On Sex with Demons

In an extremely normal turn of events, this week I was forced to learn that Donald Trump, having never left his bullshit, was of course on it. The leader of the free world has been retweeting videos made by the good Dr Stella Immanuel, a Houston-based pediatrician who says the things he wants to hear. (Masks = bad. The drug that he has a financial interest in = good.) Turns out Dr Immanuel also has some, uh, spicier opinions as well.

In particular seems that she is concerned about the fact that,”[m]any women suffer from astral sex regularly,” which, I mean word. She goes on to define her terms, noting that “Astral sex is the ability to project one’s spirit man into the victim’s body and have intercourse with it. This practice is very common amongst Satanists. They leave their physical bodies in a dormant state while they project their spirits into the body of whoever they want to have sex with.”

An actual headline from the Daily Beast in the year of our Lord 2020

The medical cure for this is a prayer, of course. Indeed, many who find themselves sexing demons on the low will want to avail themselves of said panacea because all that demon sex can lead to any number of ailments, including (but by no means limited to) “marital distress” or “serious gynecological problems”, like cysts or endometriosis. These ailments, it transpires are caused by demon jizz from all the astral sex.

The prayer in question is, “I destroy the power of any demonic seed in my life from the womb, in the name of Jesus.” So in case you need it there it is.

Anyway, damn wow, my wheelhouse. So let’s think about demon sex, no?

The idea of having sex with demons or the devil, through astral sex or no, has a long and proud history. A concern about sleep sex demons traces at least as far back as Mesopotamian myth where we see the hero Gilgamesh’s father recorded on the Sumerian King List as Lilu, a demon who targets sleeping women, in 2400 BC.[1] As you can see, Lilu is more than capable of leaving potent demon semen around the joint. There is also a female counterpart to this, Lilitu, a Babylonian goddess or demon (depending on who you ask) who is accused of visiting men in the night and getting knocked up with their ghost babies. She is also the basis for the Lilith myth, but later and in a Hebrew way and with a lot less vampirism.[2] Did I mention the vampirism? Yeah that too.  

Says right here your daddy’s a sex demon.
(The Weld-Blundell Prism, with the inscribed list of Sumerian Kings.)

Anyway, the point is that sex demons as a nocturnal pest have been around the shop for quite some time. As such it’s no surprise that they also pop up a lot in the medieval period, with two of the heavy hitters being incubi and succubi.

An incubus would be the sort that Dr Immanuel is trying to warn us about. Their MO is that they prey upon sleeping women, lie on top of them, and impregnate them. You’ve likely heard the term before, and it’s now used as a catch all for night-time sexy demons. However, the term itself hails from the medieval period, and is derived from both the Latin incubare, which can mean to “brood, lie upon, or weigh upon”, and just the regular old incubus which can also mean nightmare. (Context matters, people.)

While incubi are generally bad, they also had some hits. Merlin, for example, was sired by an incubus. This was an accepted fact and repeated in, among other places, the cleric and chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth’s (c. 1095 – 1155) Historia regnum Britanniae as well as the late twelfth and early thirteenth century poet Robert de Boron’s Merlin epic.

There’s a lot of great fan art of that as well. Yeah, Imma show you a bunch:

Paris, BNF, Fr. 95, fol. 113v
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 96 f. 62v
Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Inc. 1286, f. 008v

You get the picture.

There’s a huge overlap between the idea of the incubus and Dr Immanuel’s conception of astral sex demons, in that you’ve got a type of sex that isn’t necessarily being actively participated in on the part of women. Nevertheless, this sex still has a real physical impact on their lives. I mean, turn an incubus’s head and you might end up with some demon spawn to deal with.

Much in the way that Dr Immanuel prescribes prayer to ward off the negative impact of demon come, medieval people had an answer to these sort of nocturnal visitations. To their way of thinking, even if you ended up with a kid from an incubus, with proper instruction and intervention they could serve God and become great men like Merlin or whatever. In this way Merlin is a trope intended to show the triumph of nurture over nature when it comes to matters of faith.

The female counterpart to the incubus is, of course the succubus. This term again is medieval, and comes from succubare, meaning “to lie under”, as well as succubae or “paramore”. More specifically, this term was coined in the fourteenth century. The succubi deal was that they would have sex with dudes in the middle of the night, hoping to get knocked up by them. Men might be aware of an encounter with a succubi because they would think they had a sexy, but disturbing, dream. However, it was also theoretically possible for succubi to wander around the shop looking like normal (sexy) women, except with telltale claws or snakes’ tails.[3]

Clearly then, there is an established medieval record of and at times even an approach to demon sex. I just wanted to write that. Thanks.

