A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong negative emotional response from the mind, typically fear or horror, but also despair, anxiety and great sadness. The dream may contain situations of danger, discomfort, psychological or physical terror. Sufferers usually awaken in a state of distress and may be unable to return to sleep for a prolonged period of time
"Nightmare" evokes the modern word for a female horse but the terms are wholly unrelated. The word derives from the Old English "mare", a mythological demon who torments human beings with frightening dreams.
Studies of dreams have estimated that about 75% of dream content or emotions are negative.
One definition of "nightmare" is a dream which causes one to wake up in the middle of the sleep cycle and experience a negative emotion, such as fear. This type of event occurs on average once per month. They are not common in children under 5, but they are more common in young children (25% experiencing a nightmare at least once per week), most common in teenagers, and common in adults (dropping in frequency about one third from age 25 to 55).
Fearfulness in waking life is correlated with the incidence of nightmares.
A hag, or "the Old Hag", was a nightmare spirit in English and anglophone North American folklore. This variety of hag is essentially identical to the Old English mæra — a being with roots in ancient Germanic superstition, and closely related to the Scandinavian mara. According to folklore, the Old Hag sat on a sleeper's chest and sent nightmares to him or her. When the subject awoke, he or she would be unable to breathe or even move for a short period of time. In the Swedish film Marianne, the main character suffers from these nightmares. This state is now called sleep paralysis, but in the old belief the subject had been "hagridden". It is still frequently discussed as if it were a paranormal state.
The expression Old Hag Attack refers to a hypnagogic state in which paralysis is present and, quite often, it is accompanied by terrifying hallucinations. When excessively recurrent, some consider this to be a disorder; however, many populations treat them as simply part of their culture and mythological world-view, rather than any form of disease or pathology.
In Persian folklore, the Bakhtak has the same role as that of "the Old Hag" in English folklore. The Bakhtak sits on a sleeper's chest, awakening them and causing them to feel they are unable to breathe or even to move. Bakhtak also is used metaphorically to refer to "nightmare" in the modern Persian language.
Succubus & Incubus
In folklore traced back to medieval legend, a succubus (plural succubi) is a female demon or supernatural being appearing in dreams, who takes the form of a human woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual intercourse. The male counterpart is the incubus. Religious traditions hold that repeated intercourse with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or even death.
In modern fictional representations, a succubus may or may not appear in dreams and is often depicted as a highly attractive seductress or enchantress; whereas, in the past, succubi were generally depicted as frightening and demonic.
The word is derived from Late Latin succuba "strumpet" (from succubare "to lie under", from sub- "under" and cubare "to lie"), used to describe the supernatural being as well. The word is first attested from 1387
An incubus (nominal form constructed from the Latin verb, incubo, incubare, or "to lie upon") is a demon in male form who, according to a number of mythological and legendary traditions, lies upon sleepers, especially women, in order to have intercourse with them. An incubus may pursue sexual relations with a woman in order to father a child, as in the legend of Merlin. Religious tradition holds that repeated intercourse with an incubus or succubus may result in the deterioration of health, or even death.
According to Zohar and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam's first wife who later became a succubus. She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with archangel Samael. They were four original queens of the demons Lilith, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, and Eisheth Zenunim. Succubi may take a form of a beautiful young girl but closer inspection may reveal deformities such as having bird-like claws or serpentine tails. It is said that the act of sexually penetrating a succubus is akin to entering a cavern of ice. There are also reports of succubi forcing men to perform cunnilingus on their vaginas that drip with urine and other repulsive fluids.] In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.
Throughout history, priests and rabbis including Hanina Ben Dosa and Abaye, tried to curb the power of succubi over humans.
Not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Mapes in De Nugis Curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) was involved with a succubus named Meridiana, who helped him achieve his high rank in the Catholic Church. Before his death, he confessed of his sins and died repentant
According to the Kabbalah and the school of Rashba, the original three queens of the demons, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, Eisheth Zenunim, and all their cohorts give birth to children, except Lilith. According to other legends, the children of Lilith are called Lilin.
According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or "Witches' Hammer", written by Heinrich Kramer (Insitoris) in 1486, a succubus collects semen from the men she seduces. The incubi or male demons then use the semen to impregnate human females, thus explaining how demons could apparently sire children despite the traditional belief that they were incapable of reproduction. Children so begotten – cambions – were supposed to be those that were born deformed, or more susceptible to supernatural influences. The book does not address why a human female impregnated with the semen of a human male would not produce a regular human offspring. But in some Viking lore the child is born deformed because the conception was unnatural.
In the field of medicine, there is some belief that the stories relating to encounters with succubi bear similar resemblance to the contemporary phenomenon of people reporting alien abductions, which has been ascribed to the condition known as sleep paralysis. It is therefore suggested that historical accounts of people experiencing encounters with succubi may rather have been symptoms of sleep paralysis, with the hallucination of the said creatures coming from their contemporary culture.
In Arabic superstition, the qarînah (قرينه) is a spirit similar to the succubus, with origins possibly in ancient Egyptian religion or in the animistic beliefs of pre-Islamic Arabia (see Arabian mythology). A qarînah "sleeps with the person and has relations during sleep as is known by the dreams." They are said to be invisible, but a person with "second sight" can see them, often in the form of a cat, dog, or other household pet. "In Omdurman it is a spirit which possesses. ... Only certain people are possessed and such people cannot marry or the qarina will harm them."
In India the Succubi is referred to as the seductress "Mohini". Not to be confused with the mythological "Mohini" - who is depicted to be the slayer of Bhasma Asura. Succubi is described as a lone lady draped in a White Saree (Indian traditional women costume), with untied long hair. She generally is said to haunt lonely paths or roads. She is said to have died from torment by the male and thus would seek revenge on any male.
Documentary on the subject