Thanks to Diane Carlisle’s suggestion on my last mythical creature post, here’s another awesome character to inspire your world building efforts.
Stories of her are popular in Russia, Poland, Czec Republic and Slovakia.
“The name of Baba Yaga is composed of two elements. Baba means “grandmother” or “old woman” in most Slavic languages… Yaga is probably a diminutive of the feminine name Jadwiga, in turn, is a Slavicized form of the Germanic Hedwig. Another version is saying the name of Baba Yaga comes from the old Russian verb yagat which means to abuse, to find fault.” (Russiapedia: Baba Yaga)
Also known as Baba Yaga Boney Legs, because, in spite of a ferocious appetite, she is as thin as a skeleton, she is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman with teeth of stone or knives. She flies around in a mortar and wields a pestle. She uses a broom to sweep away her tracks.
Her house moves around on chicken legs. It’s surrounded by a bone like fence with skulls on top which shine light through their sockets. The house is situated between this world and the Otherworld. It emits blood-curdling screeches and will only come to a halt, amid much creaking and groaning, when a secret incantation is said. When it stops, it turns to face the visitor and lowers itself down on its chicken legs, throwing open the door with a loud crash.
(Side note- Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorite anime movies. Just realized the castle was modeled after Baba Yaga’s hut. Now I have to rewatch that movie!!)
Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out and may play a maternal role. She is not good, but is not entirely evil. She can’t be portrayed as a good mixer or a very easy-going person. Sometimes, she manifests her mouth as a cave and devours travellers who wander in. She maintains good order and punishes those who misbehave. She is wise and is all knowing, all seeing and tells the whole truth to those who are brave enough to ask
Baba Yaga may give seekers useful items for their quests. She creates such items with her pestle and mortar and cauldron of body parts. To those who fear her, her house and objects appear gruesome. To others who understand her true function, such things are pleasant. The fire-breathing Dragon, Chudo-Yudo lives with her as her pet that guards the Water of Life and Death.
In earlier stories, she is the divinity of life and death and is surrounded by herds and horses where she holds the reins of the four seasons and controls harvests and rain flow.