Witches are ubiquitous these days: they grace our screens, stalk our runways, and even offer up their prophetic wisdom in advice columns. Channeling the forest-dwelling crone of Slavic folklore, Taisia Kitaiskaia's new book Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice For Everyday Troubles offers up answers from the wild, weird, and mystical Dear Abby you never knew you needed.
Inspired by a regular column that Kitaiskaia once wrote for The Hairpin, this compendium includes previously published Q&A's as well as all new commentary straight from the mouth of this otherworldly hag. Although Baba Yaga's guidance runs the gamut from suggestions about money, death, food, and work/life balance to emotional healing, it's her love advice that is most hauntingly spot on.
"Agony aunts have reputations to uphold," Taisia Kitaiskaia tells Bustle, "but witches offer a loophole out of what constrains us: social norms, drudgery, morality. Baba Yaga doesn’t give a f*ck. She just tells it like it is, with the careless omniscience of a supernatural being." Because of this, Kitaiskaia is able to cut through the niceties with Baba's cryptic syntax and vivid descriptions to provide true romantic food for thought.
Here are six pieces of witchy love advice from Kitaiskaia's Ask Baba Yaga:
1Don't Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
It can be painful to openly and honestly put yourself out there. When asked how to survive dating in a world that fears vulnerability, Baba Yaga conjures up the image of a slug with a cracked snail shell, no longer protected from injury but fearless in the face of it. "Be the first slug," she writes, because "if we could see this creature be unafraid, we would not be so squeamish."
2Relationships Don't Guarantee Happiness
When all your friends are getting cuffed or hitched, the fear of flying solo can be overwhelming. But when asked how to stave off the fear of dying alone, Baba Yaga is resolute that a relationship is not the cure for unhappiness or loneliness. "Everyone dies, alone in their cauldron — your death will be no more or less gruesome than any other's," she writes. "Happiness is a thing that passes through you, not a thing you meet & hold in yr deathly grip for ever afterwards."
3Living With An Ex Will Only Bring Heartache
After one advice seeker was dumped by her boyfriend with two months left on their lease, she asks Baba Yaga how to live with him in spite of her broken heart. "It is not good to live with such a large rat," Baba writes, knowingly. "It was his choice to turn into a rat; it is yrs to ask the rat to leave, or leave yrself. No one can rest with such nightly gnawings at the heart."
4Cheating Hurts The Cheater, Too
When one woman inquires how she can stop having an affair, Baba Yaga reminds her that cheating not only hurts the ones you love, but can diminish your sense of self-worth, too. "You think you are Queen & King, with such royal power as to ruin innocents," she writes. "But you are small, frightened animals hiding in the woods...Once you see how little you've become, you will think not of the innocents but of yrselves, & how you miss the prouder sizes you once were."
5Mourning A Former Relationship Is A Process
It can be difficult to deal with the pangs of jealousy that arise when you see an ex happy with a new lover, but it's vital to confront those feelings and mourn the passing of what once was. "Stare into the black puddle where he left his paw print," she writes, "stare & mourn a little, let yr grieving mix with that abandoned water & drink it all down, the loss of him & the loss of you, too, a little, for he raised you also."
6Self-Care Is Critical, Especially For Single Folks
When one advice seeker asks if she will ever fall in love again after feeling terribly underwhelmed with her romantic prospects, Baba Yaga urges her to treat herself well as she settles into single life. "Yr table is for the sweet dark wine & the tender herbs & a good eye winking at you above a full glass. Wait for the guest who carries fresh meats, & until then, eat yr fine soups yrself, & open the windows so the birds may come in yr house & charm yr table with their beauty."
Blessed be to Baba for offering up such nourishing morsels of self-care and self-love.