Today, in the latest part of our mythical creatures article series, we are going to be telling you about the succubi, the legendary creatures that have been the subject of many different myths and legends since the ancient times. What is a succubus? Where does it come from? Is it as deadly as told in the stories? Read the answers to all those questions in our post about succubus, the mythical creature.
What is a Succubus?
A succubus is a supernatural entity or demon that manifests itself as a beautiful woman. This mythical creature appears in men’s dreams and seduces them into performing sexual acts.
Legends and religious traditions claim that repeated sexual interactions with a succubus can cause a man to lose his physical and mental health, and, in the most extreme cases, even die.
Folklore has likened the act of having sexual intercourse with a succubus to entering a cave of ice. In later legends, the succubus also took on the form of sirens, which were beautiful mermaids who lured unsuspecting sailors to shipwreck onto rocky shores.
Origin of the Term, Succubus
The word “succubus” first originated in the late 1300s and was derived from the Late Latin term, “succubare,” which means to “lie beneath.” This implies the creature’s implied sexual position in contrast to the man’s face-down position.
The Various Appearances of the Succubus
When it comes to her actual appearance, the succubus has been described in widely different ways. In many modern representations, the creature may appear in men’s dreams or in the physical world, as well.
In many works of literature, the succubus has been described as an extremely beautiful, voluptuous, and desirable woman who often has curled horns, a barbed tail, fangs, bat-like wings, or glowing eyes.
However, in older legends, the succubus was not so alluring. Well through medieval times, they were described as grotesque and deformed beings, with many characteristics that demons are thought to possess.
Faces like gargoyles, elongated clawed feet, and fingers with ragged claws were all common features believed to have been possessed by the succubus.
In some stories, the Succubus is depicted as being slightly smaller than an average woman, who either stopped or crawled on the ground instead of standing upright and walking.
Myths and Legends Surrounding the Succubus
There are dozens of myths and legends surrounding the creature in cultures and religions all over the world.
While the exact origin of the myth of the succubus is not known, St. Augustine of Hippo mentioned the creature in some of his works.
The first actual mention of the term “succubus” came in the late 14th century, though the myth has a few different versions. One version claims that a succubus is a female demon which impregnates itself by seducing a human male, while its male counterpart, the incubus, impregnates human women.
Other versions claim that the succubus and incubus are a single shape-shifter that can assume both male and female forms. The demon first collects human semen as a succubus and then transforms into an incubus to impregnate a woman.
Sometimes, these demons would possess their victims through sexual intercourse while the person is sleeping.
Judeo-Christianity folklore tells a tale of a woman named Lilith, who later turned into a succubus. Lilith was believed to be Adam’s first wife, who was created during the same time as him, before Eve.
She later left Adam, and there is plenty of conjecture to why she did it. However, one of the most famous accounts involves her mating with the archangel Samael and refusing to return to Eden.
She then transformed into a succubus, and her children engendered from demons, known as lilims, were sent out to the world as demons where they became lesser succubi.
However, some writers believe that the succubus was not necessarily evil. In fact, a succubus named Meridiana was allegedly involved with Pope Sylvester II, and helped him achieve his high status. Before his death, Sylvester supposedly confessed to his sins.
Throughout history, religious clerics from both Christianity and Judaism have been fighting to curb the powers of the succubus over humans. The most comprehensive treatise on witchcraft, Malleus Maleficarum, laid out ways to deal with succubi, the best of which included confession and exorcism.
Sumerian and Greek Myths
Lilith has emerged in Sumerian, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian legends as well, and is regarded as the mother of all succubi.
In Sumer, Lilith was first worshipped as a goddess of fertility, agriculture, and witchcraft. Later, in Babylon and Assyria, she was associated with night demons that stole babies and ate them.
In Greek mythology, Lilith was known as Lamia, and was given an extensive back-story. In the legend, she was once a beautiful woman who was transformed into a hideous monster by the goddess, Hera, who became jealous of her beauty. After she turned into a monster, Lilith wandered the world, seducing men and eating children.
Other references to Lamia claim that she was the mother to Zeus’s two children. When Hera found out about her husband’s deception, instead of punishing Zeus, she cursed Lamia into a snake-like monster similar to Medusa.
Hera then had Lamia’s children killed, and then cursed her to walk the earth looking for her lost children and eating the children of others.
In other myths, Zeus hid Lamia in a cave and gave her permission to kill any person who dared to enter her territory.
Medieval European Legends
Lamia also appeared in old English legends, and was called the lamia. This creature appeared in the form of a beautiful woman in graveyards, and would lure young men to their deaths by posing as a helpless woman.
The legend claims that if you see a woman in need of help in graveyards, you should call out to her. The lamia cannot answer you back in a human voice, as she has a serpentine tongue and can only hiss.
In the Middle Ages, the succubus appeared in the night to seduce men into sexual encounters. This lore was especially exploited by celibate monks, who claimed they were often attacked by the creature, and blamed the succubus for their lascivious thoughts and dreams.
Later, women who “tried to seduce” men were accused of being succubi in disguise, while those who became pregnant out of wedlock were charged with having sexual interactions with incubi.
After the advent of the Renaissance, the succubus declined in popularity as artists turned their focus towards the beautiful and unfairly-cursed Lamia from Greek mythology.
It wasn’t until the late 18th century when Gothic literature gained prominence, that the succubus made a comeback; however, by that time, they had experienced a dramatic transformation, turning from the hideous, demonic creatures into beautiful and cunning beings.
If you liked our post on succubus the mythical creature, you might want to check out our mythical creatures section from the top menu to read about many more legendary creatures. Thanks for reading, see you in the next post!