Old Knobby Legs
Baba Yaga (pronounced BAH-ba YAH-guh)1, the Queen of Witches, is perhaps the greatest witch in existence. She has a hundred schemes on Earth (where she originated), Triaxus, Golarion and across the Great Beyond alike.2 In 3313 AR, she invaded Golarion, declared war on the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, and established her realm of Irrisen after the 23-day-long Winter War.34
Birth and rise to power
Baba Yaga was born over two thousand years ago on a distant planet known as Earth, in an area of steppe that would one day be part of the nation of Russia. She was originally named Yanca, and belonged to a tribal people known as the Sarmatians. One day, during the particularly long and bitter Winter of Cruel Loss, Yanca left her camp to fetch water and stumbled upon a deep fissure in the earth warmed by a heated spring, which she entered to obtain both the water and shelter from the wind and cold. In the sheltered grotto she found at the fissure's bottom, she encountered an ancient norn known as Vigliv, who was struck by the unusual length and luster of the thread of Yanca's fate and decided to tutor her in magic.6
Yanca was enraptured by the norn's knowledge, and eagerly listened to the lessons Vigliv imparted; when she finally remembered the task that had first guided her to the spring and climbed back out with her water, she found that two years had passed and that her tribe had long since given her up for dead and moved on. Having no other choice, Yanca returned to Vigliv to continue her training as a witch.6
After finishing Vigliv's tutelage many years later, Yanca left the spring and took to wandering across the plains. She pondered a great deal about the nature of power as she did so; as her fame grew, more and more people began to come to her to seek favors and aid. Yanca eventually grew disgusted with the nature of humanity, due both to their constant supplications and the depths they were willing to go to obtain fame and power. It was during this time that she acquired her present name, as the Rus people she traveled among gave her the appellative "Baba"—"Grandmother"—due to her great age, and came to mispronounce "Yanca" as "Yaga".6
Although she already knew how to overcome mortality as a young woman, she desired to live out the rest of her mortal life and reach old age, considering it foolish to grab at things without considering all possibilities. At the age of 102, when her body started irrevocably failing, she finally made the leap. This act also erased whichever moral concerns she might once have had.7
At first, Baba Yaga made her base within a large burial mound known as a kurgan, one of many that had been built by a long-vanished culture that lived on the steppes before even Baba Yaga's birth people did. Eventually, desiring a more mobile means of travel, she created her legendary Dancing Hut as a new home, pulling the kurgan within one of the many demiplanes contained within the hut to serve as a private sanctum where she would work her most powerful magic.8
The Thrice-Tenth Kingdom
As she grew in age and power, Baba Yaga began to explore both the Material Plane and the Great Beyond. Desiring a realm that she could shape to please herself, she eventually entered the First World and through magic and willpower claimed a distant section of it for herself. She shaped it to resemble the steppes and forests of her youth on the Russian plains, and populated with a great variety of creatures and minions drawn from across the universe—fey and warring ogres, talking birds, shadowy predators, wisdom-seeking deer and elk, and stranger creatures all came to populate the Thrice-Tenth Kingdom. Baba Yaga did not find much pleasure here, however, as the natives of her new realm treated her with respect and opulence she did not want; when she visits her realm, it is rare for her to leave her Dancing Hut.9
First appearance on Golarion
Baba Yaga's first appearance on Golarion was centuries before her invasion of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. She and her Dancing Hut appeared in the dense forests of Iobaria in western Casmaron and maintained a low profile, conversing only with fey and occasionally centaurs. When rumours of a powerful arcanist spread in those early days, however, an Iobarian warlord named Kostchtchie visited Baba Yaga full of demands to be made immortal. As punishment for his rude affront, Baba Yaga granted him immortality, but twisted his form into that of a deformed giant, and hid a portion of his soul in a powerful artifact called the Torc of Kostchtchie. After Kostchtchie's defeat and humiliation, the warlord fled Iobaria to the Outer Rifts, where he eventually became a powerful demon lord but never forgot his ire toward Baba Yaga.9
