A succubus (plural succubi) is a female demonic legendary creature who seduces men in their sleep. She often visits monks. Its male counterpart is the incubus.
Similar to a vampire, succubi draw energy from men to sustain themselves. In the past succubi were depicted as frightening and demonic, usually with wings and a tail. Sometimes the wings are that of a bat or a bird. The tail takes various shapes, sometimes that of a snake or an aquatic tail like that of a mermaid.
In modern times, a succubus may or may not appear in dreams and is often portrayed as a highly attractive seductress or enchantress.
The word is derived from Late Latin succuba "strumpet" (from succubare "to lie under", from sub- "under" and cubare "to lie"), used to describe the supernatural being as well. It is first attested from 1387.
According to Zohar and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam's first wife who later became a succubus. She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with with archangel Samael. In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with archangel Samael. They were four original queens of the demons Lilith, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, and Eisheth Zenunim. In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.
Throughout history, priests and rabbis including Hanina Ben Dosa and Abaye, tried to curb the power of succubi over humans.
Not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Mapes in De Nugis Curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999-1003) was involved with a succubus named Meridiana, who helped him achieve his high rank in the Catholic Church. Before his death, he confessed of his sins and died repentant.
Names of known succubi
Agrat Bat Mahlat
joan of cusequ
Ability to reproduce
According to the Kabbalah and the school of Rashba, the original three queens of the demons, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, and Eisheth Zenunim and all their cohorts give birth to children, except Lilith. According to other legends, the children of Lilith are called Lilin.
According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or "Witches' Hammer", written by Heinrich Kramer (Insitoris) in 1486, a succubus collects semen from the men she seduces. The incubi or male demons then use the semen to impregnate human females, thus explaining how demons could apparently sire children despite the traditional belief that they were incapable of reproduction. Children so begotten - cambions - were supposed to be those that were born deformed, or more susceptible to supernatural influences. The book does not address why a human female impregnated with the semen of a human male would not produce a regular human offspring.
Possible explanation for alleged encounters with succubi
It is believed by some in the field of medicine that the stories relating to encounters with succubi bear similar resemblance to the contemporary phenomenon of people reporting alien abductions, which has been ascribed to the condition known as sleep paralysis. It is therefore suggested that historical accounts of people experiencing encounters with succubi may have been in fact symptoms of sleep paralysis, with the hallucination of the said creatures coming from their contemporary culture.
In Arabic superstition, the qarînah (قرينه) is a spirit similar to the succubus, with origins possibly in ancient Egyptian religion or in the animistic beliefs of pre-Islamic Arabia (see Arabian mythology). A qarînah "sleeps with the person and has relations during sleep as is known by the dreams." They are said to be invisible, but a person with "second sight" can see them, often in the form of a cat, dog, or other household pet. "In Omdurman it is a spirit which possesses. ... Only certain people are possessed and such people cannot marry or the qarina will harm them."
Succubi in fiction
Throughout history, succubi have been popular characters in music, literature, film, television, and especially as video game and anime characters.
Mayu is a girl suffering from androphobia who is sent by Ryōko Ninomiya to live with Shungo to get over her fear. She is a succubus, which in this series refers to people with special abilities of attracting members of the opposite sex and feeding on their life force. However, Mayu cannot control her power, which causes her to be chased by men often. She frequently finds herself getting into situations where she puts herself into embarrassing situations, for example, getting sprayed with water from the sink while wearing a tight white shirt or frequently falling on top of Shungo in suggestive positions. She is horrible at cleaning up or tidying up places. She binds up the fringes of her hair on each side with a pair of bat's wing-like hair-clips. Though she is terribly clumsy, which often gets her into bad situations, Mayu is very lucky, which serves to bring her out of said situations. Mayu is in love with Shungo. It is later revealed that Mayu, Reika, and Shungo are actually childhood friends.
Similar creatures in folklore
John Collier: Lilith, 1892.
Demons | Jewish mysticism | Jewish mythology | Legendary creatures
This page was last modified on 14 May 2010 at 20:30.