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No Lowcountry Halloween would be complete without a warning about the Boo Hag, a troublesome vampire-like creature that features in Gullah/Geechee folklore. More than a mere "haint", or ghost, a Boo Hag visits in the night to perch on its sleeping victim and steal the air from the sleeper's lungs before disappearing at sunrise. Feeling tired and drained in the morning, despite eight hours' sleep? A Boo Hag may have come in the night to "ride" you!

A Boo Hag "rides" a victim

According to Gullah/Geechee belief, humans have both a soul and a spirit. The soul leaves the body at death, but the spirit remains behind to guard the people to whom it was close in life. But an evil life leaves an evil spirit behind to become a Boo Hag - a skinless being that can walk among the living during the day cloaked in the skin of its last victim, who made the mistake of waking and trying to fight off the demon. At night, the Boo Hag sheds the skin and begins the search for a new victim.

How to avoid a visit from a Boo Hag? You could place a broom outside the door to your bedroom, because Boo Hags are inordinately fond of counting and will stop to count the broom's bristles long enough for the sun to come up, which will cause the Boo Hag, left defenseless without a stolen skin. to disintegrate. (You can also try hanging a colander or a strainer on your room's doorknob. The holes are just as irresistible at the broom bristles.) If brooms or colanders aren't available and you are unfortunate enough to find a Boo Hag in your bed, throw salt at it. Boo Hags hate salt, which also makes them disintegrate.

Even better is to paint your outside window frames, doors and porch ceilings with "Haint Blue", the robins-egg blue said to have first been made by enslaved workers on indigo plantations, who mixed the residue from dying vats with lime. The color confuses Boo Hags and other troublesome haints who think it's water, which they are unable to cross. As added protection, hang blue glass bottles from a nearby tree or make your own bottle tree. Curious haints slip inside the bottles and become trapped.

So this Halloween, beware! As the Gullah/Geechee warning goes, "Don't let de Boo Hag ride ya!"

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