You may receive the Water of Life and Death from her by a show of force or by trickery, but you may also be given it as a gift. For like all forces of nature, though often wild and untamed, she can also be kind. Broken and in pieces, if sprinkled with the Water of Death, the pieces will surely come back together, and after that, if the corpse is sprinkled with the Water of Life, it shall be reborn.
Somewhere in the deepest center of the earth lives a most ancient goddess. Her image is one that is stiff and white and carved of bone. Death is a spectral white lady. This is the Death Crone, the Goddess of Old Bones. Bone Mother destroys and then resurrects us. She collects our white bones and pours the Water of Life and Death upon them, singing her magic songs and thus, we are reborn.
Whenever we experience darkness, a depression, or a spiritual emptiness when we feel that we surely must be dead, we have come to visit our Bone Mother. If we are wise, it is she, especially if we behold our own most dark shadow, who transforms us and gives us new life.
Come, let us visit Baba Yaga's hut in the deepest, darkest part of the forest. It is surrounded by a fence made of human bones and stands upon chicken legs and is said to spin, rising and falling according to seasonal changes. Of course, that is ridiculous! Baba Yaga spins for no one! Her three horsemen ride out from and return to Baba Yaga's hut; the first who is white and represents the dawn; the second, who is red and is the day bright sun; and the third, who is black and signifies the night. Black, red, and white are the three colors most commonly associated with the process of personal transformation, black for the dissolution of the personality, white for its purification after darkness, and red for solar power and the vital life force that follows. They all begin and end at Baba Yaga's hut. She is the Shakti, the kundalini power, the base of the human psyche, the raw power of the cosmic tree. To enter her hut is a dangerous thing.
It is the place where transmutation occurs and the place where we may be forever transformed. For to receive her aid, we must learn humility. Like Vassalisa the Wise, who was sent to Baba Yaga by her evil stepmother. She did all that was asked of her, working in gentle silence. For this Baba Yaga gave her a torch that burned in a skull. A torch in a skull was the gift of enlightenment from the dark heart of the underworld.
Baba Yaga may destroy us or enlighten us. She is much like the Hindu Kali who dances with a necklace of skulls, who destroys, slays, and devours, but at the same time may appear as a most beautiful woman who bestows the most precious of gifts. This is the function of the Bone Mother, to break down the boundaries of our personality, to kill our ignorance, by forcing us to examine ourselves in the dark mirror of the soul, and grant us the deep wisdom that only an acquaintance with the dark shadow of the self may bring.
Credits are due to Kenneth Johnson for his book entitled "Slavic Sorcery" published by Llewellyn Publications. For a wonderful story on Baba Yaga for children read "Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave" by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K. Y. Craft, published by Morrow Junior Books.