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2022 Abstracts

The Boo Hag: A Discussion of Death & Gender in Gullah Folklore

Presenter: Sara Gonzales
Authors: Sara Gonzales
Faculty Advisor: Christie Fox
Institution: Westminster College

The boo hag is a witch/vampire rooted in the Gullah Geechee culture who sheds her skin to feed on her victims. Every night, with her flesh exposed red and raw, she flies into bedrooms, rides sleeping victims through the air, steals their breath, and absorbs energy through her skinless body. Rooted in the culture of West Africa, the African American boo hag is different from Eurocentric witches stemming from patriarchal beliefs. A boo hag is a “traveling spirit”(Creel)born from a “bad death.” However, regardless of the deceased’s gender, a boo hag is most relayed as female. The link between “bad” and female can be inferred in both European and Gullah Geechee witch lore. I argue that the boo hag symbolizes an enslaved woman’s need to shed her identity, escape, and seek out sources of energy. Using a modern feminist lens, I will compare multiple print variations collected between 1894-1917 to reinterpret the boo hag as a woman seeking anonymity, feeding her tired body and soul.