The word is derived from the Latin preposition in, which in this case means on top of, and cubo, which is Latin for "I lie". The word incubo translates into "I lie on top". In modern psychological usage, the term has been applied to the type of nightmare that gives one the feeling of a heavy weight or oppression on the chest and stomach.
Guazzo described the incubus in his "compendium Maleficarum (1608)
- as the incubus can assume either a male of a female shape; sometimes he appears as a full-grown man, sometimes as a satyr; and if it is a woman who has been received as a witch, he generally assumes the form of a rank goat.
In some legends, incubi and succubi were said not to be different genders of the same demonic species but the same demon able to change their sex; the idea being that a succubus would be able to sleep with a man and collect his semen, and then transform into an incubus and use that seed on women.
Thomas Aquinas insisted that demons were sterile; therefore the only way the incubus could impregnate a woman was by receiving the semen from a succubus who had received from a man. Also, aiding in this theory was the idea that demons were able to change their sex at will. Aquinas further asserted that a demon could use semen lost during a wet dream so a man could be at one and the same time a virgin and a father. Here Aquinas contradicted Augustine's biblical interpretation of Genesis 6:4 in which he attempted to prove that jinn begot children of mortal women "The sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them".
Nevertheless their offspring were thought to be supernatural in many cases, even if the actual genetic material originally came from humans. The half-human offspring of such a union is a Cambion. The most famous legend of such a case includes that of Merlin, the famous wizard from Arthurian legend. This particular idea was also explored in the Stephen King series The Dark Tower.
- They may enter homes uninvited and can take on the appearance of other persons as shapeshifter
- They will often visit the same victim repeatedly. A victim of an incubus will experience the visits as dreams.
- The incubus drains energy from the woman on whom it performs sexual intercourse in order to sustain itself, and some sources indicate that it may be identified by its unnaturally cold penis.
- Religious tradition holds that repeated intercourse with such a spirit by either males or females (the female version of the incubus is called a succubus) may result in the deterioration of health, or even death.
- In medieval Europe, union with an incubus was supposed by some to result in the birth of witches, demons, and deformed human offspring. The legendary magician Merlin was said to have been fathered by an incubus.
According to the Malleus Maleficarum, exorcism is one of the five ways to overcome the attacks of Incubi, the others being Sacramental Confession, the Sign of the Cross (or recital of the Angelic Salutation), moving the afflicted to another location, and by excommunication of the attacking entity, "which is perhaps the same as exorcism." On the other hand, the Franciscan friar Ludovico Sinistari stated that incubi "do not obey exorcists, have no dread of exorcisms, show no reverence for holy things, at the approach of which they are not in the least overawed."
One of the earliest mention of a incubus comes from Mesopotamia on the Sumerians king's list, ca. 2400, where the hero Gilgamesh's father is listed as Lilu (Lila). It is said that Lilu disturbs and seduces women in their sleep, while Lilitu, a female demon, appears to men in their erotic dreams. Two other corresponding demons appear as well, Ardat lili, who visits men by night and begets ghostly children from them, and Irdu lili, who is known as a male counterpart to Ardat lili and visits women by night and begets from them. These demons were originally storm demons, but they eventually became regarded as night demons due to mistaken etymology.
The incubus was a special priest embodying a prophetic spirit who would come in dreams or visions to those who "incubated" overnight in an earth-womb Pit placed under or in pagan temples. Those entering it wished to "incubate" or sleep there overnight in magical imitation of the incubatory sleep of the womb, to be visited by an "incubus" or spirit who brought prophet dreams. The Greeks were known to practice incubation especially in the healing temples of Asklepios and Hygieia. The Pythagorean philosopher Thales of Miletus, said to be one of the Seven Wise Men of the ancient world, who acquired his intellectual skills through communion with the Goddess of Wisdom in an abaton.
This custom of incubation was carried into Christianity. It became known as watching or keeping the vigil. It was recommended in times of troublesome decision making that one should watch and pray in a church overnight in order to court a vision of guidance. Eventually the incubus was diabolized; and no longer regarded as a guiding angel. The cause for his fall from grace was tales of ancient tradition midnight sexual relationships between incubating women and priests, or incubating men and priestesses. This caused the incubi to be known as spirits of lust. The concept that sexual activity could possess a spiritual nature was completely negated.
Soon it was thought incubi produced children through the demonic version of the Virgin Birth. This originated in a round of name-calling. One early priest Father Ludovico Sinistrari thought the incubus when having intercourse with a woman begot the fetus from his own seed. He added the Holy Mother Church could correct him since this was his personal opinion. Sinistrari called that damnable heresiarch Martin Luther a well-known example of a devil-begotten man. Luther seemed no more charitable since he said that all odd-looking children should be destroyed at birth, for they were clearly the offspring of demons. During the witchhunts, alleged intercourse with demons or with Satan was one of the purported sins for which women were killed. On that theory, a woman was burned at Carcassonne in 1275 for bearing a child to the devil.
