The Dire Lore Of Baba Yaga
Brian Fatah Steele
If I ever happen to meet the writers of those John Wick movies, words will be exchanged. Sure, they’re fun, action flicks, but such lazy writing. The name “Baba Yaga” does not mean “Boogeyman,” just because it’s weird and creepy sounding.
My new novel Dire Branches is out now. It’s all about the folklore of Baba Yaga brought into the modern day. I’ve been fascinated by the lore for years and researched it quite a bit for the book. Granted, I wrote a cosmic horror story about a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings getting killed in the woods by monsters after reworking the key figure into a contemporary archetype, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do my homework first. Unlike the people from John Wick.
The myths surrounding Baba Yaga go back almost one thousand years, and some historians believe they can trace it back even further. Her tales are most common in the Slavic regions of Eastern Europe and Western Russia, although it has spread to other parts of the continent. Certain scholars believe she could be a “proto-witch,” her lore inspiring further types in other parts of the world. Some of the details are striking.
Often portrayed as an ugly old woman, this is not always found to be true. In the tales, she has occasionally been written as a beautiful young maiden. Far stranger, is her mode of travel along with her home. Supposedly she rides about in a giant mortar, steered through the air by her pestle. This was adapted into the broom in the latter centuries by Europeans during their fear of witches. Her house was believed to be a cottage standing tall on two giant chicken legs. Modern historians feel foreigners saw houses on stilts in a swamp and were simply confused.
Most modern renderings of Baba Yaga depict her as this violent, evil character, but if you dive back deep enough, you’ll discover that’s not necessarily the case. She seemed more akin to Loki, Anansi, or Coyote – a trickster god. Yes, she was commonly cruel, but not always. You might find favor with her, and get a gold coin or be lead out of the forest. Sadly, most people just got eaten as far I could tell.
Now for the etymology. Baba is a babble word like mama or nana, very common throughout the whole region. It roughly translates to “grandma,” “old woman,” or “crone.” Her actual name is Yaga, and here is where it gets complicated. There are over a dozen different definitions for this word, depending on the dialect. It can mean anything from “wicked” to “snake” to “illness.” There are numerous associated and translated variations of the name, from Mariana to Jedza to Hedwig, all of which I used in the book.
I did a lot more research on Baba Yaga, much of it went into Dire Branches. I also studied up on a number of other monsters from Slavic folklore and incorporated them into the tale – hopefully you’ll meet them. The folklore is meant to ring authentic but told in a fun, contemporary manner. I like my cosmic horror, and my Yaga has seen past the stars. She’s all about choices, so I guess you have one now, too.
You can read the Dire Branches Kendall Review HERE
SLAVIC FOLKLORE MEETS COSMIC HORROR
After a bad breakup, Skye’s friends decide she needs a vacation. They rent Hedwig House in the Appalachian foothills for an extended weekend of partying to get her mind off of things. Just relax with booze, food, and some of her best friends. Best of all, no internet for her to stalk her ex with.
Hedwig House is amazing, the owner even more so, but very quickly things seem off. Shadows lurch among the trees, yellow flowers glaring back at them. The angles of the house tilt unnaturally askew, while the stench of decay blows off the lake. One by one, the friends watch as ancient nightmares come alive.
These are horrors assembled from elsewhere, now travelling with renewed purpose. Legendary abominations devoted to the dread mother and her cause. There are so many choices that could be cursed, failures to be fed upon. Baba Yaga will let you decide your fate, among all these dire branches.
AVAILABLE NOW IN FROM ALIEN AGENDA PUBLISHING
You can buy Dire Branches using the following link http://mybook.to/Dire_Branches
Brian Fatah Steele
Brian Fatah Steele has been writing various types of dark fiction for over fifteen years, often describing it as “cosmic horror with elements of urban fantasy and sci-fi.” Steele originally went to school for fine arts but finds himself far more fulfilled now by storytelling. His own titles include DIRE BRANCHES (Alien Agenda Publishing), OUR CARRION HEARTS (Bloodshot Books), HUNGRY RAIN (Severed Press), CELESTIAL SEEPAGE (Alien Agenda Publishing), BLEED AWAY THE SKY (Bloodshot Books) and THERE IS DARKNESS IN EVERY ROOM (Sinister Grin Press), along with the self-published YOUR ARMS AROUND ENTROPY, BRUTAL STARLIGHT, FURTHER THAN FATE, and IN BLEED COUNTRY. His work has appeared in such anthologies as 4POCALYPSE, BLOOD TYPE, CTHULHU LIES DREAMING, DEATH’S REALM, THE IDOLATERS OF CTHULHU, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated DARK VISIONS, VOL.1.
You can follow Brian on Twitter @brian_f_steele