Mary Daly Advent Calendar Day 3 — December 3, 2017
Hagiography is a term employed by christians, and is defined as “the biography of saints; saints’ lives; biography of an idealizing or idolizing character.” Hagiology has a similar meaning; it is “a description of sacred writings or sacred persons.” Both of these terms are from the Greek hagios, meaning holy.
Surviving, moving women can hardly look to the masochistic martyrs of sadospiritual religion as models. Since most patriarchal writing that purports to deal with women is pornography or hagiography (which amount to the same thing), women in a world from which woman-identified writing has been eliminated are trying to break away from these moldy “models,” both of writing and of living. Our foresisters were the Great Hags whom the institutionally powerful but privately impotent patriarchs found too threatening for coexistence, and whom historians erase. Hag is from an Old English word meaning harpy, witch. Webster’s gives us the first and “archaic” meaning of hag: “a female demon: FURY, HARPY.” It also formerly meant: “an evil or frightening spirit.” (Lest this sound too negative, we should ask the relevant questions: “Evil” by whose definition? “Frightening” to whom?) A third archaic definition of hag is “nightmare.” (The important question is: Whose nightmare?) Hag is also defined as “an ugly or evil-looking old woman.” But this, considering the source, may be considered a compliement. For the beauty of strong, creative women is “ugly” by misogynistic standards of “beauty.” The look of female-identified women is “evil” to those who fear us. As for “old,” ageism is a feature of phallic society. For women who have transvaluated this, a Crone is one who should be an example of strength, courage and wisdom.
For women who are on the journey of radical be-ing, the lives of the witches, of the Great Hags of our hidden history are deeply intertwined with our own process. As we write/live our own story, we are uncovering their history, creating Hagography and Hag-ology. Unlike the “saints” of christianity, who must, by definition, be dead, Hags live. Women travelling into feminist time/space are creating Hag-ocracy, the place we govern. To govern is to steer, to pilot. We are learning individually and together to pilot the time/spaceships of our voyage. The vehicles of our voyage may be any creative enterprises that further women’s process. The point is that they should be governed by the Witch within — the Hag within.
In living/writing Hag-ography it is important to recognize that those who live in the tradition of the Great Hags will become haggard. But this term, like so many others, must be understood in its radical sense. Although haggard is commonly used to describe one who has a worn or emaciated appearance, this was not his original or primary meaning. Applied to a hawk, it means “untamed.” So-called obsolete meanings given in Merriam-Webster include “intractable,” willful,” “wanton,” and “unchaste.” The second meaning is “wild in appearance: as a) of the eyes: wild and staring b) of a person: WILD-EYED.” Only after these meanings do we find the idea of “a worn or emaciated appearance.” As a noun, haggard has an “obsolete” meaning: “an intractable person, especially: a woman reluctant to yield to wooing.
Haggard writing is by and for haggard women, those who are intractable, willful, wanton, unchaste, and, especially, those who are reluctant to yield to wooing. It belongs to the tradition of those who refuse to assume the woes of wooed women, who cast off these woes as unworthy of Hags, of Harpies. Haggard women are not man-wooed. As Furies, women in the tradition of the Great Hags reject the curse of compromise.
Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics Of Radical Feminism, Mary Daly, Beacon Press, 1978. From the New Intergalactic Introduction by the author, 1990 pages 14–16.