

Dendara is Yelm's Good Wife, the Goddess of the Household, the Good Mother and Housewife. She is the embodiment and personification of all that is good about Yelmic Women. She is what every Pelorian wife aspires to be, a good cook, a good wife, a good mother and a good housekeeper. To help her in her tasks, Dendara brought forth many daughters, these are the Good daughters who help Dendara look after her household. These daughters are all that good Pelorian daughters aspire to. They help Dendara in all her tasks, so one is a cook, one is a cleaner, one is a housekeeper, one looks after the household animals, one mends clothes, one looks after the other children and so on. These daughters are sometimes shadowy figures as they are often subsumed in the standard Dendara worship. However, there was one daughter who grew bored with her work at Yelm's Hearth. This was Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga was a daughter of Dendara who was expert in cleaning, cooking, preparing potions and looking after the animals of the household. Like many of her sisters, she did many different tasks in the household. However, unlike her sisters she grew bored with her lot. She looked out the door and wondered what life was like outside Yelm's Hearth amongst the other Gods and Goddesses. Her work suffered as she daydreamed and she was beaten by Yelm for being lazy. She met her aunt Gorgorma the Terrible One and learnt secrets of Dust from her. Armed with these secrets, Baba Yaga left Yelm's Hearth and tried to live with the other Gods and Goddesses. However, Yelm sent his servants to fetch her and bring her back to his Hearth. Again she left and again she was brought back for each time she remained within Yelm's Empire. Eventually, Baba Yaga left and ran away from Yelm's Empire into the Borderlands where outlaws lived and where Yelm's servants would not follow.

In the borderlands, Baba Yaga searched for a place to live. She carried her bucket and broom, her mortar and pestle and her bag of animals and grew tired. Wherever she tried to sit down and rest she touched the Earth who screamed that Baba Yaga the Bad Daughter was here. Afraid that Yelm's servants would hear, she jumped up and ran off. After many days travel, Baba Yaga grew tired and started to weep. A deity who always caused trouble heard her and asked what the problem was. "Whenever I stop to rest, the Earth tells Yelm where I am, and I am so tired" she said. Eurmal thought about the problem and decided on a course of action. He asked if she had anything in her bag of animals that would help. She opened up her bag and drew out a number of carved animals that she had taken with her. There was a pig, a dog, a cat and a bird. She took out a chicken and a broken rooster as she felt sorry for the crippled bird. Eurmal took the broken rooster and broke both legs off, discarding the rest. He took some wattle and asked Baba Yaga to make a hut which she did, being expert in that kind of thing. Eurmal then took the Rooster legs and placed them on the bottom of the wattle hut and spoke a charm. The hut jumped up and ran off startled with Baba Yaga and Eurmal in chase. They finally cornered the hut in a clearing in a forest where it turned around nervously so that they could not get to its door and Eurmal spoke to the hut saying "Little Hut, Little Hut, Stand the way thy mother placed thee, Turn thy back to the forest and thy face to me". The hut stopped turning and Baba Yaga and Eurmal entered the hut. Since the hut was not touching the Earth it did not scream so Baba Yaga could go to sleep.

As she slept, Eurmal looked at her and desired her, since she was Dendara's daughter. He slipped in beside her and laid his finger on her, but the Hut began to jump around so that he fell out of bed. Again he tried and this time laid a hand on her shoulder, but once again the hut leapt up and threw him out of bed. The third time he got more than a hand on her and Baba Yaga woke up with the Hut leaping around like a mad thing. She realised what Eurmal was doing to her and screamed, kicking him out of bed. "If I cannot have you then nobody can" said Eurmal and spat in her face, changing it forever. Although Baba Yaga was daughter of Dendara, she was no great beauty before, being plain and plump, but when Eurmal had spoken his words, her face began to change. She grew two great tusks, her nose became hooked, her chin grew larger, her skin became tough and leathery and she grew two great horns from the top of her head. She screamed and drove Eurmal out of the hut with her broom. She looked in the mirror and wept, seeing what Eurmal had done to her. She took a head-dress and covered her horns and rough hair. She used some of her mother's magic and made her face look a little more respectable, as all Good Wives can do. Looking at herself, she thought that she would not look too bad in the Shadows and decided that she would spend her time there rather than in the daylight.

