Sleep Tight: The Hag of Newfoundland Folklore (Newfoundland, Canada)

I learned of The Hag in grade school, sometime around 1994.  It was close to Halloween and my teacher had added a little bit of folklore into her lesson plan. It was a story I hadn’t heard before and I was instantly intrigued.

Most people call it what it is: sleep paralysis. That feeling of being unable to move in the moments just before your fall into REM sleep. If you have issues falling into or out of REM sleep, and your experience involves hallucinations or you’re unable to move or speak as you begin the waking process, you might be experiencing sleep paralysis. Where I come from, it means you’ve been “Hagged.”

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The Hag is a demon called down upon an unsuspecting individual by another person. There are many reasons why The Hag might be summoned, but the tale my teacher wove involved a vengeful wife. As the story goes, the woman made a pact with the devil and offered her husband’s soul in exchange. He had many women interested in him, but one woman in particular had set her sights on him and the two were often seen in each other’s company. This angered the man’s wife, so she called The Hag down upon him.

One night, the man awoke from a deep slumber to a pressure on his chest. His eyes slowly came to focus on a dark form perched there, its eyes glowing and its teeth glinting in the moonlight. Although the man tried to scream, no sound could he make. Although he tried to move and push the figure away, he could not make his arms or legs react. The growling form pried his mouth open with long, sharp talons and placed its mouth upon his, draining the life from his body. The Hag swallowed his soul and forever imprisoned it in hell. The man’s wife lived a long and happy life without the burden of her cheating husband.

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There is no definitive cause for sleep paralysis, though some doctors suggest that getting more sleep, as sleep deprivation is often reported by sufferers, could be a cure-all. Perhaps getting better and longer sleep will help, but the stories in cultural folklore still persist.

As long as there are unexplained phenomena in this world, there will be folklore tales to craft a response. Although this response may sound illogical, the folklore tale of The Hag was rooted deeply in the lives of early settlers on the island. These tales were handed down from generation to generation and allowed sufferers to give a real face to something they could not explain.

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Side Note: I’m pretty sure my teacher was disciplined for sharing such a story with a grade school class, even if it was just for laughs.

Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Do you have a Hag story to share? Please comment below. Sweet dreams.

Your Fellow Haunt Head,

Janine

hauntheadscast@gmail.com

Tweet us @hauntheadscast

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