Ancient and religious descriptionsEdit
One of the earliest mentions of an incubus comes from Mesopotamia on the Sumerian King List, ca. 2400 BC, where the hero Gilgamesh's father is listed as Lilu. It is said that Lilu disturbs and seduces women in their sleep, while Lilitu, a female demon, appears to men in their erotic dreams. Two other corresponding demons appear as well: Ardat lili, who visits men by night and begets ghostly children from them, and Irdu lili, who is known as a male counterpart to Ardat lili and visits women by night and begets from them. These demons were originally storm demons, but they eventually became regarded as night demons because of mistaken etymology.
Debate about the demons began early in the Christian tradition. St. Augustine touched on the topic in De Civitate Dei ("The City of God"). There were too many attacks by incubi to deny them. He stated, "There is also a very general rumor. Many have verified it by their own experience and trustworthy persons have corroborated the experience others told, that sylvans and fauns, commonly called incubi, have often made wicked assaults upon women." Questions about the reproductive capabilities of the demons continued. Eight hundred years later, Thomas Aquinas lent himself to the ongoing discussion, stating, "Still, if some are occasionally begotten from demons, it is not from the seed of such demons, nor from their assumed bodies, but from the seed of men, taken for the purpose; as when the demon assumes first the form of a woman, and afterwards of a man; just so they take the seed of other things for other generating purposes." It became generally accepted that incubi and succubi were the same demon, able to switch between male and female forms. A succubus would be able to sleep with a man and collect his sperm, and then transform into an incubus and use that seed on women. Even though sperm and egg came from humans originally, the spirits' offspring were often thought of as supernatural.
Though many tales claim that the incubus is bisexual, others indicate that it is strictly heterosexual and finds attacking a male victim either unpleasant or detrimental. There are also numerous stories involving the attempted exorcism of incubi or succubi who have taken refuge in, respectively, the bodies of men or women.
Incubi are sometimes said to be able to conceive children. The half-human offspring of such a union is sometimes referred to as a cambion. The most famous legend of such a case includes that of Merlin, the famous wizard from Arthurian legend.
According to the Malleus Maleficarum, exorcism is one of the five ways to overcome the attacks of incubi, the others being Sacramental Confession, the Sign of the Cross (or recital of the Angelic Salutation), moving the afflicted to another location, and by excommunication of the attacking entity, "which is perhaps the same as exorcism." On the other hand, the Franciscan friar Ludovico Maria Sinistrari stated that incubi "do not obey exorcists, have no dread of exorcisms, show no reverence for holy things, at the approach of which they are not in the least overawed."
There are a number of variations on the incubus theme around the world. The alp of Teutonic or German folklore is one of the better known. In Zanzibar, Popo Bawa primarily attacks men and generally behind closed doors. "The Trauco", according to the traditional mythology of the Chiloé Province of Chile, is a hideous deformed dwarf who lulls nubile young women and seduces them. The Trauco is said to be responsible for unwanted pregnancies, especially in unmarried women. Perhaps another variation of this conception is the "Tintín" in Ecuador, a dwarf who is fond of abundant haired women and seduces them at night by playing the guitar outside their windows; a myth that researchers believe was created during the Colonial period of time to explain pregnancies in women who never left their houses without a chaperone, very likely covering incest or sexual abuse by one of the family's friends. In Hungary, a lidérc can be a Satanic lover that flies at night and appears as a fiery light (an ignis fatuus or will o' the wisp) or, in its more benign form as a featherless chicken.
In Brazil and the rainforests of the Amazon Basin, the Boto is a combination of siren and incubus, a very charming and beautiful man who seduces young women and takes them into the river. It is said to be responsible for disappearances and unwanted pregnancies, and it can never be seen by daylight, because it metamorphoses into a kind of river dolphin during those hours. According to legend the boto always wears a hat to disguise the breathing hole at the top of its head.
The Southern African incubus demon is the Tokolosh. Chaste women place their beds upon bricks to deter the rather short fellows from attaining their sleeping forms. They also share the hole in the head detail and water dwelling habits of the Boto.
In Germanic Folklore there is the mara or mare or goblin that rides on the chests of humans while they sleep, giving them bad dreams (or "nightmares"). Belief in the mare goes back to the Norse Ynglinga saga from the 13th century, but the belief is probably even older.Incubus