What on earth is a hagezus ?

My place in the autumnal sun

Hello, this is my first post on this blog…

I’m a woman originally from Flanders, Belgium but now living in the middle of nowhere in Brittany, France and I consider myself to be a hagezus.

So what is a hagezus? Let me tell you, Hagezus is an old dutch word meaning “witch”. (Let me say first, Dutch is my mother tongue). Nowadays Dutch speaking people prefer to say “heks”. The word heks is probably etymologically derived from the Middle High German hecse. The word heks was not commonly used until the witch trials of the sixteenth century. It’s a pejorative word which means evil women, it is based on the word “hexe” which originally had the same meaning as the English word hex: curse or spell which are considered evil or dangerous. But before the witch trials, people in the Netherlands, Flanders and Germany used the words hagedissa, hagetessa, hagetisse, hagazussa, hāzus, hāzissa, hægtesse, hægts.

The Middle Dutch, hagetisse, is still used in the West Flanders – Belgium, with variations: aketesse, aketisse, akketesse, êketesse, hakketesse (Bruges), Lokketetse, Oaketisse (in Blankenberge, a coastal town by the North sea were my grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother use to live). But nowadays these names are used to define women with a “bad” reputation, “difficult” women, women with “malicious” talk, women who gossip. But actually they are real Badasses ! They are the cunning  women.

The origin of these words is somewhat unclear. One (also my) interpretation is :

Hagedessa/hagetisse/hagedissa means: hag/hage/haag = hedge, hedgerow. The hedgerow has always been considered as a place of transition or a gate to the Otherworld. In English we have the words: hedgerider, hedgewitch and the word hag is probably also connected with hagedessa .The word dis/dessa/tisse = powerful women or spirit. In Norse mythology, a dís “lady”, (plural dísir) is a ghost, spirit or deity associated with fate. The word “dis” can also be linked to an ancient spinning goddess, in Old Norse “dis” also meant distinguished woman and / or divine feminine essence, the plural “Disir” was used for battlefield spirits (valkyrjur), Fates (Nornir or Norns: Spinners of the thread of life and weavers of fate), protective deities or guardian spirits (fylgjur). But also in the low countries (the Netherlands and Belgium) we can find the word “dis” in connection with spinning women and goddesses. In Groningen, for example, “dieses” is an old word for spinning wheel, were in Drenthe “diesen” means distaff with flax bundles. In addition, there is “the  Middle Low German word ”dise” and Old English “dis” and “indístæf” (read: dis stæf), a word which survived as English distaff . In England the distaff was a common symbol for women and the distaff side is the name for the female line of kinship, the mother’s side.

Brittany, Carhaix – Woman with spindle and distaff, called fuseau and quenouille in French

The words hagezussa/hagezussen:  zussa/zus/zussen/gezussen means sister(s). The hagedis/hagezus was a healer-priestess-shamaness-midwife-herbalist living at the edge of the village-town-society. The hagezus works with her sisters in spirit or in real life so she and her sisters can become hagedissen and do the work they were meant to do. By the way, hagedis is also the dutch word for lizard. The lizard is associated with magic and is of symbolic significance to many cultures all over the world. So I believe the lizard/hagedis to be my totem animal.

Thus the hagezus a is a woman who wants to work together with her sisters but she also want to live on her own, more or less in isolation but very close to Nature, she wants to learn everything about earth magic, plant medicine and spirit work. So that’s a good description of what I am and what I do here.

I’m using this old/new word because I really don’t want to use the words heks or witch, which I associate with a negative feeling. What gives me the right to “invent” this new word to define myself and my sisters ? My answer is: Why not? New words are invented everyday by people, I am a person too, so I have every right to invent new words too. Why should I use a Dutch word in English texts or blog ? When you consider that English is a mix of Germanic and Romance languages and when you consider that Old English is closely related to Old Frisian and the Frisian languages have been heavily influenced by and bear similarities to Dutch, Danish, and/or Low German, using a old Dutch word in a modern context is valid in my opinion. Also, I think it’s necessary to start using new words whenever the older word has become obsolete or when it has been used for to long in a pejorative and negative way.

This blog will be about my adventures as a hagezus and the magic of the place where I live and work and all things in between. See you soon…

Walking in the fields near my place and marvelous Breton clouds


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