Ten of the Most Famous Hags and Witches of Legend

If Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, MacbethIt’s an indicator, witch tales always leave a stir in folklore and literature. These sorcerous figures have earned a great reputation in all corners of the world. And while there are plenty of stories about tragic female victims in various witch hunts across Europe and North America, this list will tackle a different subset of witches: the witch.

Although it is not recommended to use this term to describe someone magically adjacent today, the original use of hag describes figures that are more solitary, borderline creature-like in appearance, and often with a penchant for murder and cannibalism. And this list will document ten of these types of witches. And unlike figures like Hecate and the Mother of Grendel, the witches on this list hail from more than mere pantheons and poems; these coconuts were thought to be entirely real. Review your Grimm Brothers before researching them.

Related: 10 Creepy Tales From English Folklore

10 Nelly long arms

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Nelly Longarms is first on this list, insofar as she’s a prime example of the archetypal witch witch, or at least the English version. Nelly, originally from Durham, England, is often described as a wizened older woman with long muscular arms and wild hair. This is probably because many folklorists believe that this type of figure was originally derived from the worship of the old woman or a particular deity associated with guidance, old age, and wisdom in many pre-Christian European pantheons. However, over time, as these deities became more and more associated with their devilish traits, Christianity became more popular. Nelly Longarms is no exception.

This witch’s favorite pastime was luring children into the water and dragging them into a watery grave. Nelly Longarms is a water spirit, and while that is not a prerequisite for this type of mythological witch, it is a trait shared by many other witches. She is also known for making many strange sounds and magically appearing in village streets and gates, attempting to lure onlookers to their deaths by drowning them.[1]

9 The Aswan

One of the most notorious character traits of the archetypal witch is her penchant for cannibalism, and what other monster shares this trait more than the bloodsucking vampire? Originally from the Philippines, the Aswang is a bit of a witch/vampire hybrid, combining the deadlier behaviors of both beings.

The aswang hunts its victims at night, transforming into anything from the stealthy, silent cat to expert hunters like the wolf. However, once he finds his victims, he perches on top of their houses until nightfall, using an elongated, prehensile tongue to read the house, like a snake’s tongue, before stealing and cannibalizing. The Filipino legend can also curse his victims, his signature move involving rice, sand, and even insects coming out of his victims’ orifices.[2]

8 Muma Padurii


Romania is where this next witch calls home. Although she still has a habit of attacking children, it is true that she is a bit more benevolent than other witches, as she at least helps nurse the forest animals back to health with her assorted potions. With bulging eyes, withered hands, and a bit of weight, Muma Pădurii also differs from the other witches in that she can shapeshift between an old woman and an old man, though those are far from her only forms. She can also transform into a beautiful young woman, a nun, and even a tree.

However, Muma is not always cruel, only choosing to truly take revenge on those who would dare to cut down his forest for his home. She even, from time to time, helps children lost in the woods return to their homes and also lacks the cannibalistic tendencies of other entries on this list. According to Romanian legend, she is also married to the legendary Father of the Forest.[3]

7 Jenny Greenteeth

Next on this list is the enigmatic Jenny Greenteeth, the most famous and colorful folklore counterpart to Nelly Longarm. Jenny also differs from Nelly in that she is slightly less picky in her choice of victims, choosing to drown both children and the elderly rather than just children. She also has more than one hideout and can sometimes be seen lurking in the branches of willows and other bog trees.

Originally from the Lancashire area of ​​England, this Witch is described as having green skin, long unkempt black hair, and razor sharp teeth. It is also claimed that she made her way to North America, as superstitious sailors boating near Erie, Pennsylvania claim to have seen her swimming in Lake Erie.[4]

6 Soucouyant

This next legend can supposedly be found in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Although the term describes a type of witch rather than a single entity, the soucouyant certainly cements itself in the wicked witch canon by possessing the ability to magically transform into a ball of fire for transport, as well as a wicked thirst for deadly blood. . Supposedly, the soucouyant can also be found as far west as Jamaica and as far north as Louisiana.

