A demon who takes the shape of a woman, stealing the vitality
of men during sleep. Old rabbinical writings relate the legend
of how Adam was visited over a period of 130 years by female
demons and had intercourse with demons, spirits,
specters, lemurs, and phantoms.
Another legend relates how under the reign of Roger, king
of Sicily, a young man was bathing by moonlight and thought
he saw someone drowning and hastened to the rescue. Having
drawn from the water a beautiful woman, he became enamored
of her, married her, and they had a child. Afterward she disappeared
mysteriously with her child, which made everyone believe
she was a succubus.
In the fifteenth century, the succubus and the male demon,
the counterpart incubus (which takes the form of a man, to seduce
women), were associated with witchcraft, and witches
were assumed to have intercourse with demons. The historian
Hector Boece (1465–1536), in his history of Scotland, related
that a very handsome young man was pursued by a female
demon, who would pass through his closed door and offer to
marry him. He complained to his bishop, who enjoined him to
fast, pray, and confess, and as a result the infernal visitor ceased
to trouble him.
The witchcraft judge Pierre de Lancre (1553–1631) stated
that in Egypt an honest blacksmith was occupied in forging
during the night when a demon in the shape of a beautiful
woman appeared to him. He threw a hot iron in the face of the
demon, which at once took flight.
The succubus was generally believed to appear most frequently
during sleep, especially in nightmares. Roman Catholic
theologian Thomas Aquinas argued for the objective existence
of the incubussuccubus and believed that such
intercourse could lead to the pregnancy of a woman. Twentieth-century
psychology tends to see such creatures as dream
symbols of repressed sexual feelings.
Jones, Ernest. On the Nightmare. New York Liveright, 1951.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book The Encyclopedia of the
Undead. 2nd edition. Detroit Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.
New York Crown Publishers, 1959.