Baba Yaga grew lonely by herself and spoke to her carved animals, bringing them to life to be her friends. She surrounded herself with her pigs, dogs, cats, birds and even a horse, but this did not satisfy her. She decided to go and look for friends, so she set off to search the area. She looked around and met some trolls who scared her and drove her off. Then she saw one of Yelm's servants come looking for her and hid on the ground, but the Earth cried out and said where she was. Baba Yaga ran away, leaving a trail that was easily followed, but her Hut jumped off and ran off with her hiding inside, so Yelm's Servant did not find her. The next time she left the Hut, Baba Yaga took with her a broom so that she could hide her tracks if she was seen again. After a while, she grew tired of searching and tried to look father afield. She took her bucket and broom and sat in the bucket. She reached out and pulled the bucket up into the air, using one broom as a paddle and driving herself through the air, with the other broom trailing behind, sweeping her trail away so that none could follow her.

Baba Yaga flew around seeing what could be seen. She met several people and called to them, but they were afraid and hid. She cast her spells and hid her appearance for a while, so when she called out people did not run. Baba Yaga taught them the secrets of the Earth, of cooking, cleaning, housecrafts and the brewing of potions. Others she feared and gave poison so that they would die. Still others she seduced and drew to her to fill the void that Eurmal's Curse had caused.

After a while, Dendara grew to know where Baba Yaga was and sent her Servants to find and bring back her Bad Daughter, but Baba Yaga fled inside her Hut to some hills. She fled again and again, settling in Forest, Hills and Marshland. Most of the time, she wanted to live alone, not bothered by others, but occasionally she tried to meet others and befriend them. Quite often she would be sought out by Heroes and Kings who would ask her for advice, usually without problem but sometimes with great danger.

As Baba Yaga befriended more and more people, she produced daughters who were like her. These daughters left home quickly as she had and set up their own homes as she had done. These are the Baba Yagas that normal people meet as their mother has retreated to the God Time where all Gods belong.


Description

A Baba Yaga is a Witch or a Hag normally found in the lands around Peloria. They are known in Saird, in the Hills of Imther, Balazar and the Elder Wilds Rockwoods, in the Yolp Mountains and in Carmania. Normally, these Baba Yagas are Nymphs, the equivalent of Hags, Dryads or Oreads, born either from Baba Yaga herself or from one of her Nymphs, or they are shamans who have decided to follow the ways of Baba Yaga. Either way, they have common traits. They are ugly, normally having tusks, horns, leathery skin and tough hair. They are bad-tempered and are loners, living in deserted and hard-to-reach areas. They live in Chicken-Legged Huts and keep carved animals as familiars. They are expert in brewing potions, cooking and housework. They can fly using their bucket and broom.

Quite often, Baba Yagas are sought out by HeroQuestors in order to gain their secrets or to gain boons or charms. There are many HeroQuests in Peloria and surrounding areas where Heroes have sought them out. These Quests are fairly well known, so to these HeroQuestors Baba Yagas are not feared. Those people who meet Baba Yagas without preparation are often in mortal danger, since Baba Yagas do not suffer visitors gladly.


Powers

Chicken Houses

Every Baba Yaga can create a Chicken Hut, normally through HeroQuest. These Huts are simple wattle and daub or wooden huts mounted on chicken legs. The hut can move around and is normally found circling when anyone approaches. This makes it very difficult to enter the hut as the door is always moving away and is around 10 feet off the ground. The best way to enter is to speak a charm, which many local shamans know and can teach, which makes the Hut face the speaker. This allows the person to climb up to the door and enter the Hut.

As the Hut is mobile, it can move around making it hard to find. When the Baba Yaga is angry she will jump and rage with the Hut following suit, similarly when she is happy she will jump with joy and so will the Hut. This means that it is very difficult to keep your balance in a Hut when the Baba Yaga is present.

Inside, a Baba Yaga's Hut is normally ramshackle, being full of jumbles of herbs, spices, exotic flowers and ingredients, various carved items, a door, several windows, a stove often made of metal, a broom, a bucket, some pets, often a cat, a bird of some kind, a pig and sometimes a dog, usually there will be a mortar and pestle for the Baba Yaga to make her potions.

