Also known as demon lover.
In occult lore, a lewd male demon or goblin which takes on the illusory appearance of a male human being and seeks sexual intercourse with women, usually while they are asleep.
The term 'incubus' is from the Latin incubo meaning 'burden' or 'weight'. It may have become applied to demonic lovers, because it was thought that nightmares involving a feeling of oppressive weight on the chest were the consequence of the act of somnambulant copulation with a fiend. The corresponding demon who appears to men is the Succubus.
According to the church fathers, the incubus was an angel who fell from grace because of his insatiable lust for women. As a demon, the incubus continued with his carnal desires, preying upon vulnerable women, raping them in their sleep and inciting sexual desires that only himself could satisfy.
Traditional wisdom professes that demons were only spirits and had no corporeal form. To be able to do his 'thing', Incubus was presumed to come upon his physical form in one of two ways: he either reanimated a human corpse, or he used human flesh to create a body of his own, which he then endowed with artificial life.
Especially mischievous and clever incubi made themselves appear in the persons of real people a husband, a neighbor, a friend, the handsome young stablehand. In one case, a medieval nun claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a local prelate, Bishop Sylvanus, but the bishop defended himself on the grounds that an incubus had assumed his form. The convent took his word for it.
So how could a woman tell for sure if her lover was a demon or not? There were a few clues. If she freely admitted the incubus to her bed, it would have the power to put everyone else in the house into a deep sleep even her husband, who might be lying right beside her. Other clues were even more obvious the incubus often proved to be a nasty lover, with a sexual organ that was painfully large, freezing cold, made of iron, or even double-pronged.
Occasionally, these unholy unions were believed to create offspring. Children born with any type of deformity were automatically suspect. Twins were also suspicious. The magician Merlin was thought to be the fruit of one of these demonic intercourses. Medieval records are filled with graphic accounts of half-human, half-animal creatures that were reputedly fathered by incubi. These offspring were called Cambions.
But even with all the attention that was paid to them, there never seemed to be a foolproof way of warding off these demon lovers. Sometimes prayer worked, sometimes exorcism and benediction, but in many cases, even these proved futile.
Ludovico Sinistrari, a 17th century Franciscan friar, author of 'Demoniality', wrote:
"Incubi do not obey the exorcists, have no dread of exorcisms, show no reverence for holy things, at the approach of which they are not in the least overawed ... Sometimes they even laugh at exorcisms, strike at the exorcists themselves, and rend the sacred vestments."
According to the friar, if incubi were sufficiently irritated by these attacks, they could respond with random violence and mayhem. When Sinistrari himself tried to free a virtuous matron from one persistent incubus, the demon gathered hundreds of roofing stones and with them erected a wall around the woman's bed. When it was finished, the wall was so high, Sinistrari reports, "the couple were unable to leave their bed without using a ladder."
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Sources: (1) Masello, Robert, Fallen Angels. . . and Spirits of the Dark, The Berkley Publishing Group; (2) The Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition Handy Volume Edition, Oxford University Press; (3) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (4) Melton, J. Gordon and Shepard, Leslie A. (editors), Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Gale Group.
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