I have been giving a lot of thought to Her lately, partially as a result of my own personal experiences over the past year, and partially as the result of watching a string of natural catastrophes across the globe.
In Wicca, most speak of the three faces of the Goddess - Maiden, Mother, and Crone. And there are an awful lot of Wiccans who see all of these aspects as loving and benign. None of these Deity-forms would ever do anything that would cause harm to their worshipers, or make someone unhappy, or (Goddess forbid!) cause death and destruction. So when disaster strikes home they have no understanding of its place in the Universe, and their pleasant little Bambi-Wicca comes crashing down around them..leaving them with an empty faith.
Somewhere along the line we have lost or ignored the fourth face of the Goddess, and we do so at our peril. I don't know why the idea of the Goddess having a fourth face seems so impossible. After all much of what we do in Wicca utilizes a symbology of fours..four elements, four suits in the Tarot, four cardinal directions, four seasons of the year, four times of the day...everything is in fourths except the Goddess. And take the phases of the Moon, that absolute symbol of the Goddess. We place the Maiden at the New Moon, the Mother at the Full, and the Crone at the third quarter of the Waning Moon. So where is the fourth face of the Goddess for balance? Who is represented by the Dark Moon?
In the Tradition in which I trained, we believed that there is a fourth face of the Goddess, and we know Her as the Hag. That is not to say that She is old and ugly, sometimes She has a terrifying beauty. But Her function in this world is that of the destroyer, and often the bringer of death. Yet there is another side to Her as well. For out of that death and destruction comes new life, new beginnings. She is Kali devouring Her husband's entrails even as His penis penetrates and impregnates Her. She is Pele's lava flow that covers fields and villages in its wake..and brings forth new islands out of the sea.
The Hag is not a comfortable Goddess to be around. Her agenda is not that of the humans that live upon this earth. She has no pity to appeal to when our death is upon us. She does not care that the forces of nature She utilizes wipe thousands from the face of the planet. She did not care when the dinosaurs were extinguished, and She will not care when humans are gone either. That is Her function and her place in the scope of the Universe.
We are not comfortable with our mortality, yet death is a necessary part of living. If there were no death we would long ago have overwhelmed the resources of this world we live in. We speak of our belief in a spiritual life that does not die..but none of us really know this for an absolute fact. We can only have faith and belief that it is so. And this belief can seem a bit hollow when we watch a loved one die or face death ourselves. And so we fear our physical destruction, we fear the loss, we fear the pain. And all these things are what the Hag promises us.
And because fear is the 'mind killer', we cannot seem to get beyond the Hag as merely the destroyer. We forget that She is also that one who brings life out of death. Her womb is like the Cauldron into which the dead are laid and rise again.
The Hag is not a Goddess one invites to one's monthly rituals. She is not one that gives you a warm feeling inside. But to ignore Her is to ignore the great cycle of life, to close your eyes against fear of the dark. And nothing you can do will make Her go away when it is your time to face Her. Nonetheless, I think we are unwise to ignore Her, to leave Her out of our teachings and to make it seem as though death and disaster are not something that happens in our world. They do happen, and if we don't come to terms with that we will be shattered when our perfect world is broken.
The Hag is our fears, the Hag is the darkness of the grave and of the womb. She is the earthquake, the volcano, the tidal wave, the plague, and the plunging asteroid. And one day She will gather us all in Her terrible arms and carry us gently home.