A to Z Challenge Folklore

Incubus #folklore #AtoZChallenge

I is for Incubus

Learn more about the challenge here.

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

*This post contains more mature themes than my usual posts.

Usually male fae who seduce women in their sleep. Of course this includes the succubus — the female version of the incubus. And, I suspect, the Gancanagh and Leannan Sìth.


Incubus. Image credit.

An Essay on the Incubus, or Night-mare by M.D. John Bond [1753]

Altho’ we have reason to believe, as will afterwards appear, that this Disease was known long before the Greek language, yet, the earliest account we have of it, is from the Greek authors, who call’d it Εφιαλτης, and the Romans nam’d it Incubus, both which words partly express its effects.

The Night-mare generally seizes people sleeping on their backs, and often begins with frightful dreams, which are soon succeeded by a difficult respiration, a violent oppression on the breast, and a total privation of voluntary motion. In this agony they sigh, groan, utter indistinct sounds, and remain in the jaws of death, till, by the utmost efforts of nature, or some external assistance, they escape out of that dreadful torpid state.

As soon as they shake off that vast oppression, and are able to move the body, they are affected with a strong Palpitation, great Anxiety, Languor, and Uneasiness; which symptoms gradually abate, and are succeeded by the pleasing reflection of having escap’d such imminent danger.

Succubus. Image credit.

A Treatise on the Incubus, or Night-Mare, Disturbed Sleep, Terrific Dreams and Nocturnal Visions by JA Waller [1816]

This disease, vulgarly called Night-Mare, was observed and described by physicians and other writers at a very early period. It was called by the Greeks, εφιαλτης, and by the Romans, Incubus, both of which names are expressive of the sensation of weight and oppression felt by the persons labouring under it, and which conveys to them the idea of some living being having taken its position on the breast, inspiring terror, and impeding respiration and all voluntary motion. It is not very surprising that persons labouring under this extraordinary affection, should ascribe it to the agency of some dæmon, or evil spirit; and we accordingly find that this idea of its immediate cause has generally prevailed in all ages and countries.

Succubus. Image credit.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


An evil spirit or devil that assumed the form of a man and lay with a woman, similar to the succubus, which took on the form of a woman or hag and lay with a man.

According to legend, Merlin was the offspring of an incubus. The child of an incubus and a human is sometimes called a “cambion”.


Mara appears in various guises in different cultures as either a demonic or nurturing figure. An Old English word for “demon”, its usage survives in terms such as “nightmare”. Similar terms are found in Old Norse, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic, all identified with a malicious goblin or incubus-like creature that pressed down on sleepers’ chest, inducing nightmares.

Baobhan Sith

A beautiful but evil fairy in Scottish folklore, a succubus whose purpose is to seduce her victim and suck their blood until they die.

*More can be read in the book.

Incubus. Image credit.

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane

Cambions (CAM-bee-ins)

Variations: Campions

From post-medieval European demonology comes the belief in the existence of a demonic hybrid offspring called a cambion. It was believed to be created when an INCUBUS and a human woman or when a SUCCUBUS and a human male had a child together. A cambion child can be eas-ily detected as it will be born with a deformity of some sort. Twins are especially suspect of being cambions.

All cambions have some level of supernatural ability and they are likely to become wizards or sorcerers. Cambions usually find themselves prejudiced against because of the circumstances surrounding their conception.

Throughout history there have been several famous individuals who were said to be cambions: Alexander the Great, Merlin (of King Arthur folklore), Plato, Romulus and Remus, etc.

Incubus (In-cue-bus), plural: incubi

Cultures from all over the world and from all time periods have reports of a type of vampiric demonic creature feeding off the sexual energy of humans. The incubus is generally described by its female victims as “feeling” male. At night it assaults a woman while she is asleep, stealing her sexual energy from her. She seldom awakes during the attack but rather will experience the event as if it were an erotic dream.

Traditional folklore says to hang garlic and a druid stone (a stone with a natural hole through it) next to your bed will keep an incubus away.

Succubus. Image credit.

Sburator (Sue-but-or)

Variations: Zburãtor, ZBURATOR

In Romanian folklore there is a vampiric creature called a sburator (“flying man”), which is essentially a variation of an INCUBUS. Described as being an extremely handsome man, the sburator is virtually custom made for the victim, making it the perfect lover. Once every seven years, at night, it attacks the woman, slipping into her home through an open window. While she is asleep, it kisses her so gently she may not even wake up. The next day, the woman awakes feeling drained of energy, her body throbbing with pain, and she is easily agitated. Once a woman has had an encounter with a sburator, she is not interested in other men.

