Baba or Boba is the Slavic word for hag or crone. It means old woman. The most famous Slavic hag is Baba Yaga (you can read more about her here). Nowadays, the word hag has negative connotations, but hags frequently appear in Slavic folklore, where they are powerful beings.
Hags were usually old women who mostly healed people and recited charms. They gathered herbs and various wild plants to make healing ointments and elixirs and cast spells. Often, hags were also midwives – helping bring children into the world or keep them out.
Because of their power (to bring and take life, to heal, etc.), they were respected but also feared. We must remember that living to old age several hundred years ago was a feat. Many women died during childbirth or as a result of disease. Old wrinkled women were a rare sight.
The idea of an old hag who could hurt or kill was used to frighten children. The hags’ outer appearance was thought to reflect her wickedness and inner nature.
There is also another side of the coin. Old age indicated wisdom. Her healing abilities and knowledge also meant she was in close communion with the gods and nature. The hag could harm, but more often than not helped those who sought her, once they completed the tasks she assigned.
Some Examples of Slavic Hags:
Grave Hag – as her name suggests, she hung around cemeteries and graveyards (appears in The Witcher, looks like this). She fed on corpses and once she ran out of those, she killed humans and waited for their bodies to decompose.
Berry Hag – found in forests. She had a dress made of forest flora. She roamed the woods and scared children gathering berries and mushrooms.
Pea Hag – her body was covered in tufts of pea haulm and her hair was filled with lupine stalks. She walked the country fields in summers and choked or bit sleeping farmers. She was particularly dangerous for children, whom she kidnapped and ate.
Water Hag – an older version of a water nymph (see Rusalki)
Rye Hag – she favored rye fields, where she attacked people working in the fields during the day. If one saw her, they should run as quickly as possible. Otherwise she’d break their limbs.
Night Hag – she liked tormenting children at night.