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For other uses, see Hag (disambiguation).

A hag is a wizened old woman, or a kind of fairy or goddess having the appearance of such a woman, often found in folklore and children's tales such as Hansel and Gretel.[1]


Hags are often seen as malevolent, but may also be one of the chosen forms of shapeshifting deities, such as the Morrígan or Badb, who are seen as neither wholly beneficent nor malevolent.[2][3] The term appears in Middle English, and was a shortening of hægtesse, an Old English term for witch, similarly the Dutch heks and German hexe are also shortenings, of the Middle Dutch haghetisse and Old High German hagzusa respectively.[4] All these words derive from the Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon-[4] which is of unknown origin, however the first element may be related to the word "hedge".[4][5] As a stock character in fairy or folk tale, the hag shares characteristics with the crone, and the two words are sometimes used as if interchangeable.[6]

Using the word "hag" to translate terms found in non-English (or non-modern English) is contentious, since use of the word is often associated with a misogynistic attitude.[7][8]

Hag in folklore

A hag, or "the Old Hag", was a nightmare spirit in English and anglophone North American folklore. This variety of hag is essentially identical to the Old English mæra — a being with roots in ancient Germanic superstition, and closely related to the Scandinavian mara. According to folklore, the Old Hag sat on a sleeper's chest and sent nightmares to him or her. When the subject awoke, he or she would be unable to breathe or even move for a short period of time. In the Swedish film Marianne, the main character suffers from these nightmares. This state is now called sleep paralysis, but in the old belief the subject had been "hagridden".[9] It is still frequently discussed as if it were a paranormal state.[10]

Many stories about hags seem to have been used to frighten children into being good. The Northern English Peg Powler, for example, was a river hag who lived in the River Tees and had skin the colour of green pond scum.[11][12][13] Parents who wanted to keep their children away from the river's edge told them that if they got too close to the water she would pull them in with her long arms, drown them, and sometimes eat them. This type of nixie or neck has other regional names, such as Grindylow[14] (a name connected to Grendel),[14][15] Jenny Greenteeth from Yorkshire, and Nellie Longarms from several English counties.[16]

Many tales about hags do not describe them well enough to distinguish between an old woman who knows magic or a supernatural being.[17]

In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga was a hag who lived in the woods in a house on chickens legs. She would often ride through the forest on a mortar, sweeping away her tracks with a broom.[18] Though she is usually a single being, in some folktales three Baba Yagas are depicted as helping the hero in his quest, either by giving advice or by giving gifts.[19]

In Irish and Scottish mythology, the cailleach is a hag goddess concerned with creation, harvest, the weather and sovereignty.[3][20] In partnership with the goddess Bríd, she is a seasonal goddess, seen as ruling the winter months while Bríd rules the summer.[20] In Scotland, a group of hags, known as The Cailleachan (The Storm Hags) are seen as personifications of the elemental powers of nature, especially in a destructive aspect. They are said to be particularly active in raising the windstorms of spring, during the period known as A Chailleach.[20][21]

Hags as sovereignty figures abound in Irish mythology. The most common pattern is that the hag represents the barren land, who the hero of the tale must approach without fear, and come to love on her own terms. When the hero displays this courage, love, and acceptance of her hideous side, the sovereignty hag then reveals that she is also a young and beautiful goddess.[3]

The Three Fates (particularly Atropos) are often depicted as hags.

In Persian folklore, the Bakhtak has the same role as that of "the Old Hag" in English folklore. The Bakhtak sits on a sleeper's chest, awakening them and causing them to feel they are unable to breathe or even to move. Bakhtak also is used metaphorically to refer to "nightmare" in the modern Persian language.[citation needed]

She is similar to Lilith.

In Western literature

In mediaeval and later literature, the term "hag," and its relatives in European languages, came to stand for an unattractive, older woman. Building on the mediaeval tradition of such women as portrayed in comic and burlesque literature, specifically in the Italian Renaissance the hag represented the opposite of the lovely lady familiar from the poetry of Petrarch.[22]

In neurobiology

The expression Old Hag Attack refers to a hypnagogic state in which paralysis is present and, quite often, it is accompanied by terrifying hallucinations.[citation needed] When excessively recurrent, some consider this to be a disorder; however, many populations treat them as simply part of their culture and mythological world-view, rather than any form of disease or pathology.

