A succubus is a demon or supernatural entity in folklore, in female form, that appears in dreams to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. According to religious traditions, repeated sexual activity with a succubus can cause poor physical or mental health, even death. In modern representations, a succubus is often depicted as a beautiful seductress or enchantress, rather than as demonic or frightening. The male counterpart to the succubus is the incubus.
The term succubus derives from Late Latin succuba “paramour” from succubare “to lie beneath” (sub- “under” and cubare “to lie”), used to describe this being’s implied sexual position relative to the sleeper’s position. The English word “succubus” dates from the late 14th century. The succubus is also known as the earth wanderer.
One of the most famous succubi in history is Lilith, who was Adam’s first wife, according to some Jewish legends. She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with the archangel Samael. In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with Samael: Lilith, Eisheth Zenunim, Agrat bat Mahlat, and Naamah.
A succubus may take a form of a beautiful young girl, but closer inspection may reveal deformities of her body, such as bird-like claws or serpentine tails. Folklore also describes the act of cunnilingus on their vulvas, which drip with urine and other fluids. In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.
According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or Witches’ Hammer, written by Heinrich Kramer in 1486, succubi collect semen from men they seduce. 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.
However, not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Map in the satire De nugis curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999â1003) was allegedly 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.
Succubi have also inspired various works of art and entertainment, such as sculptures, paintings, novels, films, video games and more. Some examples are Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Succubus (1889), John Collier’s painting Lilith (1892), Neil Gaiman’s comic book series The Sandman (1989-1996), and SUCCUBUS (2023), a video game by Madmind Studio.
Succubi have also influenced many aspects of popular culture, such as literature, film, television, music, comics, video games and more. Some examples of succubi in popular culture are:
Lilith, the first succubus and the mother of all demons, appears in many works of fiction, such as The Alphabet of Ben Sira, The Sandman, Supernatural, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Borderlands.
Beloved, the ghostly figure who haunts Sethe in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved (1987), is interpreted by some critics as a succubus who drains Sethe’s life force.
Catherine, the titular character of the video game Catherine (2011), is a succubus who seduces men in their nightmares and kills them if they fail to escape.
Jennifer Check, the main antagonist of the horror comedy film Jennifer’s Body (2009), is a succubus who feeds on the flesh of teenage boys after being sacrificed to Satan by a rock band.
Bo Dennis, the protagonist of the Canadian television series Lost Girl (2010-2016), is a succubus who feeds on the sexual energy of humans and fae.
These are just some of the many examples of how succubi have seduced popular culture with their allure and power. Succubi are fascinating creatures that challenge the boundaries between fantasy and reality, pleasure and pain, love and lust.