Desktop version

Home arrow History

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font


<<   CONTENTS   >>

I The birth of civilization and the evolution of the succubus

At the dawn of time, there was an age of gold when man was at one with nature, when the eternal harmonies and laws of nature were more clearly expressed in man himself than they have ever been expressed since. Even today, we regard those moments in which our being is at one with the whole of nature as instants of perfect bliss.

(von Schubert, 1808)

He once let her breathe deep

into an ear of his apple orchard,

and she could feel his sky’s chest sigh.

Lilith knows where God’s eyes can be found; she has kissed them.

Divine Mornings

And when she wakes

to find the earth’s sheets wet with dew,

she knows he still dreams of her.

(Gold, 1998: 127)

He whose vision cannot cover History’s three thousand years,

Must in outer darkness hover,

Live within the day’s frontiers.

(Goethe, Westostlicher Diwan)

The succubus, the evil eye and shame

Shame is the hidden affect that inspires oppression. Woman, once the site of fertility and birth, is oppressed and recast in the image of the succubus. Although strikingly little has been written about her given her 7,000-year history, the succubus is a universal image that appears throughout world history in mainstream and marginal cultures, acquiring a multiplicity of faces and coming to be known under many names. She is the dark feminine inspiration for the femme fatale, castrator, domi- natrix, vixen bogey, witch, enchantress, blood sucker, seductress, villainess, scarlet woman, beguiling abomination, preening temptress, predator, demon bride, impure female, Hell’s rose, or black widow. More recent names might be bimbo, eye candy, career bitch or feminist. She appears throughout the world in many animal forms, such as a serpent, dog, screeching owl, or donkey, and she inhabits the soul as any creeping creature. Some might know her best by her proper biblical names of Lilith, the first wife of Adam and even worse than Eve because she is demonic from the moment of her creation; the seductive Salome, the temptress who danced for Herod in return for the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter; the beautiful but cunning Delilah, the Philistine woman of the Old Testament who betrayed Samson by having his hair shorn as he slept, thus depriving him of his strength; or Princess Jezebel, who painted her face and waited to be pushed out a window for taking the blood of an innocent man. Some of her mythic names are Circe, the witch in Homer’s Odyssey who turned men into swine; Clytemnestra, the screaming bitch who called for an axe so that she could murder the war hero Agamemnon; the infanticidal Medea, who murdered her husband out of rage and revenge; Pandora, the Kallon Kakon or beautiful evil, the lovely curse that men had to pay for getting fire; Rusalka, the Slavic female ghost who seduced men with her eyes that shined with green fire; or Yuki-Ona (Snow Woman), the beautiful woman of Japanese folklore whose skin was transparent, and only her face and pubic hair stood out against the snow. Her eyes would strike terror into mortals, whom she would transform into frost-coated corpses, or lead them astray to die of exposure (shame). And then there are her historical names, the duplicitous seductress Mata Hari or the well known Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt who captivates our imagination and lives on throughout the ages in myth and legend, novel and poem, paintings and operas, Shakespearean play and Hollywood film.

No matter what the age or culture, the succubus drains the life-force from weak-willed men, encapsulating everything that is morbid, nihilistic, and abortive. The epitome of depraved sexuality, she wastes potential fertility by causing men to ejaculate in their sleep - or else she steals their emissions to inseminate herself in order to produce more demons in revenge for the loss of her own children. In her seductive form, she is a very beautiful but most feared evil woman who through her gaze threatens man’s power by taking over his mind and penis. Despite her beguiling beauty, the power of the succubus appears to reside in her fascinating Evil Eyes. The word fascination is a particularly important one when it comes to the succubus, for it has been defined as that power “derived from a pact with the devil, who, when the so-called fascinator looks at another with evil intent, or praises by means known to himself, infects with evil the person at whom he looks” (Elworthy, 1958). A man’s mind is attacked when struck by the gaze of the succubus, and, thus weakened, he is led by hell’s delusion to take her to his bed. Full of sadistic, voracious malice, her brilliant and cruel orgasm embodies the castration of a man. Figure 1.1 is an engraving by Gustave Dore for The Succubus in Balzac’s Les Contes Drolatiques. It vividly depicts the eyes that can disempower a man and bring him to his knees. Its caption reads “I saw her with a bizarre plumage on her head, having a supernatural color and eyes more flaming than I can tell of, from which came a flame from Hell” (Huxley, 1990: 28).

The succubus as Terrible Mother is the all-inclusive symbol of the devouring aspect of the unconscious. All dangerous affects and impulses, all evils that come from the unconscious of man and overwhelm the ego, are her progeny. Folklore has it that she counts among her offspring the Devil of Christian literature, which makes the seven deadly sins - the root of all evil - her granddaughters (Russell, 1984: 77). The granddaughters’ names are pride, envy, wrath, lust, greed, gluttony and sloth.

During the Great Witch Hunt of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, writers renamed Lilith “queen of the succubi” (Williams & Williams, 1978: 4), and so her story, which forms the core of Part I of this book, will be shared in some detail in order to illuminate the archetype with which we are dealing. In order to resurrect the central ideas of the myth of Lilith, I will be wandering around like Isis piecing together dismembered pieces of Osiris. Yet I hope that this process, in combination with the historical review tracing Lilith’s manifestations in the next chapter, will show exactly how the succubus is a castrating dimension of the Terrible Mother, who, with her Evil Eyes, generates annihilating shame.

 
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics