What is a Succubus?
Succubus, in Folklore, is a demon or supernatural entity either as a man or woman that appears in dreams to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. The Succubus is said to be a powerful seductress who toys with the minds of men— The male counterpart to the Succubus is the incubus.
In some cultural and religious traditions, repeated sexual activity with a Succubus can cause poor physical or mental health, even death. In modern representations, a Succubus is often depicted as a beautiful seductress or enchantress, rather than as demonic or frightening.
We often see our nightmares as nothing more but an overactive subconscious; images conjured up by our brain and often showcase our deepest and darkest fears.
It is in our sleep that we are most vulnerable, for we are unable to perceive the world around us. Unable to react to it and unable to defend ourselves, should a bedtime intruder manifest itself around us.
It sounds like an awful scenario to be in, and yet, this could very well be where one may find themselves, should they be visited by the female fiend known as the Succubus.
The Succubus in Modern Depictions
When we think of the Succubus in more modern terms, it’s typical to conjure up an image of a beautiful woman; one who uses sex appeal and has the ability to fulfill all of your sickest fantasies. She is a powerful seductress, one who toys with the minds of men and more often than not, takes them to bed with her.
In most cases today, you’d be forgiven for thinking a Succubus is just a term used to describe a provocative woman, who gets her way with men and usually comes off richer from the experience, whilst her poor sap of a man crumbles in her absence.
The woman in question may be cunning and deceptive yet possess a beauty and charm that captivates all who behold her. They typically possess intense charisma and are used to tantalizing the opposite sex with both their words and their bodies.
A Succubus in today’s world is thought to be a domineering woman, one who is vengeful, prideful, and yet still pretty hot.
The Succubus in Folklore
The Succubus was once a prominent supernatural entity in folklore back in the medieval age and was thought to be a demon that took the form of a woman to achieve sex with men.
Firstly, it’s understood that the men in these scenarios were usually sleeping and that in the middle of the night, they would be stirred by the Succubus and coaxed into sexual intercourse.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking, “A hot girl just woke me up in the middle of the night for sex—resolved!”
Secondly, these encounters were thought to take place in the dream state which many may be linked to wet dreams, in a time before they could be scientifically explained. Thirdly, these encounters, regardless of how crazy the sex was, were thought to bring about the deterioration of health and often cause dementia, mental anguish, decay, and even death. — Still worth it? You tell me!
The Succubus or Succubi, if you’re feeling really lucky and wish to pluralize them, originates from the Late Latin term Succuba meaning Paramour’, or the term Succubare meaning ‘To lie beneath,’ which implies the position in which the male takes when the Succubus seduces them.
It suggested that the Succubus is sexually dominant, and she is always in control from the moment she infiltrates the mind of a man to the moment she physically engages him. But this is all well and good for all the dudes out there getting on with a demoness, but what does the demoness get out of all of this?
What Does a Succubus Do to You?—Ability to Reproduce
If we look at the Malleus Maleficarum, usually translated as the Hammer of Witches by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, we start to learn a lot about Succubi.
The Hammer of Witches is perhaps one of the best-known sources of witchcraft, and Heinrich Kramer, although, a discredited Catholic clergyman, was quite thorough in his writings about demons, and while it doesn’t appear to name any particular demons, he does devote large sections to Succubi where he details their roles and how to best defend against them.
Kramer tells us that the Succubus preys on men, not because she is horny and can’t help but booty called her way into your dreams, but because she wishes to steal one sperm.
The Succubus aims to retrieve the sperm of her victims, which she then delivers to the Incubus, a male demon that then visits an unsuspecting sleeping female. The Incubus then impregnates the human female, which Kramer explains, is how demons can reproduce given the traditional religious beliefs that angels and demons are not able to sire offspring.
Through this surrogate loophole, the demons can continue growing their offspring as the mortal female then gives birth. While the specifics are not detailed, it is thought that once the Succubus has one sperm, they alter it in some way before handing it over to the Incubus. And this is a vital process in ensuring the child becomes theirs.
Once the child is born, it is thought that that child will be deformed or have some inclination for evil, as well as being sensitive to possession and supernatural influence, thus making them the spawn of a Succubus and Incubus. In demonology, these spawns are referred to as ‘Cambion.’
This whole idea is loosely linked to the dissertation written in the late 16th century by King James the sixth, titled ‘Daemonologie,’ which confirms the traditional belief of angels and demons being unable to be reproduced by natural means.
He explains that there are certain workarounds that a demon might use to father more children, and that is to steal the sperm from a recently deceased male and place it insight of a woman.
Another idea discussed is the ability for demons to possess the body of a corpse and for them to have intercourse through the human vessel, to impregnate another.
Succubus in Various Legends and Myths
Now that we have a bit of an idea of what a Succubus does and what her main objective is, it’s time to talk about the Succubus in various legends and myths throughout history.
It would be impossible to do this, of course, without mentioning the Jewish mystical entity known as Lilith—the supposed first wife of Adam.
