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Author Comment
oooiooo
Registered User
(5/6/06 9:58 pm)
Why does baba yaga choose mortar?
Does anyone have any idea why she would use mortar and pestle as transportation tool? It looks very heavy. Besides, it is quite time-consuming and energy-consuming to make mortar move on the land. (If she were a sea witch then it would be much more reasonable to use mortar and pestle) Are mortar and pestle the very common kitichen supplies in Russia? Is there any symbolic meaning of her transportation tool?

Writerpatrick
Registered User
(5/7/06 10:39 am)
Re: Baba Yaga
Since this is a Russian tale it suggests the mortar could be acting as a sled and sliding across the snow. Mortars (not to be confused with the building material) can be made of wood as well as stone.

midori snyder
Registered User
(5/7/06 1:34 pm)

ezSupporter
Re: Baba Yaga
I think Baba Yaga is an intentional contradiction. Everything about her is at once domestic and wild, nuturing and dangerous--and her magical implements reflect that. The mortar and pestle she flies around in, the chicken legs, the oven--all these have to do with ambiguous females, and their particular sphere of influence.

In an article I wrote for the Endicott Studio, In Priase of the Cook, I discussed Baba Yaga's ambiguity:

"Baba Yaga's house is surrounded by a fence of human bones and lit by lanterns made from the skulls of her previous meals. Yet we know we are in the presence of a powerful cook for her house rests on chicken legs (that key ingredient of any good soup) that lift and carry the house to different locations, reinforcing her ambiguity the domestic combined with the dangerous, the tame with the wild, the oddity in a cannibal's household of using chicken legs for transport and human beings for dinner. When not in use for culinary practices, Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, flailing the pestle like an oar. And her choice of weapon (beyond those great teeth and long nails) is the oven. Woe to the girl who stumbles into her path unable to cook, to separate wheat from chaff or poppy seeds from grit. But as Vasilissa the Wise proves by her encounter with Baba Yaga, this difficult cook can be appeased, cajoled by good manners and decent meals into providing the necessary ingredients for a long and healthy wedded life."

KathieRose
Registered User
(6/11/06 7:51 pm)
Re: Baba Yaga
I love what you wrote about Baba Yaga, Midori, from a 'culinary perspective'. I also have done some thinking and writing about her ambiguity. What struck me about the mortar and pestle is that they are ordinarily used to pulverize something, break it down--- but the 'destructiveness' is in the service of life, for whether it's spice or poppyseeds or whatever, what's broken down is used in food. So too with the glowing skulls that make up BAba Yaga's fenceposts-- on the one hand, they are gruesome reminders of her consumption of humans, on the other, one of them provides the light that shows Vasilissa the way home. And then it switches back to its 'dark' side and burns the stepmother and stepsisters to death!

Veronica Schanoes
Registered User
(6/11/06 10:20 pm)
mortar and pestle
Witches tend to use domestic implements, and I'm not convinced the "practicality" of travelling by mortar and pestle really applies--I mean, broomsticks are not easy to get airborne, either.

janeyolen
Registered User
(6/12/06 3:43 am)
Re: mortar and pestle
At least with a mortar and pestle, the air isn't getting up your skirts the way it does with a broom!

Jane

ailsameri
Unregistered User
(6/13/06 5:21 am)
pestle & mortar
Witches are said to ride in seives on the sea. Babba Yagga uses a pestle & mortar to travel, as these are used not just in cooking but also in the arts of magic and alchemy, might this be a reference to their use to grind up the ingredients of a shamanic potion for astral travel rather than physical travel? Babba Yagga is traveling "in the pestle & mortar" ie: in the contents of the vessel???

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