Fast forward to the late fifteenth century, and my favourite pick up device/early modern witch hunter manual The Malleus Malificarum, or Hammer of Witches, was deeply, deeply concerned about “women who copulate with devils.” It set out to establish, “On the part of the devil: first, of what element the body is made that he assumes; secondly whether the act is always accompanied by the injection of semen received from another; thirdly as to the time and place, whether he commits this act more frequently at one time than another; fourthly, whether the act is invisible to any who may be standing by.”[4] Just deeply normal stuff.

This is interesting because when your boys the inquisitors Heinrich Kramer (c. 1430-1505) and Jacob Sprenger (c. 1436 – 1495) wrote the Malleus in 1487 they were interested not only in punishing women for being sexual (goes without saying, obviously), but also there is a big discourse on where, exactly, the devil and demons are getting all that sweet sweet semen from.

Here’s where it gets good. See the devil can’t make his own semen, being as he is incapable of making life, so in order to get his hands on fresh come, he transforms himself into a succubus, has sex with a dude, nabs the semen from said dude, then transforms himself into an incubus, shags a witch and injects the stolen jizz in order to knock her up.

Look, I didn’t make this up. Don’t look at me.

Frontispiece from a seventeenth century version of the Malleus

Kramer and Sprenger back themselves up on this one by referencing friend of the blog St Augustine’s De Trinitate, and his conception of diabolical insemination. An abridged version of conception is that, “devils do indeed collect human semen, by means of which they are able to produce bodily effects; but this cannot be done without some local movement, therefore demons can transfer semen which they have collected and inject it into the bodies of others.” [5] So far, so reasonable.

Lest you think that this is just crankery on the part of the inquisitors, this doctrine was expressly cited by Pope Innocent VIII (1432-1492) in his 1484 Papal Bull, Summis desiderantes affectibus, which was meant to drum up support for Kramer and Sprenger’s little witch hunt in the German-speaking lands. (It failed to do so until sometime later. Can’t think why.)

When the witch panic really took off across Europe in the early modern period, sex with the demons, and what their semen was like, became a recurring theme at various trials. During their questioning (or torture, depending on who you are talking to and when), accused witches often confessed to sex with the devil or demons.

For example, in 1608 a young woman named Jeanette Abadie (b. 1593) from the Gascony region of France confessed to Pierre de Lancre, a judge and witch hunter that she herself had attended a witches sabbat where everyone was tag-teaming the Devil. Interestingly, Jeanette was not (that we know of) coerced in any way into giving the low down on the whole demon orgey. Instead she said she had been hiding out from the witches who got her into the demonic sex party mess, and wanted to confess her sins and clear her conscience. So one way or another Janette felt like the people needed to know about demon jizz, lest you think this stuff always comes from torture.

Anywho, Janette by all accounts was particularly interested in talking about all the sex,”which she displayed by dwelling on the descriptions of them with a minuteness of detail, and language of such obscenity, as would have drawn a blush from the most depraved woman in the world.” As a part of this, she told Pierre that she had “herself [been] robbed of her maidenhead by Satan”. This was much to her chargin however, as while everyone else who showed up at Sabbats alongside Janette were spending their time tag-teaming the devil, she avoided it, “because it caused her an  extreme pain, and she added that what came from him [his come] was cold, and never produced pregnancy. Nobody ever became pregnant at the Sabbat.”[6] In your face, St. Augustine.

A Sabbath gathering/the ice breaker portion of the demon sex fest, from the chronicles of Johann Jakob Wick.

It is of note here that the early modern conception of demon sex is, interestingly, a lot more forceful than its medieval counterpart. Here you have women flying off corporeally to have physical sex with demons of their own volition. It’s a much more conscious and physical conception of demonic sexuality, and not very much like what Dr Immanuel is warning us all against at all.

Instead, what we are seeing from Dr Immanuel is an honest to god medieval (and hell, even ancient) conception of demon sex. People really be shagging devils and have no idea about it at all until they end up with a baby wizard or endometriosis. Same same. Further, in order to fight against this, both medieval commentators and Dr Immanuel believe that prayer and faith are the best remedy. Fairly tame stuff as demon come discourse goes.

