Dark Goddess was, strangely, the first story about Billi SanGreal, though I didn't know it at the time. The first version of Dark Goddess was written around 1993-4. I'd read about the Russian witch, Baba Yaga, and wanted to use her. Back then she was ancient, she was wicked, but also wise and honest.
After that I started looking out for her. But it was 'Women Who Runs with Wolves' by Clarissa Pinkola Smith that gave me the Baba Yaga I'd been looking for.
Chapter 3 is Vasilisa the Wise. Smith reckons the story is about 3,000 years old (but probably much much older), pre-dating Classical Greek culture and descends from a time before gods. When there was only the goddess and one of her names was Baba Yaga.
Vasilisa goes into the forest and meets Baba Yaga. She serves her and in exchange is given fire, a light radiating from a skull, that she uses to go back home and destroy her step-mother and sisters. It's a classic fairy tale and it's about growing up.
Baba Yaga is the anti-fairy godmother. Vasilisa is the anti-Cinderella. She's not waiting for the prince to save her and Baba Yaga isn't here to sew her ballgowns.
Smith's book delves deep into a handful of fairy tales, exposing the female mythology that underpins many of these 'children's stories'.
I think I've learnt more about story telling from that book than any of the others. Myths are hugely important. Always have been, always will be. The story of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the wise have survived longer than most because they are so important.
It's about journeying into the dark forest and learning from the frightening things that dwell within, hidden from all but the bravest. It's not about being fashionable, about being pretty. It's certainly not about being 'nice'. It's about doing what must be done, rather than what should be done.
Smith explains it best.
"The Wild Woman is the one who dares, who creates and destroys ... Following her footsteps, we endevour to learn to let be born what must be born, whether all the right people are there or not. Nature does not ask permission."