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Lilith (1892) by John Collier in Southport Atkinson Art Gallery
Grouping Legendary creature
Similar creatures Huldra, Siren, Harpy, Mermaid, Demon, Undine, Vampire
Region Middle East, The Americas, Europe, Asia
A 16th-century sculpture representing a succubus.

A succubus is a female demon or supernatural entity in folklore (traced back to medieval legend) that appears in dreams and takes the form of a woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. The male counterpart is the incubus. Religious traditions hold that repeated sexual activity with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or even death.

In modern representations, a succubus may or may not appear in dreams and is often depicted as a highly attractive seductress or enchantress; whereas, in the past, succubi were generally depicted as frightening and demonic.


  • Etymology 1
  • In folklore 2
  • Ability to reproduce 3
  • Qarinah 4
  • Mohini 5
  • Scientific explanations 6
  • Succubi in fiction 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9


The word is derived from Late Latin succuba "paramour"; from succub(āre) "to lie under" (sub- "under" + cubāre "to lie in bed"),[1] used to describe the supernatural being as well. The word is first attested from 1387.[2]

In folklore

According to Zohar and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam's first wife who later became a succubus.[3] She left Adam and refused to return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael.[4] In Zoharistic Kabbalah, there were four succubi who mated with the archangel Samael. There were four original queens of the demons: Lilith, Mahalath, Agrat Bat Mahlat, and Naamah.[5] A succubus may take a form of a beautiful young girl but closer inspection may reveal deformities upon their bodies, such as bird-like claws or serpentine tails.[6] Folklore also describes the act of sexually penetrating a succubus as akin to entering a cavern of ice, and there are reports of succubi forcing men to perform cunnilingus on their vulvas that drip with urine and other fluids.[7] In later folklore, a succubus took the form of a siren.

Throughout history, priests and rabbis, including Hanina Ben Dosa and Abaye, tried to curb the power of succubi over humans.[8] However, not all succubi were malevolent. According to Walter Mapes in De Nugis Curialium (Trifles of Courtiers), Pope Sylvester II (999–1003) - was 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.[9]

Ability to reproduce

According to the Kabbalah and the school of Rashba, the original three queens of the demons, Agrat Bat Mahlat, Naamah, Eisheth Zenunim, and all their cohorts give birth to children, except Lilith.[10] According to other legends, the children of Lilith are called Lilin.

According to the Malleus Maleficarum, or "Witches' Hammer", written by Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) in 1486, a succubus collects semen from the men she seduces. The incubi or male demons then use the semen to impregnate human females,[11] thus explaining how demons could apparently sire children despite the traditional belief that they were incapable of reproduction. Children so begotten – cambions – were supposed to be those that were born deformed, or more susceptible to supernatural influences.[12] The book does not address why a human female impregnated with the semen of a human male would not produce a regular human offspring, although after transferring the male semen to the Incubi it is believed the semen is altered to match the genetic material of the Succubus and the incubi before being transferred to a human female host. But in some lore the child is born deformed because the conception was unnatural.


In Arabian mythology, the qarînah (قرينة) is a spirit similar to the succubus, with origins possibly in ancient Egyptian religion or in the animistic beliefs of pre-Islamic Arabia.[13] A qarînah "sleeps with the person and has relations during sleep as is known by the dreams."[14] They are said to be invisible, but a person with "second sight" can see them, often in the form of a cat, dog, or other household pet.[13] "In Omdurman it is a spirit which possesses. ... Only certain people are possessed and such people cannot marry or the qarina will harm them."[15] Till date, many African myths claim that men who have similar experience with such principality (succubus) in dreams (usually in form of a beautiful woman) find themselves exhausted as soon as they awaken; often claiming spiritual attack upon them. Local rituals/divination are often invoked in order to appeal the god for divine protection and intervention.


In India, the succubus is referred to as the seductress "Mohini"; this is different from the mythological Mohini, who is depicted to be the slayer of Bhasmasur. In India, a succubus is described as a lone lady draped in a white sari (traditional Indian dress worn by women), with untied long hair. She generally is said to haunt lonely paths or roads, and to have died from torment by a male, and thus would seek revenge on any male.

