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 incubus/succubus 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.
suc·cu·bus / ˈsəkyəbəs/ • n. (pl. -bi / -ˌbī/ ) a female demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping men.