Greek and Roman mythologies are so common in Western culture that most people have never heard of the polytheistic pantheon of other cultures. One of the least well-known is the Slavic pantheon of gods, spirits, and heroes that persisted before and after Christian missionaries converted the region.
Slavic mythology has two key differences from the well-known Greek and Roman mythologies. First, many of the spirits are still part of common images and folktales among Slavic people. Secondly, the old Slavic pantheon of gods is not well documented, so scholars have attempted to recreate the information based on secondary documents. Still, the pantheon is fascinating and worth knowing.
10. Baba Yaga
Among mythologies, Baba Yaga is unique to the Slavic people. Many other Slavic gods and creatures have equivalents in Roman or Greek mythology, but Baba Yaga does not.
At first glance, Baba Yaga seems like various witches in European folklore. She appears as an old woman and has an extremely long nose and spindly legs. When travelers meet her, she gives them a blessing or a curse depending on her mood.
But Baba Yaga also has a variety of features that are uncommon. She lives in a hut with chicken legs on the bottom that allow it to move around. When Baba Yaga is outside her hut, she travels in a mortar with a pestle.
Like traditional witches, Baba Yaga carries a broom, but she uses it to sweep away the tracks that she makes. In certain traditions, Baba Yaga appears as three sisters, each with the same name.
Nobody knows exactly when Baba Yaga stories began. Unlike many other Slavic mythological beings, Baba Yaga folklore was still going strong in the 20th century. Part of the staying power of Baba Yaga is that her morality is hard to pin down. In hopes of receiving great wisdom, travelers trekked from far and wide to talk with her.