This is in contrast to the early modern people who were extremely wilding out, and felt like not only were people going to giant demon orgies, but the only way to put a stop to this was through large-scale witch hunts and intervention either from the Church, or in Protestant countries from individuals like the Witchfinder General. During this period, demon sex ceased to be a matter for individual concern remedied through faith. Instead, it became a public issue that had to be confronted, sometimes violently. So much for an idea of history as a march towards progress and greater knowledge.

While I appreciate that I just made you read almost two thousand words on demon jizz, I want to emphasise that while this is all extremely my jam, it’s also not the actual issue with this Dr Immanuel person. Her little side hustle in astral sex concerns is, of course, a worry because she is clearly engaging in a type of behaviour that can potentially traumatise women about sexuality and convince them that their sexual desires are demonic. But, I mean, what’s new?

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic here, and while I myself spend a lot of time trying to argue against ideas of feminine sexuality as evil, that is just a part of the air we breathe. At this point, my major concern is that the physical air we breath is full of fucking COVID 19 viruses and you should be wearing a mask when you are out in public. Oh and also not taking a drug that exacerbates the deadly virus because some danger told you it was a good idea. Please make a note of it.

By all means, let’s tackle the unironic belief in sex demons and concern trolling of women’s sexuality, but let’s do it with a mask on while in enclosed public spaces. Please and thanks.

[1] Raphael, Patai, “Lilith, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 77, No. 306 (Oct. – Dec., 1964), p. 295.
[2] For more on the Lilitu/Lilith crossover, see, Ibid., pp. 295-314; Raphael Patai, The Hebre Goddess, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990); Siegmund Hurwitz, Lilith: The First Eve, (Einsiedeln: Daimon Verlag, 1999);
[3] Jane P. Davidson, Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400–1700, (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012), p. 40.
[4] Quoted in Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters (eds.), Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700, Second Edition, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), p. 181.
[5] Heinrcih Kramer and James Sprenger, The Malleus Malificarum, intro and trans. Montague Summers, (New York: Dover, 1971), p. 26.
[6] Richard Payne Knight and Thomas Wright, A Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, and Its Connection with the Mystic Theology of the Ancients, (London: J.C. Hotten, 1865), p. 136.

If you enjoyed this, please consider contributing to my patreon. If not, that is chill too!

For more on sex in the medieval period, see:
The Medieval Sex Apocalypse on Drinking with Historians
Doing it Right – A Short Introduction to Medieval Sex for Nerd Nite
On “alpha” men, sexual contagion, and poorly disguised misogyny
Talking sex in the medieval times on Holly Randall Unfiltered
On the plague, sex, and rebellion
No beastiality was never OK, you absolute rabid weirdo
On courtly love and pickup artists
That’s not what sodomy is, but OK
On sexualising the “other”
On Jezebel, makeup, and other apocalyptic signs
On Sex, Logic, and Being the Subject
The Medieval Podcast – Medieval Sexuality with Eleanor Janega
On the Objectification of Sex
On “the way of carnal lust”, Joan of Leeds, and the difficulty of clerical celibacy
On Dildos and Penance
On No Nut November
On cuckolding – a thing
On sex work and the concept of ‘rescue’
The history of penis in vagina as default sex at Bish!
Sex and the (medieval) city: social hygiene and sex in the medieval urban landscape
On women and desire
These hoes ain’t loyal – on prostitutes and bad bitches in medieval and hip hop culture

Author: Dr Eleanor Janega

Medieval historian, lush, George Michael evangelist.

23 thoughts on “On Sex with Demons”

  1. I *knew* you’d be on the case! Thanks so much for contributing to the important public discourse with some real history (TM) and truth. Like that part about masks in public spaces. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So demons were basically using the turkey-baster method, except their (corporeally-assumed) genitalia were the basters? Medieval assisted reproduction – I dig it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As…gross? horrifying? disturbing?…as the reason for this post was (honestly even as a writer with an English degree I’m just starting to run out of good words for the GOP’s bullshit scare propaganda), as usual your take is entertaining as hell AND educational. Thanks for countering the stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So basically demon sex was like an early modern form of the turkey-baster method, except the demon’s (corporeally assumed) genitalia were the baster? Now that’s a kind of assisted reproduction this infertile succubus can get behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    all you ever wanted to know about medieval and early modern theories of demon sex. Because it’s been that kind of morning LOl (Seriously, this is an awesome blog. Go. read. Enjoy. Beware of demons).

    Liked by 1 person

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