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The Succubus Myth

Written by BR KINGSOLVER. Posted in Reference

Traditional Succubus Depiction

In mythology, a succubus was a female demon who visited men in their sleep and seduced them, stealing their sperm and draining their life force. By doing so, and causing an addiction to the succubus’ insidious charms, they stole the man’s soul and debilitated him to the point of death.

Often depicted as having red skin, horns like a goat and lower legs like a satyr’s, hairy and terminating in cloven hooves, they were reputed to be able to take on the shape of a beautiful and seductive woman.

The legends also said that the sperm stolen by the succubus was given to an incubus, her male counterpart, who implanted it in the women the incubus seduced in the same manner, the resulting pregnancy delivering either an incubus or succubus. There is no explanation as to why the sperm of a human man introduced into the womb of a human woman produced a demon.

Although there are myths of sex demons in many different cultures, the succubus myth seems to originate in Europe during the 1300s. It was an explanation for ‘nocturnal emissions’ or ‘wet dreams’, and seems have been most prevalent in monasteries, the monks seeking desperately for an explanation to expiate themselves of sins committed in their dreams.

The incubus myth likewise provided an explanation for pregnancies in convents, as well as to cover unexplained pregnancies stemming from illicit romance and rape in the general population.

It’s interesting to note that the rise of these myths coincides with attempts by the Church to stem traditions of sexual freedom in areas of Europe formerly held by the Celts, who embraced a matrist tradition of worshipping a Mother Goddess, as opposed to the Church’s patrist orientation of worshipping a masculine God. The result of the Church’s efforts was to demonize women in general to support the doctrine of priestly chastity and changing the status of women to that of chattels. The warlike feudal social structures of the time bought into this as a way to control inheritance through patrimony. While men were often forgiven their amorous adventures, women who strayed from the absolute ownership of their bodies by fathers and husbands were ostracized or even killed.

A resurgence in Goddess worship in the 14th and 15th centuries in Northern Europe led directly to the Inquisition and the burning of witches, often those who were Goddess worshipers, and especially the priestesses of the heretical religion.

The following table compares patrist and matrist societal attitudes.

Rule

Patrist

Matrist

1

Restrictive attitude to sex

Permissive attitude to sex

2

Limitation of freedom for women

Freedom for women

3

Women seen as inferior, sinful

Women accorded high status

4

Chastity more valued than welfare

Welfare more valued than chastity.

5

Politically authoritarian

Politically Democratic

6

Conservative: against innovation

Progressive: revolutionary

7

Distrust of research, enquiry

No distrust of research

8

Inhibition, fear of spontaneity

Spontaneity: exhibition

9

Deep fear of homosexuality

Deep fear of incest

10

Sex differences maximized (dress)

Sex differences minimized

11

Asceticism, fear of pleasure

Hedonism, pleasure welcomed

12

Father-religion

Mother religion

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