In my book, Baba Yaga's Book of Witchcraft, I take you on a journey to meet the Slavic witch of the woods and teach the old spiritual traditions that can bring you closer to her. Despite Baba Yaga's reputation as a tough taskmaster, I've encountered many people who feel called to connect with this ancient wise woman—to learn from her, to meld with her magic, or simply to honor this powerful crone spirit. If you're one of them, I welcome you to come closer to her little khata, her initiation hut standing on chicken legs.
Be prepared. Baba Yaga is not an easy teacher. And she is definitely no pushover. She will challenge you, she will test you, and she will push you farther than you ever believed you could go. But, like a tough coach or a domineering drill sergeant, perhaps it's because she believes in you more than you may believe in yourself. To work with her takes courage, intelligence, resourcefulness, and even a little bit of moxie, but if you're ready for the challenge, you'll reap incredible rewards—climbing higher, going farther, and doing more than you ever thought possible.
There are so many ways to dive into her magic, and I go through dozens of them in my book, but if you're just getting introduced to her, you may want to start by building an altar to her in your home. Assembling an altar is a great way to become familiar with a deity or spirit. It's the spiritualist's version of inviting a guest into your home. If you create an altar, it allows you to get to know the spirit and for the spirit to get to know you. An altar done with care and respect is like giving your divine guest the best seat in the house—it shows them that you honor them and would like to deepen your relationship with them.
Baba Yaga Altar Basics
To set up an altar doesn't require elaborate or expensive equipment. You may have most of what you need and the rest can be sourced easily and inexpensively. Baba Yaga is a spirit of nature, so you'll discover that much of what you need can be gathered outside for free and the other offerings are at their most powerful when crafted by you.
Start by finding a place for your altar—a small end table, a shelf, or even a windowsill can serve as an altar space. If you have a fireplace mantle, that is a special place to honor her. In ancient Slavic countries, the hearth was seen as a place to connect to ancestors and spirits, and she has legendary connections to the old Slavic wood stoves. If you want to be very traditional, you could set up a shelf on the wall in the eastern corner of your home to serve as an altar. This corner shelf altar, called a pokut', has long been a place to honor spirits, deities, saints, and ancestors since pre-Christian times. It was traditionally set above the dining table to invite the spirits to our meals and show them hospitality.
Wherever and however you set up your altar, make sure that it is a space solely dedicated to your spiritual work. In other words, don’'t use your bedside nightstand with your phone, coffee, and books on it as an altar as well.
Setting Up Your Baba Yaga Altar
In setting up your altar, leaving the surface as-is can be fine. Just freshen it up by dusting it and removing anything not related to your altar set-up. If you want to show more respect, however, you can put a cloth on the altar. Place a tablecloth, scarf, or shawl in colors such as red, black, or green over the altar. Red represents fire and life force, black signifies the rich black earth that she is so deeply connected to, and green stands for her home in the woods. If you really want to pull out all the stops, you can create special cloths with talismanic embroidery called rushnyky, as I teach you how to do in my book, and place one on the altar and drape another on the wall above like a small tent.
Once you have placed the cloth on the altar, you are ready to add an image or symbol of Baba Yaga. You can find an image online, print it out, and frame it. Alternatively, you can purchase a figurine or, if you're crafty, make one. There are lots of images of Baba Yaga out there and some of them can be downright terrifying. Do you really want to buy into that bad propaganda? My recommendation is to find a crone image that appeals to you, not one that is going to give you nightmares.
Adding Offerings to Your Baba Yaga Altar
Adding the offerings to an altar is one of my favorite parts of altar creation. It allows for you to design and express your creativity and create a beautiful space to connect to beloved spirits. Below is a list of possible items that you can add to your Baba Yaga altar. You don't have to add them all; just choose the ones that work for you and your space.
How to Work with Your Altar to Baba Yaga
Once you've created your altar to Baba Yaga, you want to work with it. Light your candle when you're at home and awake, and keep greenery, food, and water fresh. Sit near your altar and meditate or visualize meeting Baba Yaga. She might be a little quiet the first few times you encounter her; she has a way of sizing a person up before deciding whether she wants to work with them. However, if you come to her courageously yet respectfully, she may open up to you and offer you words of wisdom, advice, and magical gifts. And, if you keep the relationship going, you may even begin to feel care and love peeking out from under her gruff exterior. Never forget that she is the grandmother of all grandmothers—when you develop your relationship with her, she will light your path no matter how dark and dangerous the forest of life may get.
Madame Pamita is a Ukrainian diaspora witch, teacher, author, candle maker, spellcaster, and tarot reader. She has a popular YouTube Channel for teaching witchcraft; she hosts two podcasts, "Baba Yaga's Magic" and "Magic and the Law of Attraction," and she is the author of Baba Yaga's Book of Witchcraft, The Book of Candle Magic, and Madame Pamita's Magical Tarot. She is also the proprietress of the online spiritual apothecary The Parlour of Wonders and lives in Santa Monica, California. You can find her at parlourofwonders.com.