Celtic and Norse Hags:
The Hag is an archetypal figure who crops up in Myth and Legends around the world. Many stories link spirits in the form of an old woman, many stories link the Hag with nightmares, causing terrifying dreams. Especially on Halloween.
The Norse a Hag is called a Mare, she enters a person’s bedroom through the keyhole to bring nightmares to the sleeper. The words for “nightmare” in several European languages derive from this belief. Women could become Maras, either by wicked actions or by being cursed.
Another creature from Polish Myth is called the Nocnitsa (Night Hag). Her specialty is tormenting sleeping children. Mothers would place an iron knife in the cradle and draw a circle to protect the children.
Another hag appears in the folklore of Ireland and Scotland called the Cailleach, a hideous old woman, often carrying a staff, she is known to have the ability to have the destructive powers of nature. She comes down from her mountain home on Samhain (Nov. 1) beating her staff against the ground, which causes it to freeze and brings on cold winds and snowstorms.
In Greek myth, the Gorgones are three monstrous female Hags, the most famous of whom is Medusa. Ancient Greek vase paintings depict the three sisters as winged women, with heads, large staring eyes, gaping mouths, protruding tongues, tusks of a swine, and living snakes as hair.
Legend says that blood taken from the right side of Gorgon could bring a corpse back to life, yet blood taken from the left side was an instantly fatal poison.
Baba Yaga, the Hag of Russian and eastern European folklore. Like other Hags, she is a wizened old woman with a long hooked nose. Like Medusa, she is fearsome and hideous, with bulging eyes that petrify anyone she looks upon. In fairy tales, she is portrayed as a witch who lures children to her hut and devours them.
Symbol of female power:
Some scholars have argued that rather than being a monster, the Gorgon is a holy image of female power and wisdom. Her wide unblinking eyes symbolize the ability to penetrate illusions and see the truth. Her boar tusks come from the sacred pigs, a symbol of rebirth, which were sacrificed to Athena in ancient Athens. The hair of snakes is a reminder of the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, as the snake sheds its skin and grows new skin. Seen this way, the purpose of the terrifying Gorgon mask was to guard and protect women and the mysteries of the Divine Feminine.
Female nature spirit:
Though stories make Baba Yaka to be a witch, like Medusa. Scholars believe that Baba Yaga was originally a female nature spirit, a provider of healing. In early tales she is the Keeper of the Waters of Life and Death. She drops a bit of each kind of water on a victim, which kills the body and the soul to be reborn.
Stories link ‘The Hag’ to sitting on the sleeper’s chest and causes terrifying dreams. When the sleeper awakens, he may feel as if he cannot breathe for a short period of time. In ancient lore, this state was called being “Hag-Ridden,” though the sensation is explained today as a natural syndrome called “sleep paralysis”