See also


  1. ^ Briggs, Katharine (1976) An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Hags", p.216. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
  2. ^ Lysaght, Patricia (1986) The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger. Roberts Rinehart Publishers. ISBN 1-57098-138-8. p.54
  3. ^ a b c Clark, Rosalind (1991) The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen Ní Houlihan (Irish Literary Studies, Book 34) Savage, Maryland, Barnes and Noble (reprint) pp.5, 8, 17, 25
  4. ^ a b c http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=hag
  5. ^ hag1 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition (2000)
  6. ^ Based on a Google Book search of the exact phrase "hag or crone" and "crone or hag". Retrieved 29 March 2009.
  7. ^ Rich, Adrienne (1979-02-04). "That Women Be Themselves; Women". The New York Times. pp. BR.3. 
  8. ^ "Feminist storyteller reprises 'These Are My Sisters'". Star Tribune. 1996-07-07. 
  9. ^ Ernsting, Michele (2004) "Hags and nightmares: sleep paralysis and the midnight terrors" Radio Netherlands
  10. ^ The "Old Hag" Syndrome from About: Paranormal Phenomena
  11. ^ Ghosts, Helpful and Harmful by Elliott O'Donnell
  12. ^ Introduction to Folklore by Marian Roalfe Cox
  13. ^ The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Darlington, in the Bishoprick by William Hylton Dyer Longstaffe, 1854
  14. ^ a b The Nineteenth century and after, Volume 68, Leonard Scott Pub. Co., 1910. Page. 556
  15. ^ A Grammar of the Dialect of Oldham by Karl Georg Schilling, 1906. Page. 17.
  16. ^ Froud, Brian and Lee, Alan (1978) Faeries. New York, Peacock Press ISBN 0-553-01159-6
  17. ^ K. M. Briggs, The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature, p 66-7 University of Chicago Press, London, 1967
  18. ^ Russian Folk-Tales W. R. S. Ralston, Forgotten Books, ISBN 1-4400-7972-2, ISBN 978-1-4400-7972-6. p.170
  19. ^ W. R. S. Ralston Songs of the Russian People Section III.--Storyland Beings.
  20. ^ a b c McNeill, F. Marian (1959). The Silver Bough, Vol.2: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals, Candlemas to Harvest Home. Glasgow: William MacLellan. pp. 20–1. ISBN 0-85335-162-7. 
  21. ^ McNeill, F. Marian (1959). The Silver Bough, Vol.1: Scottish Folklore and Folk-Belief. Glasgow: William MacLellan. p. 119. ISBN 0-85335-161-9. 
  22. ^ Bettella, Patrizia (2005). The ugly woman: transgressive aesthetic models in Italian poetry from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. U of Toronto P. pp. 117–20. ISBN 978-0-8020-3926-2. 

History of HAG: This Game was created by Ari Asch, with help from David Brunner, Chris Jordan and David C. Was originally played with a six sided die, and was only for the cricket numbers 20 through bullseye, represented as 20 being one, 19 being 2, ect, to bullseye at 6. Originally Ari liked the name 11-13, then when people played it at Dave Brunner's place he liked to call it "Happy Hour" (score keeping originally was not written, thus it was harder to keep score after "happy Hour"). After a while people would say, "oh Ari's game". With that, "Happy Hour" and "Ari's Game" was shortened to HAG.

It took no time to evolve the game to a 20 sided die(What nerd doesn't like throwing a 20). Each number would represent what you would have to throw. Whats nice is that you can play it with as many players as you want. Each taking a throw at the number rolled for them, and then rolling(usually) for the player after them.

RULES of HAG: Who goes first can be determined by either throwing for closest to bullseye, or rolling for highest on the 20 sided die. Everyone starts at 11 points. Your number is rolled by the person that goes before you(example if 3 players, last player rolls) If you hit your number it will count as one point, a double counts as 2 triple counts as 3. If you miss you LOSE 2 point(Hence the original title 11-13) If you have missed, on your next turn you will not get a new roll/number, but instead will stay on the number you missed previously. The object is to get to zero points(Preferable still "Hagging") before your opponents. If one throws and misses his number, loses 2 points at any time in the game, that player is no longer "hagging" If a player reaches 25 points through misses it is automatic loss. Objectively you want to "HAG" in as few turns as possible. Its seems you would only be able to achieve this in 2 turns at best, with 3 triples being 9 points. This is where "Turkeys" comes into play. Turkey is all 3 darts in your assigned number. It may score anywhere from 3 to 9 points depending on the scores hit. If a player hits a "Turkey" he is able to choose to throw again, at no loss penalty. He will have a chance to throw again. This can also be declined as missing will not make you lose all position from where you started but it will disqualify the "Hag". (example: I started at 11 points, hit 3 regular inside my number, I am at 8 points, choose to continues and then miss all of that number, the previous points are lost, the score stays at 11 with no penalty other than no longer "Hagging". And a new number will be rolled on the next round)

Score Keeping: 3 columns are drawn or represented across the scoreboard. The top column represent the players score. the 2nd column is used if a player misses and becomes stuck on a number. That missed number is written here until the player hits it, and clears it, for a fresh roll. the 3rd column is used to mark the "HAG". Each turn when a player hits his number and is eligible for a new roll is considered a "HAG" Again once a player has missed he is no longer "Hagging" so the bottom teir of the scoreboard can quickly become non-defacto

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