Boo hag

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Boo Hag)

A boo hag is a mythical creature in the folklore of the Gullah culture. It is a locally created unique contribution to the worldwide hag folklore based on the syncretic belief system of Gullah or Hoodoo cultures.[1]

The legend[edit]

According to an autobiographical account of Jacob Stroyer who was born enslaved in South Carolina in 1849, Stroyer wrote about hags and conjurers on a plantation in South Carolina. Stroyer wrote: "The witches among slaves were supposed to have been persons who worked with them every day, and were called old hags or jack lanterns. Those, both men and women, who, when they grew old looked odd, were supposed to be witches. Sometimes after eating supper the enslaved would gather in each other's cabins which looked over the large openings on the plantation, and when they would see a light at a great distance and saw it open and shut they would say 'there is an old hag,' and if it came from a certain direction where those lived whom they called witches, one would say 'dat looks like old Aunt Susan,' another said 'no, dat look like man hag,' still another 'I tink dat look like ole Uncle Renty.' When the light disappeared they said that the witch had got into the plantation and changed itself into a person, and went around on the place talking with the people like others until those whom it wanted to bewitch went to bed, then it would change itself to a witch again. They claimed that they rode human beings like horses, and the spittle that run on the side of the cheek when one slept was the bridle that the witch rode with." If enslaved people did not have a Bible, they sprinkled a mixture of cayenne pepper and salt in the corners and around the room to protect themselves from boo hags.[2]

Slave narratives of Gullah Geechees (African Americans) in Georgia documented tales of boo hags from formerly enslaved people in the book, Drums and Shadows. Black people talked about hags were "witches" that sold their soul to the devil and have the power to change into animals and insects and drain their victims spiritual essence.[3]

In Gullah folklore, boo hags are similar to vampires. Unlike vampires, they gain sustenance from a person's breath, as opposed to their blood, by riding their victims.[4][5][6]

An expression sometimes used in South Carolina is "don't let the hag ride ya." This expression may come from the boo hag legend.[7]

Boo hags outside of Gullah culture[edit]

While boo hags are a product of Gullah culture, the legend has become known on a wider scale. The legend has been used as an object lesson in stranger danger.[8][9] The legend has also been the subject of song,[10] and poetry.[11]

In 2005, a boo hag became a character in a children's book called Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack and Onawumi Jean Moss. In the story, the boo hag is said to be strange and tricky, and it does anything to get into the house. Precious, the main character, is told by her brother that the boo hag also "...tries to make you disobey yo' mama!"[12]

In Black Wings, Grey Skies by Hailey Edwards, a boo hag has gone rogue and starts killing children and the occasional adult. A group of boo hags decides to help the main character bring the villain down.

The book Hush Hush by Remy Wilkins has the antagonists attempting to open a portal in a hurricane in an attempt to summon the boo hag.

Lady Night, a kind boo hag, appears as a character in Tristan Strong Destroys the World, the second book in the Tristan Strong series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, vol 1, p. 148
  2. ^ Stroyer, Jacob (1879). Sketches of My Life in the South. PRINTED AT THE SALEM PRESS. pp. 42–45.
  3. ^ Granger, Mary (1940). Drums and shadows : survival studies among the Georgia coastal enslaved. University of Georgia Press. pp. 20, 59, 79, 188.
  4. ^ Eric Wright. "Charleston South Carolina Ghosts - Boo Hag Legend". Archived from the original on 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  5. ^ "Charleston Ghosts". Archived from the original on 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  6. ^ Jones, Mark R. (2005). Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City. The History Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-59629-076-1. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  7. ^ "Charleston Boo Hags". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
  8. ^ McKissack, Patricia; Onawumi Jean Moss (2005). Precious and the Boo Hag. Atheneum (Anne Schwartz Books). p. 40. ISBN 978-0-689-85194-0. Now remember, don't let nothing and nobody in this house—not even me, 'cause I got a key.
  9. ^ Louisiana State Library (2007-04-27). "Precious and the Boo Hag" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  10. ^ "Ballad of the Boo Hag by David Bowles". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  11. ^ "Poetry From The Starlite Cafe: The Legend of the Boo Hag". Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  12. ^ "Booktalks Quick and Simple". Retrieved 2011-10-31.

External links[edit]