Baba Yaga's Divination Cards
There are four suits with four cards in each.
Tent Caterpillar Suit: Tent caterpillars are voracious creatures which chew through alder and fruit tree leaves in outbursts about 10 years apart. The Tachinid fly lays its eggs in the caterpillar's head. When the caterpillar pupates, either a moth or a fly may emerge.
Tent Caterpillar - a voracious beginning
Tachinid Pupa - potential for two different outcomes
Moth - hidden
Tachinid Fly - control of impulses
Amanita muscaria is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom that has captured human imagination. My German grandmother taught me a nursery song about a man with a red hat who lives in the forest. Caribou are known to eat the mushroom with impunity.
Amanita spores - a small start to a large result
Young mushroom - growing from debris
Old mushroom - poisonous unless you know how to handle it
Caribou eating mushroom - beneficial if you handle it right
Crows are curious, pesky, and intelligent. They represent wisdom and trickiness.
Crow eggs - a beautiful start
Standing crow - keen observation
Flying crow - flight
Crow skull - an end to suffering
Garry oaks are local to my region. They represent ancient strength.
Acorn - a lovely start to a huge endeavor
Oak leaf - the first flush of energy from the roots
Oak flowers - getting ready to produce fruit
Bare oak - completion
Telling a Fortune:
1. Keeping the issue or project in mind, choose three cards at random.
2. Lay them out in a circle, with the fourth spot, representing Death, empty. The places are child, mother, and crone, representing the beginning, middle, and outcome.
3. Use the key above to read the cards, starting with "child."
Baba Yaga, of course, cheats.
Baba Yaga's Journal
Obviously, Baba Yaga is not going to use paper cards when there are dead animals lying around for making hide cards with. I cut some of the rotting hides into four-inch squares. They dried in various shapes, since I didn't use stretchers and since each section of the hide is a different thickness.
As preparation for making her card deck, I visited online divination sites and asked, "How can I become a better artist?" My relation to the occult is as a skeptic. Despite not "believing" that the divination methods are speaking personally to me, and further, despite not believing that the universe aligns in a way that speaks to me, I DO believe, quite strongly, that my brain is a pattern-making device. It will find patterns in just about anything. As soon as divination results are given to me, I will begin storytelling. Since the raw materials of storytelling in my mind are unique to me, I will tell a story that is meaningful to me. Here is a demonstration of that:
Using the i Ching, the answer was 60, or "One who is all over the map is no less lost than one without a map."
Using the Tarot, the answer was Past: Six of Swords (I was a protector and made a tactical retreat) / Present: The Emperor (to gain control, I must take responsibility and use logic to review and plan a strategy) / Future: Four of Swords (Another retreat is in order, but since the Six of Swords was also drawn, there might be an actual journey that will bring peace of mind).
Using rune sticks, the answer was Present: Laguz-fertility / Azsuz-spiritual connection to the universe, reason / Strengths: Sowilo-power and strength / Past: Uruz-discord and dissociation from power / Future: Isa-stagnation / Final Outcome: Jera-positive cycles, harvest.
Using geomancy, the answer was: judge: Coniunctio-fertility / Witness #1-Cauda draconis-bad luck / Witness #2-Laetitia-joy Since I have a good judge and one bad and one good witness, the outcome depends on how I work the situation, instead of being certainly good or certainly bad.
All right. The story I now tell myself about these four diviniations is that I was obstructed from being a good artist in the past, but at present I am artistically fertile (though perhaps TOO fertile, being all over the map). This is best taken advantage of by crafting a logical plan that includes my strengths. I should listen to my connection with the universe. I should expect a period of bad luck and stagnation, but in the end, there will be joy and harvest.
Now, my question is, how would I form a set of divination devices that might work for Baba Yaga? They should be based on plants and animals, and they should include both birth and death. Since she is an old lady (a very old one!), wisdom, maturity, and decay should be emphasized over friskiness, charm, or physical power.
I decided on groupings of four, since there are four seasons in a year. The first one includes 1. Crow Eggs, 2. Standing Crow, 3. Flying Crow, 4. Crow Skull. Perhaps in the future I'll work out a set of meanings for these, but for now, the cards themselves will be the meaning.
The second grouping of four is 1. Tent Caterpillar larvae, 2 Tent caterpillar moth, 3. Tachinid Pupa, and 4. Tachinid Fly. The tent caterpillars come in swarms, and are predated on by tachinids, which lay eggs on the caterpillars' heads. I'm pretty sure they hatch inside the pupas, where they eat their hosts, and then the pupa is formed inside the host pupa.
Baba Yaga is an archetype that fascinates me, she and her sisters Mother Holle and that Northwest Indian Cannibal Basket Woman. They are forest forces, who eat badly behaved children and reward the good ones.
Our definitions of "good" and "bad" have changed a little bit. Obedience is not as greatly valued as it used to be, but kindness and a willingness to work hard still sound pretty good.
In my imagination, though, these ladies take on the role of Nature goddesses. Like nature, they are deadly and implacable. They eat you. And like nature, they have their charming side.
I'm working on a set of pieces for a recycled art show in Bellingham. Since I live on an island I'm forced to think about my waste stream, and so I have far less trash to work with than my mainland peers, who can probably find everything they need in a single afternoon of dumpster diving.
Instead, I looked at the trash that's available to me here in this rural area. Firstly, there is offal. My neighbor slaughtered 16 lambs, as he does every year before the lean months of winter. I have some meat in my freezer. On one of my beach walks, I found where he had dumped the hides and offal for the eagles. In an act of kleptoparasitism, I took some of the hides home, shedding sand, rotting fat, and fleece as I went. I had this idea that I'd prepare the hides to make vellum. It's a labor intensive, stinky job that I spent a few afternoons on but then somehow never got back to. Some of the hides rotted past use, none of them lost all their fur, and in the cold of winter I finally steeled myself to return to the project.
I ran some hides through the washing machine and picked off as much of the fat as I could stand to work on, thinking about what the Baba Yaga project was going to include.
In the mean time, I had a pile of trash that was created in the last freeze, including some plastic restaurant buckets that were under the gutter drain and buckled as the water froze. Perfect. I'll make a drum for the lady using an undamaged part of a bucket.
The biggest piece of the hide I chose for the drum still had a bit of hair on it, and some holes where the skin was starting to rot. Baba Yaga's symbols include the chicken-footed house, and her mortar and pestle that she travels with, and the bones that her fence is made of. Those didn't seem right for the painting on the drum. Then I noticed a raven sitting in my garden, staring at one of the lamb heads that is rotting there. Okay then. Ravens.
I like the idea of mandalas, especially when dealing with nature goddesses, who embody the cycle of the year. The design of this drum includes the nest with eggs for the beginning, and a raven skull for the ending, and then two ravens looking either protective or menacing, depending on whether you are a good or a bad person.
I had a slinky black dress and rhinestones. That made all the difference. And made a sale!!! It was one of the little expressionistic pieces that I made in the last month (the first one below).
Fall is a great season to look deep into the woods. Here, the meadow beyond was misty and smelled sharply like snow.
Ferns in the Forest.