I fell instantly in love with this book. In the introductory note from the author, Taisia Kitaiskaia claims to have “communed” with the spirit of Baba Yaga, a mercurial witch from Russian folklore. On each page that follows a question is posed in the form of an advice column query, and the answer reads like the poetic evocation of an old world medium.
According to lore, Baba Yaga is unpredictable; both kind and mean. The answers throughout the book are true to her character. She is, in turns: impatient, dismissive, funny, gentle, and compassionate. At nearly all times, she is profoundly insightful. I chuckled when Baba Yaga pronounced, “You cannot choose the fly that mucks up yr stew, but you can choose to throw the pot out the window”. And I read certain passages over again before moving on, as though Baba Yaga were speaking her truth directly to me:
“There is a field in the middle of my wood where no one goes. It is the heart of my loneliness. I go there to dance & be quiet. & I love the intensity of its silence. If I were human I would wish to take another there. You must know every contour of yr emptiness before you can know whom you wish to invite in.”
This book is like the field in the middle of Baba Yaga’s wood, with Taisia Kitaiskaia inviting us in for a peek.
In addition to loving the content, I also appreciated the overall design. The cover is a bright and inviting red, the pages are glossy, the text is a typewritten font, and beautiful folkish illustrations are interspersed throughout the book. It is altogether charming.
Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles was my first read of 2017. It felt like a good omen for the new year. I think you will feel the same.