Friday, March 8, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

The slightly more creepy and definitely less written about sister of the incubus we discussed last week is, of course, the succubus. She is discussed in the largely Medieval literature as appearing to men in the guise of the most beautiful woman on earth. In fact, when the curtain is pulled back - or the exorcist has had his way - her true form materializes. She is either a grizzled hag in Satan's service or a corpse reanimated by the power of a demon.

According to Genevieve and Tom Morgan in their 1996 publication The Devil succubus means "to lie under" just as incubus means "to lie upon." One has to imagine that the reference is to the human attacked by the demon as succubi were said to straddle men in their sleep and ride them as if they were horses. The poor man would wake up, sweaty and exhausted, only to have to return to his bed and similar treatment the next night. Some authorities postulate that this is the origin of our modern "nightmare" but there is much to debate there.

In general, succubi are and were considered by demonologists to be the daughters of the first wife of Adam: Lilith. These bad girls, sometimes known as lilin, were difficult to exorcise but seemingly not quite as difficult as those nasty incubi for reasons we will discuss in a minute.

The succubi, hag or corpse, were intent on stealing the seed of human men and using it for nepharious, demonic intents. In fact, Francis Barrett, writing in his Celestial Intelligencer in 1801, posits the following origin of succubi:

... the nymphs of the wood were preferred before the others in beauty... and at length [they] began wedlocks with men, feigning that, by these copulations, they should obtain an immortal soul for them and their offspring.

In Barrett's supposition, the dryads of Greek mythology were nothing more than lovely demons who, in mating with mortal men hoped to gain everlasting life by almost literally sucking the soul from them.

Barrett's latter-day ideology aside, it probably comes as no surprise that monks and priests were favorite targets of these wood nymphs com demons. Hermits were particularly juicy prey and Saints Anthony, Hilary and Hippolytus all wrote of their encounters with the gorgeous flesh of tempting succubi. While Anthony and Hippolytus speak only of one succubus at a time, Hilary notes that he often found himself "encircled by naked women. Hippolytus' tormenter, when cloaked in the saint's chasuble, collapsed to the floor as old bones. In later writings, church fathers such as St. Augustine and St. Jerome wagged their fingers at hermits who welcomed the attentions of their demonic lovers. Augustine even mentions one monk who was so consumed with his succubus that he literally died of exhaustion due to his near perpetual fornication with her. Or it.

The overall tone of these writings, however, was that men were far more steadfast at rejecting the attention of succubi than women were with incubi. This was thought to be true to such a degree that St. Jerome claimed authoritatively that incubi outnumbered succubi 9 to 1. Quite a margin if you think about it.

Header: The Temptation of St. Anthony by Alexandre Louis Leloir via 1st Art Gallery


Timmy! said...

That part about St. Jerome and men being more steadfast at rejecting the attention of succubi than women were with incubi was pretty funny, Pauline.

Also, the Type O Negative song "Haunted" from their amazing "October Rust" CD is allegedly a bout a succubus:

Pauline said...

Yeah; the poor Church fathers. Crazier than road lizards.

Good link there, too!