Mares or "Nightmares" are evil spirits (or goblins) in Germanic folklore which rides on people's chests while they sleep, bestowing bad dreams ("nightmares"). This said phenomena is attested as early as in the Norse Ynglinga saga from the 13th century, but the belief itself is likely to be considerably older. As in English, the name appears in the word for "nightmare" in the Nordic languages (e.g. the Swedish word "mardröm" literally meaning mara-dream, the Norwegian word "mareritt" literally meaning mare-ridden or the Icelandic word "martröð" meaning mara-dreaming repeatedly). The Mare is similar to the mythical creatures succubi and incubus, and was likely inspired by Sleep Paralysis.
IncubusAn Incubus is a male demon that shares a similiar role to his female counterpart, the Succubus, however unlike the seductive Succubus the Incubus was a more forceful spirit and was believed to invade the dreams of women at night and rape them, often producing evil offspring as a result.
Incubus attacks involved phenomena such as a shortness of breath, paralysis and nightmarish illusions - which may of been caused by the very real condition known as Sleep Paralysis: however in the superstitious and highly devout minds of the medieval world such a thing could only be registered as an unholy defilement of one's most vulnerable moments.
Another sad theory is that many "Incubus" attacks were created in order to try and explain unwanted pregnancy or even the crime of rape itself - after all it was far easier to blame such things on invisible, bestial monsters than on the very real human element.
However to those who believe in the hidden world of ghosts, demons and otherworldly beings the Incubus is simply an evil spirit and even in the modern world their are cases of people that claim to have been visited by Incubi or similiar entities - one of the most famous modern examples was in the film "The Entity".
Like many other "night spirits" the Incubus can also be explained thanks to the discovery of the medical condition known as Sleep Paralysis.
SuccubusA Succubus is a demon from folklore that was said to haunt the dreams of sleeping men, mating with them to produce various offspring or to simply drain them of life-force - the Succubus was almost always depicted as female and unlike the Night Hag was normally an attractive and seductive spirit.
The male version of a Succubus is known as an Incubus and delivers the same role, though Incubi are a little more violent in nature - both are deadly creatures of the night and were born from medieval legends spawned from a period of history when the idea of chastity was sacred.
The Succubus has become a staple of fiction ever since and has always retained her basic role as a seductress, though her exact nature and role has altered in every retelling.
Like many other "night spirits" the succubus can now be explained thanks to the discovery of the medical condition known as Sleep Paralysis.
Night HagThe Night Hag (sometimes known as Old Hag) was a kind of nightmare spirit used in folklore around the world to explain the very real phenomena known as sleep paralysis - unlike other nightmare spirits such as the Succubus. She was rarely depicted as a femme fatale and had no interest in mating with her victims.
According to legend Night Hags were a type of spirit that invaded people's dreams via entering their homes and sitting on their chest, causing them to experience horrible nightmares before they awoke in a panic - often finding it hard to breath or move: one the victim awoke however the hag's influence was said to fade away within a few minutes.
The victim was said to have been "hagridden" as a result and understandably many cultures lived in fear of this creature - when the condition known as sleep paralysis was finally discovered by science however the power of the Night Hag faded as people finally had a way to understand the frightening phenomenon.
However even in the age of science and reason some people still believe in Night Hags and to them at least she remains as frightening and real as she did in centuries past.
AlpAn Alp is a malevolent creature from German folklore closely associated with the Night Hag, Incubus and other night spirits blamed for night-time attacks upon innocents during the Medievel Era as well as being a way to explain frightening dream phenomena such as nightmares, night terrors and (most recently) sleep paralysis.
The Alp was seen as an ugly little humanoid, almost always male, who would advance upon human females during the night and sit on their chest, causing them difficulty in breathing and also restraining them - the Alp would proceed to plague its victim with frightening dreams or even sexual assault in a manner similar to other night spirits, despite the Alp's small size it was said to be extremely powerful and fearsome, thus a victim was all-but-paralysed until the creature decided to leave.
Like many spirits the Alp could change shape and thus tales vary on its exact size, appearance or nature but in general it would be male and usually small, ugly or demonic - the Alp was also vampiric and would often bite at the nipples of its female victims to drink her blood or breast milk.
The Alp's cruelty also extended to children, animals and its general surroundings as it liked to sour milk, re-diaper infants (the act of putting soiled diapers back on a sleeping baby) and make cows sick as well as agigate livestock in general.
Thankfully the Alp had a weakness in the form of his Tarnkappe, a magic hat which the wicked elf required to perfom his misdeeds, indeed tales have told of an Alp offering great rewards to have his hat returned.
like all night spirits the Alp has been explained by modern science with the discovery of Sleep Paralysis, which causes victims to experience frightening hallucinations which often include the feeling of being set upon by ugly monsters or demons.
- The word "mare" became another name for horses, especially for she horses.
- the phenomena of the "Mare" is now explained via the medical condition known as Sleep Paralysis.