Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Call out my name


She was no ordinary succubus.
Late into the night
Through cold, electric clouds
She flew with broken wings
On currents kindled by his dreams.
And finally, descending upon
His yearning body, she whispered:
“I’m late, my love, but tender is the morning.”


I have before me my copy of the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammerer of the Witches), the infamous fifteenth century witch-hunting manual of Heinrich Institoris, a Dominican inquisitor. Dear Heinrich knew so much about witches and women; he knew so much about succubae, my demonic sisters, and we are legion; even Japanese emperors want to sleep with us!

What is a succubus, you ask? The legend is simple and quickly told: a succubus is female, a demon – though I personally prefer to be called an imp – who takes the form of a living woman in order to have intercourse with mortal men. The Malleus is quite clear on the reasons for this;

The reason the evil spirits turn themselves into incubi or succubae is not for the sake of gaining or conferring pleasure, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones. The most potent reason is this – to harm a person twice over, that is, in body and soul, through the vices of lasciviousness, so that there comes into being people who are more inclined to all the vices.

So there! Succubae, you see, exist for one purpose and one purpose only – to steal sperm from sleeping men and then pass it to the incubi, male demons, who take the same sperm and use it to impregnate sleeping women, a sort of early form of in vitro fertilisation! According to some sources this is how witches are conceived. Oh, I should add that in case men might just be attracted to a spot of free extra-marital sex with a lascivious imp the church spread the story that the vagina of the succubus was like a chamber of ice. Clerics, I assume, most have had some empirical experience here!

There is a whole sub-text, an inner message to the Malleus that Institoris could never have anticipated, a possible reading, post-Freud, that he could never have imagined. The book is full of apprehension about women in general, fears over female sexuality. The succubae are, in a sense, an expression of that fear, rampant sexual beings, which, like vampires, come in the night to steal the life force from mortal men, blood or semen, it really makes no difference. The succubus really is a phantom of desire. To be taken by one is the Medieval version of an alien abduction!

I am not the greatest of the clan, no; that singular honour belongs to Mother Lilith, in Jewish legend the first wife of Adam. I wrote once before that if Lucifer was the first male rebel in creation then Lilith has to be the first female. And what a rebel she was: the first feminist; the first witch; the first sexually assertive woman; the first divorcee! As a figure she is an inspiration, a mentor and a guide; a woman who deliberately exiled herself from paradise in search of nothing more substantive than freedom, nothing more important than freedom. And there is nothing more important than freedom, for me as a woman and for me as a succubus.

So, late one night if you hear a rapping, rapping on your chamber door, don’t worry; it’s only me…and nothing more.

You're laying on your bed on a hot summer night
Underneath the lunar light
I am a dream I am a phantom of desire
Call out my, call out my name

Call out my name, call out my name in the night
For a bitter love, for a bitter pain
Call out my name, call out my name in the night
For a bitter love, for a bitter pain

I've come a calling from, a thousand ages past
I was the first I'll be the last
I am a scratching on the windows of your soul
Call out my, call out my name

Call out my name, call out my name in the night
For a bitter love, for a bitter pain
Call out my name, call out my name in the night
For a bitter love, for a bitter pain




16 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another good one. Coincidentally, I am now reading about Lilith in that book I mentioned. I would copy the extract here but, as I mentioned before, that kind of thing can lead to trouble. :-)

    Apparently Adam and Lilith argued over sexual position - she insisted on being on top.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Adam, succubae and incubi took final shape in the Christain Middle Ages but with roots going back to Jewish and Sumerian tradition.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The thing is about myths, Adam, unlike rolling stones they do gather moss. There are obvious Greek overtones here in such figures as the Sirens. And then there is the vampire tradition which crosses so many cultures. Incubi and succubae are mentioned in Herzog's Nosferatu, a version of the Dracula myth.

    As far as Christianity is concerned the myth was all about repressed sexuality. Succubae, in particular, were depicted as monstrous. But with the advent of a more secular age the poor old incubi largely disappeared and the succubae emerged in a highly voluptuous form, dangerous and seductive at one and the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That's the thing about myths, once launched the original creator loses all control. They have a tendency to acquire a life of their own.

    Public departure lounges come close to being my idea of Dante's Inferno. :-) I must tell you sometime about daddy's experience of flying back from Hong Kong. He was travelling first class, so with maximum comfort. To his discomfort he saw Leon Britain, then European Commissioner, in the first class lounge. "Never mind", he thought, "he's on his own. I'll ignore him." But no sooner had he boarded the flight he discovered that he was the only 'independent' in the first class cabin. Every other seat was taken up by Britain and his toadies from the Commission. And these seats are not cheap; another perk from the tax payer. Oops, I've told you after all. :-))

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. He was button-holed by Britain for a time, who was sitting across the passageway. After take off he lost no time in pretending to fall asleep before he actually fell asleep!

    He told me a good story about Ted Heath and Jeremy Thorpe. I think it’s true, though I can’t swear to it, as he has a tendency to pull my leg when it comes to political anecdotes. It was before Heath became prime minister. Anyway, Thorpe and Heath were travelling back to London by train, though sitting as far apart from one another as possible. A man then sat opposite Thorpe, asking “Are you a politician?” Sensing a bore Thorpe said no. “But do you see that man down there?, pointing to Heath, “he is.” The said man immediately went and sat beside Heath and proceeded to talk away for the rest of the journey.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I can't remember the exact details but I think they were travelling back from some by-election campaign in the West Country. He also told me another story - he has a huge back catalogue -this time about Isaac Foot, Michael's father, one-time Liberal MP for Bodmin. Apparently old Isaac was at a constituency fete, walking around in a spirit of senatorial condescension. "How are you, my boy", he said to one constituent, "and how is your father? "He's dead, Mr Foot", came the reply. "I'm sorry to hear that; but he left a fine son" Walking on he came across the same chap after a bit, completely forgetting their previous encounter. "How are you, my boy, and how's your father?" "Still dead, Mr Foot."

    ReplyDelete
  14. Woman must always be on top.

    Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
    As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
    And for to been in maistrie hym above.
    This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me kille.


    The first divorcee? I didn't know that one. The amusing Thorpe and Heath anecdote reminds me how the guests felt at that otherworldly London dinner of 1817 that has gone down in history as the Immortal Dinner when a new hanger-on tried to have an intelligent conversation.

    Roman and Greek grammarians! know your better:
    Author of something yet more great than letter;


    I've always wondered what Islam has to say about Lilith. Islam does a no-no on it and seems to have wiped out her entire existence from the corpus. It would, I suppose appear in what is known as Qissasul Anbiya [Stories of the Prophets] which I haven't read and from which Islamic mythology is derived.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rehan, if you ever discover anything more I would love to hear of it.

    ReplyDelete