Often the tales of the Kaschey the Immortal are associated with Baba Yaga, and she, like the evil witch who lives in the hut of chicken legs, always helps to deteriorate relationships, committing mischief and carrying out her evil thought against anyone who dares to mention her name.
In Russian fairy tales, as well as in analogues from Central Europe, she is represented as a wrinkled old woman sitting meekly on a wooden bench or warming herself by the warm stove.
She flies into the sky with a broom or, stepped on a large spur – a harbor, repelled by a pestle, and after it frightening whirlwinds.
She looks to catch young children and eat them. With her eyes, she can make a man into stone, and abducting him in her home, then turn him back into flesh and blood to eat him.
Baba Yaga’s house stands on its heels, it can run up and down to chase people at the behest of the witch.
From the bones of her victims, she bulds a terrifying, enchanted house that scares people away. Her fence is adorned with the skulls of slain children, which glow like lanterns at night.
Known Fairy Tales
In the village lived the girl Vasilisa with her elderly parents.
Even before she died, her mother became ill and gave the girl a magic doll to help her in trouble if she fed her well. Vasilisa’s father remarried, but her stepmother and stepdaughters did not love her and made her do the black work at home.
One evening, when the fire burned, the stepmother sent Vasilisa to take the embers from Baba Yaga. Instead, however, the witch began to load her with overwhelming tasks, such as clearing peas mixed with poppy seeds. Vasilisa did her best with her doll, but Baba Yaga continued to load her with more and more assurances. Seeing no other way to escape, Vasilissa waited for the witch to snore, escaping from the house at night and grabbing one of the glowing skulls from the fence.
When Vasilisa returned home with the skull stolen from Baba Yaga’s fence, as soon as his gleaming eyes caught sight, the sisters and stepmother were immediately burned.
There was once a girl named Maryasha. Once her stepmother sent her to borrow a needle and thread from Baba Yaga.
Fortunately, the girl first went to her aunt, who taught him how to avoid the sharp teeth of the dog and how to talk to the witch cat. And when Baba Yaga tried to shut up, Maryasha asked the cat how to escape and she taught her to take a towel and a comb. Maryasha ran and when she heard the witch was approaching, threw the towel behind her and it turned into a river. She threw the comb and it became a forest.
The witch was detained by the lush river and could not row fast enough with her hammer to catch Maryasha.
Witches are targeted for evil women and children of the Devil during the spread of Christianity in Central and Eastern Europe. Many women who have nothing to do with this are being blamed and burned.
The popular May Day ritual in Central Europe consists of making stuffed animals and burning them, symbolizing purification from evil forces. Such celebrations are associated with the onset of spring or the worship of the dead.
Baba Yaga’s character is thought to have been inspired by the preservation of the guardians of pagan traditions and demonized as heretics and devilish outlaws, not in line with the then-purity and Christian virtue.
Rome’s Analogue – La Befana
In Italian fairy tales, Befana is an old lady giving presents to children all over Italy on Epiphany. Her name is believed to be derived from Epifania, which has the Greek root for the manifestation of the divine.
When she visits a child on the eve of Epiphany, if the child is good, she puts a treat on the sock, if it is bad, charcoal.
Many claim that as a good guest, she will sweep and then leave.
According to Christian legend, the Three Wise Men (the Three Kings) came to Bephana a few days before the Baby was born. They asked her to show them where the son of God was, but she did not know and sheltered them, as she was considered the best housewife in the whole village.
The Magi urged her to look for the Baby together, but she refused because she had much to walk around in her home.
However, at one time she thought, but could not find the astrologers and Jesus.
To this day, she wanders through the sky in search of the Baby, and on her way leaves good caramel candy for the good ones and charcoal for the bad ones.
According to another slightly different version, La Befana ignored the Three Wise Men when they came to her because she had to clean and arrange the house.
At one time she saw a gleam in the night sky, and knew that the star was pointing the way to Jesus.
She baked treats and cooked presents for her child, and she also took her broom to help His mother give birth to her baby.
She could not find Jesus and she seeks him to this day, leaving either treats, or charcoal to the children.