While doing research for one of my stories that I’m struggling with this month (Oh, NaNo, you siren luring me onto the rocks of inadequacy. . .) I was reading dictionary definitions. First, there is succubus. The dictionary definitions reads pretty much like this:
Succubus: noun, plural, succubi
- A demon in female form, said to have sexual intercourse with men in their sleep. Compare incubus.
- Any demon or evil spirit.
- A strumpet or prostitute.
Notice, if you will, where it says “compare incubus”.
Being the person I am, I did compare the two terms; I have to know these minute details if I’m going to give my story credibility. It might be erotic fiction, but it is still a world unto itself.
So, the definition of Incubus reads:
Incubus: noun, plural incubi
1. an imaginary demon or evil spirit supposed to descend upon sleeping persons, especially one fabled to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women. Compare succubus.
2. a nightmare.
3. something that weighs upon or oppresses one like a nightmare.
I never really thought much of these two terms when I first read them as a teen. It never occurred to me to question the fact that they are basically male and female counterparts of the same type of entity, yet if one is female, the term is much more broadly applicable. As in, a prostitute can be a real being. A strumpet could be a term applied to a real person. Then we cross to the metaphysical side. If you’re female, “Succubus” could apply to any demon or evil spirit.
In contrast, “Incubus” seems to give much more room for credulity and be much less applicable to reality. It seems to send the message that if a man is seduced, there must be evil intent on the part of the female, but if a woman is seduced, well, you know, that may or may not have actually happened. Being as the creation of one of humanities most popular deities was from the consummation of the sexual act of a spirit with an unconscious, or sleeping, woman, I’m a little amused at this point. Ruefully so, but amused still.
I don’t know all the deep, mysterious origins of the concepts of demons, gods, devils, djinn, et cetera, though I have been trying to find out more about these ideas in my spare time. Thus, this post. And likely many more to follow.
I can’t write creatively when I’m shaking my head in awe at the webs humanity has woven to control itself.
I could never be that detailed, creative, and all-around phenomenal. Therefore, I must try to understand it in order to better emulate it. That does not, however, mean that I have to like putting such constraints on my characters.
We’ll see what more my research can teach me. Perhaps there will be a way for my bookwork Succubus to fight the sexist system that governs her new existence.