Baba Yaga then turned her attention to the construction of Artrosa in the Deeprun Crevasse, a huge monument representing a triple aspect of Baba Yaga's personality. Once completed, Baba Yaga left Golarion for a long while, with but a few revisits to quickly check her minions, only returning more permanently in 3313 AR.9
Invasion of Golarion
The winter of 3312 AR was terribly bitter, even by the incredibly harsh standards of northern Avistan: warriors who left their swords outside overnight would find that the cold had shattered them by the next morning. As if the cold were not strange enough, the northern lights were so bright and sustained that they were mistaken for daylight. These events would later be seen as omens of the terror that was to come.10
The following year the Witch Queen Baba Yaga invaded the Linnorm Kingdom of Raemerrund and the Djurstor Confederacy from over the Winterwall Glacier, bringing with her an army of ice trolls, cold fey, frost giants, white dragons, and other evil creatures. King Jarguut and the thanes of the Confederacy were too divided and weakened to offer any serious resistance, and the Winter War ended in the defeat of the Ulfen forces in only 23 days.10
Founding of Irrisen
Once the Ulfen armies had been defeated, Baba Yaga installed her eldest daughter Jadwiga as queen of the new nation of Irrisen, and divided it into five provinces: Bleakmarch, Feyfrost, Hoarwood, Thronehold, and Wintercrux. After this was accomplished, however, the Witch Queen seemed to lose interest in Irrisen and abruptly departed Golarion.10
Return of the Witch Queen
Baba Yaga was not heard from for nearly a century after the founding of Irrisen. In 3413 AR, Baba Yaga returned to Golarion and removed her daughter, Queen Jadwiga, from the throne, placing her younger daughter Morgannan in charge. She left again shortly thereafter, taking Jadwiga with her along with the first generation of Jadwiga's offspring. This process was to reoccur every 100 years like clockwork, and continues to this day.10
Rebellions against Baba Yaga
Not every daughter of Baba Yaga has quietly acquiesced to her mother's demand to give up the throne of Irrisen, and a few have even openly rebelled against the Witch Queen. Although the first three queens of Irrisen (Jadwiga, Morgannan, and Urvalane) are said to have abdicated with little fighting, Urvalane's successor, Pjallarane, did not go quietly. She and her children (the Jadwiga Pjallarane) launched an open rebellion against their progenitor in 3713 AR, but were ruthlessly put down by Baba Yaga in a single day in a conflict known as the 24-Hour War. A century later, Queen Aelena abdicated without the slightest hesitation, most likely remembering her sister's futile struggle against their mother.1011
These relatively quiet successions continued through the reigns of Queens Harcatha, Sascha, and Karina, but came to an end with the Witchwar of 4213 AR. During this conflict, Queen Tashanna used the power of the Torc of Kostchtchie to summon the demon lord Kostchtchie and forced him to assist her in fending off the Witch Queen. Despite this assistance, Tashanna and her followers were quickly defeated by Baba Yaga. Tashanna and the first generation of her offspring were banished to a place beyond Golarion, while her former loyalists were executed, and their bodies hidden in the necropolis known as the Veil of Frozen Tears.11
After this unpleasantness, the next queen of Irrisen, Velikas renounced her throne quietly in 4413 AR, but trouble was once again stirred up by her successor, Queen Kseniya. When Baba Yaga came in 4413 AR, Kseniya attempted to take her life. Many of her children tried to do the same, but were ultimately prevented by the Witch Queen, who took them all with her and installed Betyrina as the new monarch of Irrisen.5
Since Kseniya's futile gesture of resistance, the Queens of Irrisen have once again given up their thrones quietly. It was the case again in 4713 AR when Queen Elvanna rebelled against Baba Yaga and attempted to usurp her power. A band of adventurers thwarted the plan of Elvanna and released Baba Yaga, after which she accepted their request to crown Anastasia as Irrisen's new queen.12. After this incident, Baba Yaga is considering that she might have been too dismissive of Golarion and is willing to be more involved.2
