Abstract

In the historiography of slave culture and folk beliefs in the U.S. South, the hag of African American lore has generally been more closely allied with Western European lineages than West African antecedents. Using the cultures of the upper Guinea coast in addition to Western European witchcraft discourses as interpretive contexts, this article argues that enslaved people infused the English term “hag” with beliefs about female-embodied, trans-sense power adapted from West African cosmological frameworks but indigenous to enslaved communities in the U.S. South. Moreover, among the enslaved, beliefs regarding the hag did not function as a sanction against socially deviant women as in the West African and European American contexts, but rather attested to the sociological importance of women in enslaved communities in the Lower South.

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