Hags: Love, Nature and Destiny

Art by Moisés Rodríguez

“The transformative power of both love and hate each can either bless or curse a soul.

Long ago, there was a young woman who had just come into her beauty; so striking a beauty was she that she could naturally enchant any man she wanted.   But, as long as she could remember, she was surrounded by many aged, hateful creatures.  They were cruel, seemingly female with little sibilance of the beauty that she represented and, according to them, their decrepit, hateful nature was to be her fate.  So, imagine her relief when a band of warriors attacked and killed the despicable things.  They thought she had been abducted seeing that her beauty was unsurpassed in antithesis to the monstrous ugliness of her ‘captors’. 

She was taken to their city and accepted as their own.  Upon the arrival of the full moon, as all the city came to the sacred grove to welcome it as the blessing of their patron goddess, she accepted the light of the moon as some turn their face to the sun.  And it drew her; beckoned her and she drew near to it.  As the city witnessed this newcomer glowing like the sun in the light of their goddess, the moon, something unforeseen happened.  They took this as a sign that the blessing of the moon mother was upon both them and this strange beauty.  The people raised her to the role of cleric immediately.  And across the years, she took her place as the high cleric.  But she became so much more than that.  She became the living representation of the moon goddess herself.”

LO, How the Mighty Have Fallen!

The Hag, dealt with in some detail in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, is a dangerous and enigmatic big bad that brings so many layers of storyline and gameplay to any adventure.  They could so easily be an amazing end to lifelong campaign; bringing enough danger and sinister motives to fill any DM’s notebook.

The origin of the Hag (according to some) lies in their Queen and Goddess, CEGILUNE.  Legend says that she began as a fey goddess of the moon who was a bastion of celestial-like beauty.  She was loved and sought after by many worshipers.  But her pride was her undoing.  She relished in their adoration but she slacked in her service to them.  SO, across the years, she lost devotee after devotee until it began to draw from her power.  Not knowing that their love and devotion to her was what fueled not only her power but her ravishing beauty, she was aghast when her young face began to show the wrinkles of age. 

Her rage was turned against those whose love was lost, but the more she raged against them, the more of her admirers turned from her in horror as she withered into an unnaturally gaunt monstrosity.  Those of her followers who she had raised to leadership also shared her fate becoming the various types of Hags we know today.   At the time, in her weakened state, she withdrew to a domain in the Grey Wastes aptly called HAG’S END.  But she never gave up her bit of divinity out of hatred and spite and swore to punish humanity both in death and the destruction of all they hold beautiful and good.

“The rare beauty became a sought-after voice of the Moon goddess and, actually, became equated in the eyes of her people with the lunar goddess herself.  In all actuality, whatever power they were worshiping waned and disappeared long ago.  Or possibly the goddess abandoned them.  For some reason, the beautiful high priestess knew this and, although it seemed cruel to lead them along thusly, it pleased her to do so.

(Art by Sonapitt)

One of the warriors who had saved her long ago became her champion and, then, a Paladin in service of the Moon Goddess.  But he admired her as if she were the goddess and who was she to correct him or any of the others.  The adoration was delicious; almost familiar.  And his love for her was a feast indeed for it was pure.  He was hers and she gave herself to him in a union meant for love although she had never come to understand this emotion.  She had only come to use it and devour it.

No matter her motives, what she received from him that night would change everything.”

Art by Daniel Jiménez Villalba

A MOTHER OF A MOTHER

Nothing in any tome that has ever been written says that these creatures we’ve come to call HAGS are actually female.  It only says that they ‘resemble’ wrinkled, decrepit, old women.  Some sources say they have no natural ways of childbirth, but others contradict this and states that they do.  Either way, for the most part, the Hags replenish their numbers through a process that echoes the old folklores of the Changeling.

Now, this is not the Changeling that is a race in D&D, but likened to the tale of creatures who switch babies with mortals; leaving their own offspring in the shape of the stolen baby.  For the Hag, a great part of their diet is mortal children.  But at times when they devour a child (probably a female), they metabolize them in a way that they create and ‘give birth’ to an identical baby.  And it is this child that she switches with now eaten child.

Now, these Hags sometimes live alone, but value the coven as a way to build power and safety.  Sometimes the child is produced to replace a fallen member of their number.  Sometimes it’s to satisfy some twisted version of maternal love.  Or, MAYBE, it’s just to have a servant, minion or apprentice.  Either way, the gestation into hag took a different pace all according to which method of ‘birth’ was used.  If the Hag carried the child for nine months, the hag could live as long as its mid-forties before fully transforming.  But, if it was the product of the consumption of a mortal child, the transformation would come about much quicker; coming into their full Hag stature at about their thirteenth birthday.