Baba Yaga takes the first generation of her daughter's offspring with her when she returns to Golarion every century, imprisoning her daughters within her Dancing Hut, where they are drained of all vitality and become undead crone queens.13 The second generation and beyond remain on Golarion and are known as the Jadwiga. These men and women appear human in all respects and make up the ruling class of that northern land.14
Despite her great power, Baba Yaga has never considered embracing divinity, since she finds it annoying to hear people asking her for things every day. Instead, being on the threshold of divinity keeps her on par with influential denizens of the Great Beyond, who usually see her not as a threat and are delighted in the stories she brings.7 Some desperate individuals seek Baba Yaga's help; while she hates having to do so and sets unreasonable prices for her aid, she is honourable enough to fulfil her end of the bargain if the other side actually meets her price.2
Starting from 3412 AR, the Black Rider, White Rider and Red Rider have appeared every 100 years, one year before Baba Yaga's return. These strange, fey horsemen roamed the countryside, punishing those who had been unfaithful to the Witch Queen, and (rarely) rewarding those who had stayed true to her, but offered little justification for any of their actions.10 Baba Yaga's Riders changed every century; some were granted this position without seeking it, others became Riders as part of deals they had made with Baba Yaga, and those who actually sought this position were rarely accepted. Each Rider was granted a magical weapon and a mount, and imbued with magical powers.15
In Irrisen, Baba Yaga is seen as the ultimate arbiter of the nation's destiny, and while Queen Anastasia is favoured by her for now, she might eventually have to share her predecessors' fate. The orcs of Belkzen speak of her with fear, and the Linnorm Kings have never forgotten their defeat at her hands. For years, Sveinn Blood-Eagle sought to overthrow Irrisen, but never succeeded.2
Baba Yaga does not bother to distinguish between the surviving runelords Sorshen and Belimarius, and enjoys provoking them. She views Tar-Baphon as a fool seeking a poisoned chalice and speaks nothing of Jatembe, though every century, an old northern woman with a pet chicken and an old Zenj man with a leopard-headed staff can be seen talking by the window of the Dancing Dolphin tavern in Oppara.2
Baba Yaga earned the eternal hatred of Kostchtchie after perverting his wish for immortality by forcing him to become a demon lord.16
Some witches have a direct connection to Baba Yaga as their patron. She might suddenly appear to demand someone sweep the floor of her workshop with a tiny brush, eating them if they refuse and turning them into a witch if they accept.2
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga
Dancing Scroll Shop
The Dancing Scroll Shop is a gingerbread stall in Stethelos of the Dimension of Time, from which Baba Yaga sells potions and scrolls at an exorbitant markup, or at no cost in exchange for deceptively long stints of menial shop labor.18
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 246. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Baba Yaga” in Legends, 31. Paizo Inc., 2020 .
- “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 80. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 202. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Irrisen” in Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter, 7. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Baba Yaga” in The Witch Queen's Revenge, 71. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Baba Yaga” in The Witch Queen's Revenge, 72. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “The Witch Queen's Revenge” in The Witch Queen's Revenge, 50–51. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Baba Yaga” in The Witch Queen's Revenge, 73. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Irrisen” in Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter, 5. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Irrisen” in Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter, 6. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Saga Lands” in World Guide, 111–112. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Bestiary” in The Witch Queen's Revenge, 84. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Irrisen” in Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter, 3. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Bestiary” in Irrisen, Land of Eternal Winter, 52. Paizo Inc., 2013 .
- “Lords of the Abyss” in Lords of Chaos, Book of the Damned Volume 2, 8. Paizo Inc., 2010 .
- “Legendary Artifacts” in Artifacts & Legends, 20ff. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Bestiary” in Rise of New Thassilon, 83. Paizo Inc., 2019 .