Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Incubus is not only a great band, but also a word dating to the 1100s, referring to a demon that comes in the night and has sex with a woman as she sleeps. (A succubus is the accompanying demon for men… interestingly, that word dates to 1350, so men didn’t get their nightly visits for another couple centuries.)

For today’s selection from the Malleus Maleficarum, the famous witch hunting bible from 1400s Germany, we will look at a passage about incubi (plural of incubus). This section deals with whether incubi are visible to bystanders, or if they do their nocturnal pleasuring invisibly:

But with regard to any bystanders, the witches themselves have often been seen lying on their backs in the fields or the woods, naked up to the very navel, and it has been apparent from the disposition of those limbs and members which pertain to the venereal act and orgasm, as also from the agitation of their legs and thighs, that, all invisibly to the bystanders, they have been copulating with Incubus devils; yet sometimes, howbeit this is rare, at the end of the act a very black vapour, of about the stature of a man, rises up into the air from the witch.

But true to the contradictory, irrational nature of the Malleus, a paragraph later the authors state that incubi are sometimes visible:

It is certain also that the following has happened. Husbands have actually seen Incubus devils swiving their wives, although they have thought that they were not devils but men. And when they have taken up a weapon and tried to run them through, the devil has suddenly disappeared, making himself invisible. And then their wives have thrown their arms around them, although they have sometimes been hurt, and railed at their husbands, mocking them, and asking them if they had eyes, or whether they were possessed of devils.

In my novel The Witch’s Trinity, I did not include accusations of incubus visitations. However, there is one moment where my character Güde reflects that the cat sitting on her chest is similar to an incubus.

. . . .