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» Incubus & Succubus Legends

 by Heidi Keller - October 5, 2003

incubus attacking Hello reader!

This month I'll take you one more time on a trip to the "merry" imagery of the rich Medieval folklore. You'll know about the terrible and powerful demons Incubus and Succubus, who used to torment the Catholic women and men of the Middle Ages…or so they claimed.

A Reaction To The Oppression

These Medieval legends probably have some connection with the ancient Greek legend of the Empusae, who were demons, daughters of the dark goddess Hecate, that could turn to bitches, cows or beautiful maidens and in this disguise they would lay with men at night and suck their vital forces until they would die.

The sources I used for information on this subject, also connect these legends with Celtic fairies, the Satyrs, etc, but I think this is a mere display of prejudice on the writers' parts, as they talked about these legends as if they were true.

Considering the meaning of the names, they both have Latin origins. Incubus comes from the verb incubare that means "to lie upon" and Succubus comes from the verb succubare "to lie beneath". Being so, Incubus is the male demon who would visit women to have sex with them and Succubus is its female version that would attack men.

Historians have concluded that these legends had very plausable causes. When you consider that the people from centuries past were terribly oppressed, especially in the sexual aspect, and that they generally were very ignorant, with only the "wisdom" of the priests as guidance, being that this "wisdom" consisted basically of superstition used by them to keep the people enthralled and frightened, it was quite inevitable for them to have nightmares that involved their repressed sexual impulses and then to claim later that demons were harassing them.

What all this foolish superstition caused was another charge that was thrown on the women accused by the infamous Inquisition of being witches. Many women were tortured and burned due to accusations of having sex with demons, and children who were born deformed were also sacrificed, along with their mothers, under similar charges.

And to think that there are people nowadays who are shameless enough to claim that these beings exist…

The Feats Of The Incubi

There were priests who used to say that these demons were fallen angels whose sole purpose was to have children with mortals and that they "didn't obey exorcists and they had no reverence for holy things". Also the priests said that they could cause a great tumult and make use of violence against those who tried to exorcise them.

fuseli's incubus These demons wouldn't have bodies, so in order to attack men and women they either animated a corpse or manipulated a piece of human flesh to make of it a body of their own.


There's even an amusing story that involves the 17th century friar Ludovico Sinistrati, who wrote a book about demons. He claimed that once when he tried to exorcise an incubus that it gathered piles of stone and erected a wall around the woman's bed. When it finished the work, the couple could only get out of the bed using a ladder. What a powerful demon! But not very smart, I think…

Of course this is just one of the stories that people from centuries past loved to tell as if they had indeed taken place. And it seems to me that most of the stories written by priests at that time, were merely records of their bursts of imagination.

Another intriguing aspect of the legends is that these demons could take the appearances of people whom the victims knew well, like a husband or a neighbor, and certain men when blamed of having attacked women, defended themselves saying that an incubus took their looks and attacked the poor befuddled women. Which is also a good way to stray from accusations of sexual abuse.

There are many other stories, some even involving King Arthur's wizard Merlin, which say that he was the son of a nun and an incubus. Good that Tolkien wrote his stories in the 20th century, otherwise Gandalf would have been involved…

And what about the Succubi??

matt hughes' succubusWell, legend says that there was one succubus per nine incubi, which means that men didn't have much problems with sexual nightmares…or did they? Even being so few, the succubi were of course terrible and had powerful charms with which to damn men forever!

The queen of all the succubi was Nahemah and the name given to the offspring that could come from the union of one of these demons and a mortal was Cambion.

These were the only informations I gathered exclusively about the succubi. It seems they weren't as popular as their male versions.

Please forgive the great amount of sarcasm displayed throughout this text, but certain matters are better faced with humor than with rage!

Next month another discussion of a curious and mysterious matter awaits you here. I look forward to having you as my reader again.

If you want more information:

Legends of the Succubus

Encyclopedia Incubus

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