As we all know, mothering is a pretty big job. Modern women have parenting courses, books and blogs to help navigate this challenging pathway. In ancient times, some cultures had initiation rites, not only for young men, but also for young women. These rites of passage helped girls to overcome their fears and develop resilience and resourcefulness. If they passed the challenges, they would win the right to marry and become a mother. The Russian folktale ‘Baba Yaga, Fair Vasilisa and the Wise Doll’ (made famous by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book “Women who Run with Wolves”) was the story frame for such a rite of passage.
These days, it is not only children who need empowered, resourceful women as mothers, but the world needs empowered, resourceful women! In 2009 at a Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama said ‘The world will be saved by the western woman.’ Whether you think the Dalai Lama is right or not, women need strong story maps to support and guide them in challenging times. In order to bear witness, stay focused and take action in a world of information overload, where we are barraged with irrelevant trivia as well as enormous amounts of bad news, we need discipline and discrimination. These skills are explored in the Vasilisa tale.
There are many similarities between Vasilisa and Cinderella at the start of the stories. Both have lost their mothers, have an absent father, a cruel stepmother and stepsisters and both girls receive a magical gift. There the similarities more or less end. In Cinderella, the wise mother figure is the Fairy Godmother, who is pretty and sweet. In Vasilisa, the wise mother is the terrifying and ugly crone-witch, Baba Yaga. Her character is derived from a more ancient earth goddess and while she is fearsome and lives in a house made of bones, she teaches Vasilisa to let go of niceness in order to live more honestly and powerfully. The Cinderella tale represents as desirable feminine qualities prettiness, niceness and sweetness and marriage to a prince as the ultimate reward. The Vasalisa tale celebrates feminine courage, insight and wisdom which is represented as it’s own reward.
In a few weeks, on a full moon Sunday in between Samhain and Mother’s Day, I will be co-facilitating an afternoon workshop for women, ‘Baba Yaga, Fair Vasilisa and the Wise Doll’ in Brisbane with the very talented and passionate Lynette Lancini. Lynette’s creative work spans music, movement and wellbeing. A fluid and intuitive pianist, her compositions have been performed, broadcast and toured by the Muses Trio, Topology and the Queensland Orchestra. www.bit.ly/llancini Lynette is based in Brisbane and is mother to four sons.
Women are invited to unwind, expand and drop deeply into the spacious underlying stream of being, as storyteller Jenni and improvising pianist Lynette create a supportive and guided story and movement workshop to help women connect more strongly with their intuition, insight and power. Lynette Lancini explained, “Wholebody Focusing is a way to create a space for experiencing wholeness of Self and ways of meeting that are complementary and non-competitive. In doing so, places in us that have learned to shut down awaken to their own possibilities for living newly. ” Details of the Brisbane story and movement May 3 workshop below and here.
(I will also lead a different workshop ‘Brave Vasalissa and Baba Yaga: storytelling and doll-making workshop for women’ in Brunswick Heads on Sun, May 31. Details at my programs page. )
Listen to me retell Baba Yaga and Vasalisa on ‘The Heart of the Story’ Bay FM 99.9 here: https://soundcloud.com/the-
When: Sunday, May 3, from 1.00- 5.00 pm
Where: Bardon, Brisbane.
A delectable gluten free afternoon tea provided. Early-bird price expires 20 April.
Info and bookings: www.wholebodycreativechange.com
Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0401 401 502.
AFTS (Australian Fairy Tale Society)
If you are interested in fairytales in general check out the AFTS (Australian FairyTale Society) website and FB page
and you can read fine blogs such as this one by InkGypsy ‘on Cinderella’- the latest Disney version:
Further links relevant to Baba Yaga
This video “The Ghost Of Earth Day Present” – A Master Shift Original brilliantly illustrates the way of seeing of Baba Yaga. She and the lit skull she gives as a gift see things AS THEY ARE- even the harsh things. No rose coloured glasses. I feel this is the biggest challenge of our times is to tune in to what is really happening without becoming so overwhelmed that we are like frightened deer staring at the oncoming headlights. We need the courage to trully see, but the ability to discriminate between what we should expose ourselves to and focus on and the wisdom to know what to do. The Ghost of the Earth is a great illustration of that. https://www.facebook.com/TheMasterShift/videos/554300838046539/