As we head into winter, I often think about one of my favorite folk tales, Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga is a witch who flies on a mortar and pestle and lives in a hut in the woods that stands on chicken legs.
She is my most favorite Witch of Russian folk tales.
In this particular Baba Yaga tale, Vasilisa the Beautiful, is sent by her evil stepmother to fetch a burning fire from Baba Yaga, who keeps skulls as lanterns outside of her hut.
Vasilisa keeps a doll that her mother gave her in her pocket. Some people, myself included, believe that this doll is representative of intuition and the intuitive sense.
Vasilisa arrives at the hut of Baba Yaga, where she must complete tasks in order to take the light.
Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin c. 1899
The doll guides her through these activities, and after a few more plot points, Vasilisa returns home with the fire burning. Legend has it, the fire burns down the house of the Stepmother, with the stepmother and wicked stepsisters inside of it, Vasilisa moves to the city and marries a prince.
I love this story for a few different reasons, but during this time of darkness, I often think about intuition much like that lantern that both Baba Yaga and Vasilisa share.
If you haven’t heard this story before, I encourage anyone and everyone to read a couple of the different takes on the story, and see what it brings up for them before doing this writing exercise.
This prompt is crafted to help us access our inner lights, intuition, and lanterns, while honoring the darkness, much like the magic of Baba Yaga does.
Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin c. 1899
These line-by-line prompts are meant to hold your hand as you write. Feel free to take what is helpful and leave the rest.
If you want some pre-writing, imagine what your inner light looks like. Is it a tapered candle? Is it a lantern inside of a skull? Is it a tea light? Or maybe a flashlight? Write about how you discover this light switch, and what it helps you see.
The Title: “I cast a light on___”
Line 1: Speak about winter
Line 2: Keep your intuition close by
Line 3: Discover something by the light of your lantern
Line 4: Leave the map behind
Line 5: “I am only frightened when…”
Line 6: See your story from a different perspective
Line 7: “This fire it burns ____”
Much like the myths we talked about last month in this series, folktales are beautiful ways to walk to learn something new, explore new archetypes, and to experience the power of stories and storytelling. If Baba Yaga doesn’t resonate with you, do a deep dive into some folklore, and see what you may discover.
The White Rider — Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilban c. 1900