hag

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hag

Scot and northern English dialect
1. a firm spot in a bog
2. a soft place in a moor
Enlarge picture
Illustration, by Doris Burton, of the hag of Blackwater Mere. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.

Hag

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Term sometimes applied to the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. She represents Wisdom, although, at times, she can seem to be terrible, as when she is in character as the Gateway to Death.

Rosemary Guiley suggests that the origin of the term may be found in the Egyptian heq, who was a matriarchal ruler of predynastic times who knew the Words of Power. From the Old Norse, there is hagi, a "sacred grove," and haggis, or "Hag's dish," which is a mixture of organ meats that is still served today.

In Scottish Witchcraft, the goddess Cailleach, the "Mother of All," was often depicted as a hag with the teeth of a bear or the tusks of a wild boar. She was reputed to be a great worker of spells. Fragmentary accounts survive of how she created the earth, fashioning the hills and the lochs, the valleys and the mountains. In Scotland, also, is the New Year custom of Hogmanay, which stems from the pagan Yule celebrations. "Hogmanay" comes from Hagmenai, or Hag's Moon, signifying the last night of the old year. Couples and families would celebrate the night together, making a point of not parting till after midnight, when they would do so with a kiss.

Barbara Walker says that Hag originally meant "holy woman." In Greece, she became Hecate, the Queen of the Dead. As such she wore a veil over her face, so that no one would know the manner of their death. Old High German uses Hagazussa, or "Moon Priestess," to describe a wise woman, while in the sixteenth century "hag" was synonymous with "fairy." Robert Graves speaks of the "Hag of the Mill" which, he says, is another name for the White Goddess, and states that the Greeks called her "Alphito, Goddess of the Barley Flour."

In England, a hag is a hedge enclosing a field or pasture and it is also a term applied to a cut-like gap or ravine in a mountain. This latter may be because of its serpentine-like meandering. In England, there is a mound named Hagpen, where "hag" meant serpent and "pen" meant hill. It seems possible that hag could mean both serpent and dragon. Hag is a name for the slime-eel, a snake-like fish related to the lamprey. These meanings are related to beliefs that the serpent represents earth energy, as seen in ley lines and so-called dragon lines. There would, then, seem to be a correlation between Hag, Serpent, and Earth Mother.

References in classic literature ?
The trapper found him distributing knives to the ferocious hags, who received the presents chanting a low monotonous song, that recalled the losses of their people, in various conflicts with the whites, and which extolled the pleasures and glory of revenge.
Still the hags made no other answer, than by increasing their speed in the circle, and occasionally raising the threatening expressions of their chant, into louder and more intelligible strains.
The unaccountable release of the captives from their bonds was attributed, by the hags, to the incantations of the medicine; and the mistake was probably of as much service, as the miraculous and timely interposition of Asinus in their favour.
'Though I should die you shan't have that,' said the hag.
'Well, then, take it, you brat,' said the old hag, 'and be off with you, and make haste with the water.'
The old hag began now to long for the water, and said that the girl would be running about with the gold piece all over the plain, so she asked her son to go and get her a drop of water.
'Well, then, take it,' said the old hag, 'and be off with you, but you must make haste with the water.'
"You were kind to me to whom none is now kind, and I have come to warn you in payment of your kindness," answered the old hag.
``What devil's deed have they now in the wind?'' said the old hag, murmuring to herself, yet from time to time casting a sidelong and malignant glance at Rebecca; ``but it is easy to guess Bright eyes, black locks, and a skin like paper, ere the priest stains it with his black unguent Ay, it is easy to guess why they send her to this lone turret, whence a shriek could no more be heard than at the depth of five hundred fathoms beneath the earth.
``Think not of it,'' said the hag; ``from hence there is no escape but through the gates of death; and it is late, late,'' she added, shaking her grey head, ``ere these open to us Yet it is comfort to think that we leave behind us on earth those who shall be wretched as ourselves.