A Baba Yaga normally makes the Hut into a familiar and can look through its senses, so she will know if anything is approaching. This means that the Baba Yaga often knows if she is in danger and makes her a formidable opponent.

Bucket and broom

These are the source of much of the Baba Yaga's powers for she is a witch of the Hearth and Home.

She uses the bucket for several things:

The Broom can be used for several things:

Each Baba Yaga has an enchanted bucket and broom. If these are lost or broken, she can create others through HeroQuesting or can mend the broken ones. Creating new ones is dangerous as it involves HeroQuest and a Baba Yaga is always careful about keeping her bucket and broom safe.

Mortar and Pestle

Some Baba Yagas use a Mortar and Pestle in the same way as a Bucket and Broom, to fly with, keep prisoners or beat enemies. Others have them and make potions. In fact, Baba Yagas are accomplished alchemists and can brew healing potions, poisons, antidotes and other rarer potions and mixtures. Often people seek out the Baba Yaga in order to gain special potions that nobody else knows how to brew.

Carved Animals

Much of a Baba Yaga's power is gained through her control of carved animal familiars. These take the form of wooden objects carved into animal shapes. So, a sled may be carved to have the body and head of a pig or a horse, a jug may be in the form of an owl, a weathercock may be an eagle, a rocking chair shaped like a bear and so on. The carving is then enchanted using Divine Magic granted by Baba Yaga and the familiar is awakened by summoning a spirit into the carving. The spirit must be of the appropriate type, so a dog spirit or the spirit of a dog worshipper must be summoned for a dog carving, a cat spirit would not be able to animate the familiar.

Once the carving has been enchanted and a spirit bound into it the Baba Yaga may activate the carving, using another Divine Spell, and have the familiar perform certain tasks appropriate to the carving. So, a sled rocking horse can run, a bird can fly, a bear or dog can fight, a monkey can steal and so on. The Baba Yaga may use the familiar's senses to a certain extent, normally this entails using her bucket as a scrying tool to see what her familiar can see.

If the familiar is broken it must be repaired and re-enchanted as normal and the same spirit re-summoned for the familiar to be used again. If the spirit has been lost, the familiar may not be activated again.

Water of Life and Death

The Baba Yaga knows how to make these waters, or at least where to draw the water. They always come in Pairs that are diametrically opposed, so there are Waters of Life and Death, Strong Water and Weak Water, Waters of Health and Waters of Illness and so on.

Water of Life generally heals all wounds and will bring someone back to life. Water of Death usually acts as a poison. Strong Water increases strength and constitution, Weak Water reduces strength and constitution to almost nothing. Water of Health cures all diseases and damage, Water of Illness causes some kind of disease.

Quite often, these are made through HeroQuesting or by arcane alchemical techniques. It is very rare for anyone but a Baba Yaga to know how to make these Waters, but often people come to steal the waters from the Baba Yaga. Customarily, Baba Yagas do not like strangers for they believe that strangers are thieves and they are normally right.


Other Comments

Baba Yagas are all Witches, in other words people who use magic to harm others. They are priestesses or nymphs of Dust and are often shamans. As Shamans they control spirits of Earth, of the hearth and of Shadow. They deal in fear and mistrust and are normally considered to be evil.

Baba Yagas also use other magics, they are priestesses and gain magic from Earth Deities, they can even use some sorcery but this is rare. Their familiars give them powers that others do not have, they can poison or heal others. They can use charms to control people to do their bidding and can rule people through fear.

Baba Yagas are very powerful and also very rare. If you wish to use them in Glorantha, make sure they are few and far between and are used in HeroQuesting or scenarios where wise women are needed. Sometimes they can be used as enemies who steal and eat children, who poison cattle and cause trouble. Used in this way they should not have a large impact on Glorantha as a whole but are useful in individual campaigns.

Notes

[1] The Baba Yaga is a staple witch in Russian Folklore. Most Witches in Russian fairy stories share common properties and are manifestations of the Baba Yaga. I thought they were far to good not to be used in Glorantha and have tried to adapt them and fit them in as Yelm/Dendara's Bad Daughter as opposed to the Good Wife.

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