The Old Hag

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Have you ever had the old hag on your chest? Now wait a minute…before you go off on some pseudo-sexual gnarly flight of fancy…I’m talking about the symptoms of sleep paralysis. Once in a while, usually coming out of a treasured afternoon nap, it happens to me and it is a damn strange thing. It’s like having an out-of-body experience within your own body. I’ve certainly had a foot go to sleep before..but not the whole enchilada!

Sleep paralysis, so the experts say, happens on the cusp of your REM..your deepest periods of sleep..when there is a disconnect between the mind and the body. So you feel are conscious..but you can’t move. You may try to move, to lift an arm or wiggle a finger, but you simply can’t make it happen. You say to yourself, ‘ Now I will scratch my nose ‘. And you can’t do it. Sometimes I lie there and think that this is exactly what a quadriplegic must endure. It can be extraordinarily disconcerting, which is why the explanation for this goes back into the mists of time and involves some very freaky theories that span just about every culture.

In some British and North American  folklore it was thought that a spirit called the Old Hag came along and sat on your chest. I will certainly admit to having some female company in my nocturnal little black book but none of these women fall into the category of an ‘ old hag ‘. Other cultures in other parts of the world have superstitions concerning all manner of goblins and ghosts who get their kicks from holding down or sitting atop their earth-bound counterparts. Of course, it didn’t take long for people to also start tieing this kind of thing into discussions about alien abductions.

My old hag is a very selective sitter. She has never visited me in bed, never on a mattress. She has never been a travelling companion in that she’s never showed up on a plane or a bus. She has never accompanied me on vacation. I don’t think she’s fond of hammocks.

No hags in the hammock

No, she always waits until I’m slumped on a sofa for an afternoon nap and she usually likes to wait until there’s some golf on television.  She digs the Majors. And then she sits. And though it certainly feels like the unwelcome weight overstays its welcome, I’m sure it can’t be more than but a few seconds. There’s no hallucinations here although I understand that those can sometimes be part and parcel. My old hag is anonymous, which is just fine with me. The day I awaken to find Moms Mabley perched on my pecs, I’ll be upping my coffee quotient by 100%.


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