Scientific explanations

In the field of medicine, there is some belief that the stories relating to encounters with succubi bear similar resemblance to the contemporary phenomenon of people reporting alien abductions,[16] which has been ascribed to the condition known as sleep paralysis. It is therefore suggested that historical accounts of people experiencing encounters with succubi may rather have been symptoms of sleep paralysis, with the hallucination of the said creatures coming from their contemporary culture.[17][18]

Succubi in fiction

Throughout history, succubi have been popular characters in music, literature, film, television, and especially as video game and anime characters. In the manga/anime Rosario + Vampire the character Kurumu Kurono is a succubus. In the game Darkstalkers, Morrigan Aensland and Lilith Aensland are succubi. In the Digimon fiction, there is a character named Lilithmon based on a succubus, which represents the sin of lust.

A succubus also appears in Catherine (video game) where the protagonist experiences night terrors and is seduced by the woman of his dreams, despite having a real life girlfriend. In a season 5 episode 23 of Barney Miller, an irate man believes that he has been frequented by a succubus and an incubus, thus causing his crime.

In the Canadian television series Lost Girl, the main character Bo is a succubus. In The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, the Raith clan of White Court vampires are succubii and incubii who feed on sexual energy. In the novel Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, the three original sisters of the Denali coven (Tanya, Kate, and Irina) were revealed to be the originators of the myth of the succubus, as they would seduce men and drain them of blood following intercourse.

Pibgorn, Drusilla, is a succubus. In the novel Once... by James Herbert, the main character Thom Kindred is visited by a succubus which leads to a great battle between the two with the help of a pixie elf to reclaim his lost property. In the video game World of Warcraft, the Warlock player class can summon a succubus as a demonic companion, while in the Overlord videogame, the succubus is a relatively common and strong enemy, especially if in group.

In the horror anthology film V/H/S, the segment "Amateur Night" features three friends who run afoul of a succubus-inspired creature.

In the video game series Castlevania, the succubus is a popular enemy, one of the most notable being the succubus in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. There is also an array of cards inspired by the succubus in the card game Cardfight!! Vanguard. The computer role-play game NetHack also features Succubi and Incubi. A succubus also appears in The Secrets Witch Falls by Vitaly Grigorowski. In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, a succubus character named Eriola captures the Eye of Vecna.

Lillith is depicted and referred to in several episodes of the TV series Supernatural. In the movie, Jennifer's Body, a non-virgin girl is mistakenly sacrificed to Satan, resulting in her seducing boys, then feeding on their bodies.

See also

Similar creatures in folklore


  1. ^ "Succuba". Modern Language Association. 
  2. ^  
  3. ^ The Story of Lilith
  4. ^ Samael & Lilith
  5. ^ "Zohar: Chapter XXXII". 
  6. ^ Davidson, Jane P. (2012). Early modern supernatural : the dark side of European culture, 1400-1700. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger. p. 40.  
  7. ^ Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2008). The encyclopedia of witches, witchcraft and wicca (3rd ed. ed.). New York: Facts On File. p. 95.  
  8. ^ Geoffrey W. Dennis, The encyclopedia of Jewish myth, magic and mysticism. p. 126
  9. ^ History of the Succubus
  10. ^ Alan Humm, Kabbala: Lilith, Queen of the Demons
  11. ^ Kramer, Heinrich and Sprenger, James (1486), Summers, Montague (translator – 1928), The Malleus Maleficarum, Part2, Chapter VIII, "Certain Remedies prescribed against those Dark and Horrid Harms with which Devils may Afflict Men," at
  12. ^ Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy, Sisung Kelle S. (Editor) (1996), Angels A to Z, Entry: Incubi and Succubi, pp. 218, 219, Visible Ink Press, ISBN 0-7876-0652-9,Till date, most Africa belief has it that men that have similar experience with such principality (succubus) in dreams (usually in form of a pretty lady) find themselves exhausted as soon as they wake up, and often ascribing spiritual attack to them. Again, rituals/divination are often resorted to with a view to appeasing the god for divine protection and intervention, while the christian folks direct their intervention to God through either fasting and prayer or going for anointing and deliverance (I.E. Bello)
  13. ^ a b  
  14. ^ Tremearne, A. J. N. Ban of the Bori: Demons and Demon-Dancing in West and North Africa. 
  15. ^  
  16. ^ Knight-Jadczyk, Laura; Henri Sy (2005). The high strangeness of dimensions, densities, and the process of alien abduction. [S.l.] : Red Pill Press. p. 92.  
  17. ^ "Sleep Paralysis". The Skeptics Dictionary. 
  18. ^ "Phenomena of Awareness during Sleep Paralysis". Trionic Research Institute. 
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