Other tricks up this witch’s sleeve involve her shape-shifting ability to steal the skin of her victims if blood loss results in death. And even she can fit through the smallest holes, like a keyhole or a crack in the wall, to get into houses. However, there are ways to escape, and it is claimed that if you place a bowl of rice in front of your door, it will count each grain before making a real chase.[5]

5 Yamaba

While technically the Yamauba is a Yokai from Japanese legend, it has the exact appearance needed to compare it to the other entries on this list. When she tries to blend in, this legend looks like any other seventy-year-old, unless you can see the horns and fangs on her after a provocation. It is said that she lives in cabins along the road, offering shelter to travelers without her. However, if you see her demonic attributes with your own eyes, she will try to devour you on sight.

Unlike other entries on this list, Yamauba describes a series of yokai, rather than a single figure. Her origin story states that this spirit appeared when a woman with historically less-appreciated habits wandered into the wilderness and developed more demonic attributes. It is also claimed that some families living in poverty abandoned their daughters in order to ease their burden and better care for other family members. So these unfortunate girls would become yokai after living alone for so long.[6]

4 Obayifo

The following entry is a particularly illuminating entity of Ashanti folklore from present-day Ghana. And that choice of vernacular is a pun because the Obayifo is said to have an uncontrollable glow coming out of his armpits and anus. As a vampire-like mythological creature, the Obayifo are very common and can inhabit the bodies of ordinary people. This is because, like the Yamauba, the Obayifo is something you become after dabbling in the form of Ashanti witchcraft known as “Bayi”.

What this particular witch vampire does is hunt unfortunate victims for their blood and life energy; they can even possess unsuspecting travelers, completely taking over their bodies. The Obayifo can also travel through the sky by transforming into a ball of brilliant light, and has a particular appetite for children, as well as the life energy of newly grown crops. In fact, a central character trait of the Obayifo is that they are always, always hungry, no matter how much they eat.[7]

3 black anise

Described as having pale blue skin, sharp iron claws in place of fingers, and jet-black hair, Black Annis is an enduring legendary witch, making her supposed home in the Dane Hills near Leicestershire, England. Like the main antagonist of Hansel and Gretal, this witch has a devilish urge to feast on children and supposedly hunts down anyone who carelessly wanders her domain, letting their skins tan on the tree branches above her. cave-home. Black Annis is believed to have been a wicked fairy and is even sometimes linked to the Celtic deity Anu, although her exact origins are hard to pin down.

Black Annis also possesses the ability to roar an intensely loud roar that can supposedly be heard even five miles away. She can tell that she is prowling your town, looking for babies to snatch from the window, by the incessant gnashing of teeth. In an attempt to get her out of her cave, the people of Leicestershire led a “hunt” every Christmas, using a dead cat stuffed with aniseed to lead the witch out of her cave to the mayor’s house, although neither hunt successfully produced a body. of blue tones.[8]

2 The Owl

While many of the witches on this list can be described as having characteristics often associated with old age, La Lechuza goes a step further and takes a more avian approach. It is described as a giant seven-foot-tall owl with a fifteen-foot wingspan and an old woman’s face. The legend of this witch comes from Mexico, long before the Spanish explorers arrived. La Lechuza is an example of a bruja, or a traditional Mexican witch, although her name in Spanish translates directly to “El Búho”.

However, La Lechuza’s modus operandi involves more of an origin story than other entries on this list. “The Owl” was originally thought to be a woman convicted of practicing evil magic and was executed through a witch trial. Unlike most witch trials, however, this figure returned as an enormous owl, fooling unsuspecting passersby with mimicry of crying babies or frightened women before swooping down and committing vengeful murder herself. And unlike other witches on this list, people claim to witness La Lachuza pounce on them, even in the 21st century.[9]

1 Baba Yaga

fans of Ant Man I’ve been waiting for this reference, and indeed, she is perhaps the most famous of the wizened, wicked witches in the world. She is described as an old woman much larger than most with an equally large nose, and is often found working over her stove or resting in her humble abode. She lives in a mobile hut that walks on chicken legs, and rides in the sky on a mortar, propelling herself with a pestle like an oar. She is the Baba Yaga.

One of the most prolific figures in Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga may have started her legend as Mother Earth Goddess in the region. Still, other scholars claim that she is instead related to the deity of the dead, Iagaia Baba. However, she is first mentioned by her name in the mid-18th century. Although she often seeks out children to put into her stew, using geese for recognition of her, she has occasionally played the benefactor in a handful of stories. She and, on occasion, she has posed as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother by helping free Vasilissa the Fair from an evil stepmother.[10]

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