The succubus and incubus come from Medieval Christian demonology that do their evil work by seducing their victims. The succubus is the female counterpart, and males account for the incubus.
The myth has some basic variations, like how the succubi and incubi are two different demons. Incubi impregnate women with demon seed while succubi impregnates itself using a human male. Others say these beings are the same within a shape-shifting demon, which must collect semen from a male before shifting and using it to impregnates another woman. Less regularly, these creatures use intercourse to possess their victim directly, typically while the person sleeps.
(Photo Credit (c) Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard’s Nightmare)
It’s difficult to pin down a specific physical description for succubi and incubi since they have shapeshifting qualities, but some ancient tales portray them as hideously deformed creatures that were small and stooped. They crawled instead of walking with their raptor feet, fargoyle faces, and clawed fingers.
Now, modern depictions of succubus specifically, summons the image of a voluptuous woman with flawless skin and smooth curves in skimpy leather outfits that flaunt their bodies. You know, all the telltale signs that they’re sexy demons. Many modern succubi also commonly have bat wings, barbed tails, curled horns, and glowing eyes like their satanic patronage.
(Photo Credit (c) Elena Samko cosplay Succubus).
In other cultures and religions, sex remains a part of the demon’s mythology. Arabic cultures depict them as jinns, but there are also non-sexual variations where the demon pins the person to a bed and strangles or suffocates the victim in some way.
Often, succubi and incubi don’t care who they hurt in the midst of obtaining their goal, like attacking their victims’ significant other for catching them in the act, an Old Hag in Newfoundland, Canada, suffocates her victims in their sleep with her ancient, hideous bulk, and Ephialtes, from Greek mythology, leaps on its prey like a great frog.
Their personalities have also shifted over time. The original succubi and incubi were nasty, sneaky, controlling, and malicious, opposing the current trend of oozing intense charisma and seductive power that can tantalize the opposite sex. Despite being sex-crazed, the ancient version didn’t care about pleasing men, and like the modern versions, they often used sex to please themselves, to pervert the virtuous, to gain their life energy, or to produce children.
(Photo Credit (c) Igor Igorevich)
Jewish and Kabbalah mysticism showcases Lilith as their prime example of a succubus, transformed after leaving the Garden of Eden and sleeping with the archangel Samael. Originally, Lilith was a Sumerian goddess of fertility, but later became associated with dark demons. The Greek version, Iamia, was beautiful and turned into a monster by Hera.
Merlin, from Arthurian legend, is portrayed as a cambion, or the child of an incubus and a royal woman or nun. And half-human children are common in Japanese manga.
(Photo Credit (c) Devil May Cry Corrupted Vergil).
In one story from 2012, a young man describes a succubus taking form as an imaginary friend from childhood, Lucy, who told the boy as he grew that she would teach him some new, exciting things when he reached puberty. The young man grew obsessed with this invisible character, concerning his parents and sending him to a number of psychologists. At sixteen, Lucy encouraged him to date real women and coached him through his sexual encounters. She stuck around for years until the young man fell in love with and married a real woman.
Historically, sex-demons, especially female sex-demons, can be found in a lot of cultures, like the yakshini in India, the qarinha in Arabia, the deer woman in Native America, the mogwai in China, and the Lamia in Greece.
These legends spread wide as an explanation for sleep paralysis, hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations. It also helped explain sexual taboos and the “devil made me do it” excuse for unwanted pregnancies, incest, and nocturnal secretions. They’ve also been linked to schizophrenia.
Got a favorite succubu/incubi story or myth? Tell me about it in the comments below!