Lilith appears mainly in the rabbinical text titled ‘The Alphabet of Ben Sira,’ an anonymous text of the Middle Ages inspired by the Hellenistic work known as the Sirach, that talks a lot about masturbation, incest, and flatulence. But most people know of it because of its feature of the demoness Lilith.
Lilith wasn’t always a demon. The book tells us the familiar story of God creating man and woman, but instead of Eve, God creates Lilith, for whom he intended to be a companion to Adam because Adam was lonely.
But the two began to fight, mostly on the account that Lilith refused to be submissive during sex. She declared that she would not lie beneath Adam but that she would only have sex with him if she got to go on top. The idea was that Lilith believes she was superior to Adam and that this ought to have been reflected in their sex.
This fight would escalate to the point net Lilith left Adam and left the Garden of Eden, though not before she uttered God’s name as an insult to both man and his creator. She then flew off, suggesting that she grew wings or had wings, leaving Adam to pray to God to tell him that Lilith had left him and the garden.
God takes Adam’s side. He sends three angels after Lilith with the intention of dragging her back, but by this point, Lilith has already made up her mind. The angels can intercept her in the middle above the sea and try to drown her when she could not be convinced to return.
However, they soon realized that they were not powerful enough and that both sides were equally matched.
While we don’t get a detailed description regarding the transition of Lilith, the woman, to Lilith the demoness, Lilith does declare to the Angels, “I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if it’s female, for twenty days.”
Bizarrely, this appears to be a random declaration by Lilith in an attempt to get the angels to leave her alone, but it also shapes her as more of an evil entity given her willingness to harm children.
Lilith goes on to tell them that whenever she sees the names of the Angels in the form of an amulet, she will have no power over that infant and that in exchange for her freedom, she will allow 100 of our children to die every day.
The text then tells us that every day, one hundred demons perish—these being the children of Lilith. Once more suggesting that Lilith is now a demon.
It’s thought that after Adam, Lilith then hooked up with the Demon Samael and that by some interpretations, the pair of them become the original Succubus and Incubus—the mother and father of demons.
Some interpretations of the Samael and Lilith story see Lilith as being one of the four Succubi that Samael mated with and that Lilith makes up one of the four demons or Succubus Queens amongst a princess of evil, a demon who seduced Adam, and a demon who haunts the air itself. —(Agrat bat Mahlat)
It’s understood in some variations of these tales that amongst these four Succubus queens, Lilith is the only one who does not naturally conceive children through regular intercourse but goes along the route of a traditional Succubus, in sperm snatching for her Incubus Samael.
These children who are born from Lilith’s meddling are thought to be referred to as Lilin or night spirits that attack men. Interestingly, in the Targum Sheni, an Arabic translation of the book of Esther, King Solomon is thought to have been entertained by the Lilin at some point who danced around him.
In more Jewish law, it is thought that while the Succubus takes the form of a beautiful woman, if one looks close enough, they will see the ugly deformities of their regular demonic form. These can include fangs, claws, tails and even wings, which may be problematic—unless you are into that kind of thing.
Whilst the objective of the Succubus appears to be founded in her desire to mother more children, there are some beliefs in folklore that fetishized the idea of the Succubus and suggest that the Succubus also seeks sexual gratification from her male victims. In this, the Succubus rapes her male victim and may even force him to perform oral sex until she is sated.
The idea of the Succubus was thought to be influenced by Greek mythology in the form of Sirens.
Sirens were believed to be a sort of hybrid between women and birds, sometimes depicted as having the body of a bird and the head of a woman. In later ideas, they were depicted as beautiful women whose voices and bodies were irresistible to men.
This is a lot like the original idea of Succubus from the Middle Ages, where the creature was thought to be gauzy and demonic before evolving into the sultry seductress that is more prominent today.
Unlike the Succubi, the sirens do not appear to desire the sperm of men, but instead, seek to charm men through their songs, lulling them to sleep before tearing them to pieces.
Leonardo da Vinci once wrote in his notebooks, “The sirens sing so sweetly as she lures the mariners to sleep, then she climbs upon the ships and kills the sleeping mariners.”
We see something similar take place in Greek mythology tales, most notably, the Voyage of Odysseus, where Odysseus becomes curious as to what the song of the siren sounds like.
One night, he had all his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tied him to the mast of the ship. This would allow for them to be spared of the siren’s song, but it would also entrap Odysseus so he could not be logged away by the spellbinding songs.
When he heard the siren singing, he begged for his sailors to untie him, but they were unable to hear him having already stuffed their ears with beeswax.
Some ideas state that if a siren failed to lure a man away with their songs, they were fated to die.
Unlike the siren, the Succubus doesn’t appear to ever harm her male victims. Though, the act of resisting a Succubus is seldom ever documented and so we don’t know how the creature would react if one began to blow a rape whistle and tried fending it off.
Another influence from Greek mythology comes in the form of Lamia, a woman who became a child-eating monster after her children were killed by the goddess Hera, who discovered that Lamia had been having a secret affair with her husband Zeus.