Those born ‘naturally’ from a Hag and a mortal will look like the race of their father and can be either male or female.  (Now, this dictates the reproductive organ of a female, SO a female?)  Now, Hags value females over males since only the females can become one of them.  But, if conceived naturally, the Hag could have a son.

Art by Frédéric Borralho

“The physical union of the goddess and the paladin produced twins, one male and one female, both with an unnatural beauty and charisma.  They grew to be strong, cunning and manipulative in their own way.  The son took after his father and became a warrior at a young age, growing to be unusually strong and intimidating in stature.  The daughter, however, even with her unrivaled beauty, became darker in spirit, controlling and spiteful. 

The mother grew to despise these people who she came to see as weak and easily swain.  Her hunger for adoration grew and she soon grew tired of the paladin; seeking other lovers.  One particular Festival of the Goddess, she went through the various rites she had always observed although they grew tiresome and meaningless to her. 

Suddenly, the moon shone with an unusual blackness that frightened even her.  The visage of a dark, angry hag appeared and called the ‘voice of the goddess’ out for her hypocrisy.

“How dare you keep their love to yourself?  You dishonor not only the Aunties that came before but me, but the goddess who is the source of your power!”  The hideous visage condemned.

Before anyone could possibly react, the lunar patron slashed out with a wickedly large gnarled claw and struck her down.  The visage of the ravaging beauty rotted into an emaciated crone before the village’s eyes.

The looming crone turned her attention to the female child of the stricken beauty, “Come child.  These people are not worthy of you.  Come and I will show you power beyond comprehension!”

The image of the crone softened a bit turning smooth and alluring.  To the horror of all, especially the brother and her father, she accepted the moon goddess’ hand.  But not her hand, instead a knife made from the bone of some creature.  Without asking or wondering, the young beauty turned to her mother who begged her not to leave her and buried the knife deep in her own mother’s chest.  Before the father, brother or any other could reach them, the mother was dead and the sister was gone leaving them all stunned.”

Art by Laura Sava

A TALE OF TWO PATHS

CEGILUNE, the former fey goddess of the moon and currently the patron god of hags was truly the source of both the hag’s power and their unnatural ugliness inside and out. She is still a vain, conceited power and will not suffer any slight.  She is, of course, the moon goddess who had abandoned her people long ago.  But that would not keep her from punishing those who would attempt to steal them and their love.

The mother in the story paid for her arrogance and slight against the gruesome deity.  But this left the two offspring of a hag to be and a paladin of light.  This is a story you can play out in about any campaign. 

The brother (or it can be a sister as well) can be played as an NPC or a PC.  Being a hagborn (That would make a great name for a Sorcerous Origin), he would have a natural connection to magic and would make a great Sorcerer or you could totally ignore the mystical side and make him a Fighter like his father.

It could be a result of the character’s anger leading him to become a hunter of Hags hoping to someday find his sister and either exact justice for his mother OR possibly he thinks he can redeem her; keep her from becoming a Hag.  As a hunter, he would make a great Ranger or Rogue.  As a ranger, one of his favored enemies could be HAG or Fey.  There may be room for me to develop a Ranger Archtype soon to aid this type of character’s quest to become the ultimate Hag Hunter.  As a rogue, he could become the bane of all Hags; knowing just how to get to them, infiltrate their lairs and dispatch them to the next world.

His connection through blood to the moon could make him a Druid, Circle of the Moon or even become a Cleric of an actual Moon god or goddess.  He could be driven by not only his hunger for revenge but a holy quest to destroy every vestige of Hags off his world.

Or you could turn the story on its ear and have the son be the one who accepted the Hag goddess becoming her thrall as a Warlock and her as Patron.  All of the above could be used with the daughter, spurning her heritage as a Hag.

Homebrew Prophey:

There may be more information coming about the Hag from what I’ve read in the ancient tomes (AKA earlier editions of D&D).  I did this study as a part of my work on the upcoming CONSTRUCTIVE CONSTUCTS: THE SCARECROW sourcebook due out next month (scarecrows are a special creation originating possibly from the Hag’s experimentation).  Drop a comment on how you would play this out, what you would like to see developed into some concreate resources or any other thoughts down below.  Also check out our social media and even our Youtube which, right now has mostly magic content, but I’ll start to drop some D&D information there soon.

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