Succubus (SUC-you-bus), plural: succubi

Men have been assaulted by the vampiric female demon known as the succubus (“spirit bride” or “to lie under”) as far back as ancient Akkadia, Sumeria, and Greece, where it was clearly defined and described. The male counterpart to the succubus is known as an INCUBUS, and according to medieval folklore, the incubi outnumber the succubi by a ratio of nine to one.

At night succubi, as they are collectively called, appear as beautiful women and can be very alluring and persuasive. They seek out sleeping men to have sexual intercourse with and, according to medieval folklore, are particularly fond of monks. During the sex act, the succubi are said to drain off a number of vital essences and fluids, such as blood, breath, life-energy, and semen to the point of their victim’s death. A succubus need not even be physically in the room for the assault to take place, as it can visit a man in his dreams, causing his body to fall into a state of sleep paralysis.

*More can be read in the book.

Incubus/Succubus still life. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlín Matthews

John Keats’s famous poem on the Lamia sees her as a Succubus, thus bequeathing an undying legend of the seductive, vampiric female.


In medieval clerical belief, an incubus is a male spirit who lies with women at night, provoking their lust. According to British legend, Merlin is the offspring of such a union. His mother refused to tell who lay with her and stories circulated that her night-visitor was a demon. After this, Merlin is known as ‘the boy who has no father’. The female counterpart to the Incubus is the Succubus.


In medieval clerical lore, a succubus is a female spirit who comes to men at night and sleeps with them. The succubus was supposed to be the cause of wet dreams and was sometimes associated with the night-mare.

*More can be read in the book.

Succubus. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Incubus. Image credit.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

The earliest written accounts of the incubus states that it is a nightmare that grabs a person asleep on their backs, making them thrash, sigh, groan and make all sorts of sounds. The Greeks had a name for it and the Romans called it incubus. The name describes the feeling of a weight upon the sleeper, inspiring terror and involuntary motion.

There are various named creatures in folklore that press down on a sleeper’s chest, inducing nightmares. Mara is such a creature from English folklore.

By the Middle Ages, the clergy had decided that nightly emissions – what we call a wet dream today – was caused by a succubus seducing them at night and not a natural occurrence as it flew in the face of their vows of celibacy.

Since then the incubus and its female counterpart, the succubus, went from inducing nightmares to seducing or even violating humans in their sleep. The offspring from a human and incubus is called a cambion. According to legend, Merlin, who was said to have no father because his mother refused to say who her lover was, was a cambion.

This led to the obvious conclusion that the incubus or succubus isn’t limited to stalking sleeping humans, but seducing them while awake. The Boabhan Sith from Scottish folklore is a beautiful faery who seduces her prey and drinks their blood.

Some legends speak of the incubus or succubus feeding of sexual energy, which is why they seduce or violate humans in their sleep. Other legends take it even farther: the incubus or succubus doesn’t just feed of sexual energy, but also breath, blood and life-energy nearly to the point of death of the victim. And some legends state that once a succubus has seduced a man, she doesn’t need to be physically with him to drain him: she can visit him in his dreams to the same effect.

Clearly one needs to hang a druid stone and some garlic around one’s bed if one is to have any undisturbed sleep.

Succubus. Image credit.

Incubus in Modern Culture

Grimm TV Show

Alpe attacking. Image credit.

An Alpe (ALP; Ger. “nightmare”; pl. Alpen) is a nightmare Wesen that appeared in “Breakfast in Bed“.

In German folklore, the Alpe is responsible for sleep paralysis and insomnia. The Alpe is also known to release a paralyzing gas at its victims so it can attack without trouble. This gas has given them the distinguishing characteristic of having bad breath as well. Although their victims are paralyzed once the gas is inhaled, they are still conscious and aware of what is happening to them. The Alpe feeds off of melatonin produced in the brain and will go insane if they don’t feed nightly on the proteins produced in the brain that are created during REM sleep. They must do so because they don’t (and can’t) sleep themselves. Alpen prefer heavy sleepers because they produce the most melatonin. The Alpe will then use the paralyzing gas to paralyze its victims and proceed to attach its mouth to the unmoving person’s head and feed on their sleep. Due to the traumatic experience, their victims are often driven to insanity. They also have a very acute sense of hearing.

Learn more here.

Things She’s Seen by Pat Esden (My Review)

His mother was a witch and his father a demon. He was a cambion.”

