copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
In times during which sexual urges were repressed, those who had difficulty repressing such urges had to find a socially acceptable way for not doing so. The solution was as simple as it was ingenious: say the devil made one do it.
For the ladies, there were incubi; for gentlemen, succubae.
The Online Etymology Dictionary’s entry for “incubus” explains the term’s origin:
c.1205, from L.L. (Augustine), from L. incubo "nightmare, one who lies down on (the sleeper)," from incubare "to lie upon" (see incubate). Plural is incubi. In the Middle Ages, their existence was recognized by law.According to the tales the sexually unrepressed told, these amorous, if not always sexy, demons would visit one during his or her sleep for purposes other than sleep. No, not for sex--well, okay, yes, for sex, but also to produce little incubi or succubae. These sex demons were also physical parasites of sorts, who, vampire-like, drained their human paramours of their vital energies. According to transcripts of Inquisition trials, victims of incubi reported the demon’s seed as being “ice cold,” presumably like its heart. Historians and other interested parties have explained (or explained away) such sex demons by attributing them to attempts to account for unsuccessful attempts at sexual repression, nocturnal emissions, and rapes by actual perpetrators, including clergymen.
Succubae are the female versions of such spirits.
Again, the Online Etymology Dictionary’s entry for “incubus” explains the term’s origin:
1387, alteration (after incubus) of L.L. succuba "strumpet," applied to a fiend in female form having intercourse with men in their sleep, from succubare "to lie under," from sub- "under" + cubare "to lie down" (see cubicle).
She had many of the same characteristics as her male counterpart, visiting men by night for sexual and procreative purposes, draining them of their vital energies, and providing an excuse for sexual behavior during a time period--the Middle Ages--known for its sexual repression and insistence upon conformity. Whereas incubi would impregnate their human partners directly, succubae would, instead, collect their victims’ semen, later using it to impregnate mortal women, who would thereafter bear their monstrous demon children, or cambions, a famous example of which is the magician Merlin. Their rather circuitous means of procreating was attributed to their alleged inability to reproduce naturally, having been considered infertile. Succubae were convenient scapegoats for nocturnal emissions and sexual molestations. According to Jewish folklore, Adam had a wife prior to Eve, known as Lilith, who is considered to have been (or to have become) a succubus. Possible modern equivalents are Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. Some succubae appeared as beautiful women, only to transform themselves into ugly or fearsome hags during the sex act, displaying horns, hooves, tails, and the like.
Incubi and succubae were frequent lovers of witches, according to Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) (a manual used by inquisitors) and other Medieval and Catholic texts.
Some so-called authorities consider incubi and succubae to be bisexual beings who change their sex in order to avail themselves, presumably as the spirit moves them, of either men or women.
Many know of the horror film Rosemary’s Baby, which turns out to have been fathered by Satan himself, but quite a few other horror stories, both in print and on film, have concerned themselves with incubi or succubae, including:
- “The Succubus” (short story) by Honoré de Balzac
- Descent Into Hell (novel) by Charles Williams
- The Crucible (play) by Arthur Miller
- “The Likeness of Julie” (short story) by Richard Matheson
- The Gunslinger (novel) by Stephen King
- Treasure Box (novel) by Orson Scott Card
- The Succubus (novel) by Kenneth Rayner Johnson
- Hell on Earth (series of novels) by Jackie Kessler
- Operation Chaos (novel) by Poul Anderson
- Succubus: Hellbent (movie)
- Succubus (movie)
- Succubi (novel) by Edward Lee
- Incubus (novel) by Edward Lee
Incubus (movie) (1965)
- Incubus (movie) (2005)
- The Incubus (movie)
Carus, Paul (1900), The History of The Devil and The Idea of Evil From The Earliest Times to The Present Day
Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy, Sisung Kelle S. (Editor) (1996), Angels A to Z, Visible Ink Press
Masello, Robert (2004), Fallen Angels and Spirits of The Dark, The Berkley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Ave. New York, NY
Russel, Jeffrey Burton (1972), Witchcraft in The Middle Ages, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London.
Siegmund Hurwitz, Lilith: The First Eve