Other renditions see Hera trick Lamia into killing her children before a curse is then placed on her by Hera which renders Lamia unable to sleep. Zeus would later grant Lamia the ability to remove her eyes, allowing her to sleep but he also gives her the ability to shape-shift into a monstrous creature that devours children.
For the most part in Hellenistic folklore, Lamia is thought to be a boogeyman—a tale told by her parents to frighten their children into good behaviour.
This isn’t necessarily hard to do given that Lamia is thought to hunt misbehaved children down and swallow them alive. But by the first century and later classical periods, the perception of Lamia shifted, and she would also become to be known as a temptress—one who lured young men astray and then devour them. This would usually take place after she’d satisfied her sexual appetite before proceeding to feed on the male in which he had seduced.
Later traditions also introduced the Lamiae—folkloric monsters that were similar to Vampires and the Succubi themselves—which served the same role as Lamia in seducing young men and then consuming them.
You can certainly see how the tales about Lamia have inspired the idea of the Succubi. Both entities seek to achieve their ends by sexual activity, and both seem to take their male victims unawares, often lulling them into a state of submissiveness.
A similar creature to the Succubus appears in pre-Islamic Arabia, in the form of bedtime spirits known as Qarinah. The Qarinah is thought to seduce a man in his sleep which manifests in an intense, vivid dream.
Those who have supposed psychic potential can see them, and they appear in the form of household pets, namely cats, because as we all know cats are dicks! And it’s the exact sort of animal that would go about doing this sort of stuff.
Whilst the Qarinah doesn’t appear to try to steal the sperm of its victims, it does become a possessive psycho as it proceeds to harm her victims should they ever get into a relationship with someone else.
How to Get Rid of the Succubus?
Throughout history, priests and rabbis have tried to defend against the Succubi, and there are a few methods that one may use to prevent the demonic creature from causing harm. If you cast your minds back to Lilith, you’ll notice she tells the Angels who come to drag her back to the Garden of Eden that she will not harm anyone who bears an amulet with their names described on it.
Their names should you wish to get yourself an Anti-Succubus amulet are: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semengelof— which may or may not be an interesting conversation starter. You might also try the good old tried and tested method of sprinkling holy water around your bed, or you may wish to just do what I do and become a mythology researcher and never sleep again!
But I hear the most effective method of keeping a Succubus from trying to seduce you is to simply get married to it.
The Story of the Man Who Married a Succubus
Interestingly, not all Succubi are thought to be evil. Walter Map, a medieval writer known for his work, De Nugis Curialium or The Trifles of Courtiers, describes Pope Sylvester II who reigned between the years 999 to 1003, as plotting with a Succubus named Meridiana.
The story goes that as a young man, Pope Sylvester II went by the name Gerbert of Aurillac and that he fell in love with the daughter of a university dean. She was not so inclined to reciprocate his affections and deemed him beneath her.
Heartbroken, Gerbert became obsessed with her. He gave in to lewd and sexual thoughts about this woman, and some say, it is what manifested the demoness known as Meridiana into his life.
Unlike the Dean’s daughter, Meridiana wholly offered herself to Gerbert and was keen to engage in whatever sort of intimacy he desired. She would also promise to make him rich, to bring about his wildest dreams, and to ensure he would be remembered in history. There was only one catch, he had to be loyal to her and her alone.
Gerbert, who let’s be real, probably wasn’t going to get laid anytime soon anyway, readily accepted her offer and soon found himself achieving more and more. His riches increased, his prospects grew, and before long, he was Pope.
Of course, the Catholic clergy were duty-bound to maintain chastity, and so, Meridiana will always be Gerbert’s dirty little secret. And Meridiana was happy to keep it this way, so long as Gerbert kept loyal to her.
Of course, when the Dean’s daughter saw how well Gerbert was doing now, she came crawling back, and in what was perhaps one of the earliest gold digger tests, Gerbert failed miserably. He gave in to the Dean’s daughter, despite everything that Meridiana had done for him and broke their promise.
Meridiana appeared to forgive him though, although not quite entirely. She predicted that he would die on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And you might say, planted a seed of paranoia in Gerbert which drove him mad.
He cancelled any plans to Jerusalem, but the moment he did, he began to fall ill and will soon retire to his chambers, where out of fear of God for having accepted a Succubus into his life, began to confess everything.
Then again, it’s also possible that he was using the idea of a Succubus as a scapegoat for a clandestine mistress, for it was far more forgivable at the time that he had been lured away by a supernatural force than merely given in to the temptation of the flesh. Having confessed, he appeared to die repentant of his sins.
Speaking from a scientific point of view, many believe that encounters with the Succubus are a result of sleep paralysis, and those who experience such a condition may hallucinate and suffer an extreme sense of terror.
It’s a symptom of sleep paralysis that could very well easily be mistaken for some sort of demonic visitation. Others believe that the Succubus phenomenon is heavily contributed to by the experience of nocturnal emissions, otherwise known as ‘wet dreams.’
Image Sources: Mikhail Palamarchuk, WIkimedia, Sciamano240.