If you read my previous blog, you are already familiar with Baba Yaga—the most popular character of Slavic lore. While many people know Baba Yaga as an evil witch who eats little children for dinner, not everyone is aware that she is also a powerful goddess, Yaginya.
Ancient Slavs loved Yaginya, who was not only a powerful Goddess-Bereginya in her own right but also the wife of Veles, the god of Magic, Wisdom, and Three Realms.
So today, I wanted to tell you a love story that became legendary. Let’s talk about mighty Veles and Yaginya and their eternal love. Their story has everything: love, betrayal, sacrifice, and hope. It’s the story of life itself and the only story of eternal love in Slavic folklore.
The Story of Love At First Sight
In many ways, Yaginya and Veles were similar to each other. They were both keepers of sacred knowledge, and they both lived on the border between realms: the Yav and the Nav. It wasn’t surprising that the first time they met, they knew they were meant to be together. They didn’t need words or time to get to know each other. They fell in love the moment their eyes met.
For a while, they just stood, gazing into each other’s eyes. Then Veles embraced Yaginya and kissed her, putting all the love, hope, and tenderness he felt in his heart into a single kiss. He proposed to her the same day, and the beautiful Yaginya said yes, as she could no longer imagine her life without Veles.
However, when Veles brought his new wife home, his mother—Amelfe Zemunovna—wasn’t happy with her son’s behavior. How dare he marry a woman without presenting her to his mother first and getting her approval?? Even though Yaginya was nothing but kind and respectful to her mother-in-law, Amelfe had nothing but scorn toward her in her heart, and at the first opportunity she had, she took matters into her own hands.
The Story of Horrifying Betrayal
The moment Veles left his wife at home alone, his mother invited Yaginya for a visit. Once Yaginya crossed the threshold of her house, Amelfe cast a spell on her and ordered her servants to throw her into a river.
When Veles returned home and didn’t find Yaginya, he started to look for her, asking everyone he could if they saw her. However, no one would tell him where she was, afraid of Amelfe. Heartbroken and destroyed, Veles went to his sister, and Altinka couldn’t lie to him, telling him everything their mother had done to Yaginya.
The Story of Great and Terrible Sacrifice.
Seeking help, Veles pleaded with Svarog, the god Creator, and Makosh, the goddess of Destiny, begging them to find Yaginya, and as they watched him crippled by an unbearable pain and grief, they couldn’t say no.
It took them a while to find Yaginya. When they finally discovered her body and brought her out of the river, she looked just as beautiful as ever, but didn’t breathe and was cold as ice. Veles held her in his arms, tears running down his cheeks as he begged her to return to him.
Hors, the Slavic god of the Sun, brought the Water of Life from the gardens of Prav, but nothing could revive Yaginya. All the magic and powers couldn’t bring her back to life.
“No one is above the law,” Makosh said to Veles. “Yaginya has been in the Nav already, and if you want her back, someone needs to take her place in the Nav.”
A life for a life…
Veles didn’t have to think twice. He chose to take Yaginya’s place in the Nav (the Slavic Realm of Death), sacrificing his own life for her.
The instant he announced his decision, Yaginya took a deep breath and opened her eyes. He kissed her and lowered her to the ground.
“Wait for me,” he whispered into her ear. “I’ll find my way back to you…” With these words, he vanished.
The Story of Eternal Love
Turning to her adoptive mother, Makosh, Yaginya asked, “Mother, you’re the goddess of Destiny. You can see the past, the present, and the future. Am I going to see Veles again?”
Makosh didn’t reply right away, and Yaginya dropped her head, afraid to hear the answer.
“You will see him again, but both of you will look different,” Makosh replied at length. “But no matter how the two of you look, you will always recognize each other. You will both die and return to the Nav just to be reborn over and over again with new appearances and with old love.”
“I will wait forever…” Yaginya replied.
And so it happened… In all their future lives, Yaginya and Veles always found and loved each other.
So, there you have it… Still think that Baba Yaga is an evil witch?
If you’ve read The Burns Defiance, the third book of the Fire Salamander Chronicles, or The Shadow Supremacy, the sixth book of the Shadow Enforcer series, you know which side of Baba Yaga makes an appearance in the Salamanderverse.
Iddilliya. Art by Andrey Shishkin. Artist's website
Veles. Art by Igor Ozhiganov.
Enter the Fire Salamander World, where magic and ancient myths are real, and things are not what they appear to be.