In the story of Vasalisa, Baba Yaga is a witch the young girl encounters in the woods. I'm a fan of witches (big surprise!) In fact, when I saw the movie Brave, I was very happy to see the witch character as an archetype of wisdom with the power to lead a naive young person to greater awareness. Pixar is getting deep in the wild woman lore....
In the chapter from Women Who Run with the Wolves, I especially like this description of witches:
Baba Yaga is instinctive nature in the guise of the witch. Like the word wild, the word witch has come to be understood as a pejorative, but long ago it was an appellation given to both old and young women healers, the word witch deriving from the word wit, meaning wise."
Just as many translations of the word midwife mean wise woman (e.g. French is sage-femme), witch is a concept that I have aspired to since I was a young girl. I was 13 years old that I felt the truth within me speak that I am here on this earth to become a wise woman. No wonder that years down the road, midwifery and herbalism would speak to me.
I truly believe that I have a witch ancestor in my family tree and she whispers to me that anger that comes from centuries of oppression of women's wildish natures. Still midwifery is an oppressed religion. It almost disappeared in the United States and still has a tenuous hold on not even 2% of birth attendance in this country and the medical establishment is still seeking to eliminated midwives, when the medical literature, common sense, history and other countries point to the fact that midwives could be the primary care providers for healthy pregnant women.
A similar kind of rant can be made for plant medicine, another area that I am very drawn to. So if today, you take a woman who is drawn to birth and herbs (and death if you keep looking close enough--and then read Chapter 5), you can look back 500 years and find the witches of the day who were stoned, drowned and burned for being true to themselves.
Its no wonder that women today do not feel safe being themselves. History has shown them that they cannot. Yet, I have faith that the time is coming when the full power and abilities of women will be understood, accepted and put to work by the human race. I believe that good will come out of it. And it will be the witchy women who bring it pass.