Chloe shook her head. “Maybe I’m being dense. I know the play. But how does that connect to what’s going on?”

“Of course you know.” Em grinned. “Merlin’s father was a demon. Merlin is a cambion, same as Caliban. That’s why the energy Devlin and I sensed felt like Merlin’s Shade. It was cambion magic.”

Things She’s Seen by Pat Esden

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (My Review)

One of the other girls – the one watching Seth – moved to the side, just a little, and Aislinn caught a glimpse of tiny horns poking through her hair, of leathery wings curled behind her… The winged girl moved towards Seth slowly, like each step took a lot of concentration. “We can’t really stay long. Come with us?”… The faery hadn’t moved. She trailed her fingertips down her cleavage, slowly. “You’d have fun. More than you’ll get here.”

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

There’s this hilarious clip from The Big Bang Theory mentioning a succubus with some commentary explaining the creature.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Zombies. Succubi, incubi… Everything you ever dreaded under your bed and told yourself couldn’t be by the light of day.”―Rupert Giles[src]

Incubus was a demon species that fed on life energy through intimate contact.[1] They were the male counterpart of the demons succubus.[2][3]

Incubi appeared human and were capable of maintaining the same appearance over decades. When employing their hypnotic powers, their eyes turned solid black flecked in white.[1] Their hypnotic effect on people allowed the demon to influence the actions of their targets.[1]

Learn more here.

Grimm TV series

Spinnetod ready to devour a man she seduced. Image credit.

Spinnetod (SPIN-nuh-tod; Ger. Spinne “spider” + Tod “death”) is a spider-like Wesen that first appeared in “Tarantella“.

They have been called the Black Widows of the Wesen world, and according to Monroe, there aren’t many Spinnetods around.

Females are known to kill their mates shortly after copulation. This is evidenced by only one record of Spinnetods in Marie Kessler’s library, an account passed along from a Japanese Grimm to another Grimm visiting Singapore.

When they wogechelicerae emerge from their mouth, their eyes grow black or bright blue, including the sclera and iris, and their hands become gray and wrinkled, as well as clawed.

Female Spinnetods are known to molt their skin every five years from an age presumably as early as 13, a process known as le retour d’age (the return of age). Before molting, they must devour a male’s (Wesen or human) insides in order to expand enough to crack their outermost layer of skin.

Learn more here.

Emporium of Superstition by various authors [My Review]

There are a few stories in this collection that have incubi/succubi, but this extract probably shows the after effects of seduction by an incubus the best:

Nora woke with a start, a ragged gasp torn from her throat as she became aware of the press of a metal railing on her lower back and the feel of a chill wind and raindrops against her bare breasts. 

Blinking against the lusty haze still clouding her mind, she looked around herself. The last thing Nora could remember was soaking in the hot bathtub, and now she was out on her balcony, standing in all her naked glory, having woken from one of the most intense dreams she’d ever experienced.

Chest still rising with her quickened breath, Nora wrapped her arms around herself in confusion. How had she gotten outside?

Oh Cruel Darkness by Christis Christie

Incubus/Succubus in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Incubus/Succubus

Though the term can be applied to any fae who seduce mortals, this is a specific type of faery who feeds solely on sexual energy. They are sexually attractive to their prey – humans – and haunt traditional hunting grounds: clubs, bars and parties.
Once a human gets a taste of the pheromones secreted by this fae, they are hooked. They become obsessed to the point of wanting nothing more than to be with their fae lover. It only ends in one way: madness, despair, and eventually, death.
Much the way that humans shouldn’t eat faery food as mortal food would taste like ashes and they’ll pine away, the sexual intimacy shared with an incubus or succubus will dull every other experience until the human has no interest in life without their lover. There is no cure.

Incubus translated to Afrikaans: Inkubus.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

Where did you first encounter the incubus? What do you think of this seductive faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

8 thoughts on “Incubus #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I am truly amazed at how much effort you put into your blog posts. The graphics are always great and you give such detailed information, most of which is new to me, and inspiring. But, after reading today’s post, I think I’m going to try and refrain from ever, ever sleeping on my back. 🙂

  2. I love Wicked Lovely! Melissa Marr really did her research for that series. Poor Merlin! Being called the boy with no father is what led to his being brought in by Vortigern. Mary Stewart’s Merlin was the son of Ambrosius, Uther’s brother, but his mother couldn’t reveal that for his safety.

    You do a great job with these posts, Ronel. Thanks!

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