Nightmare” evokes the modern word for a female horse but the terms are wholly unrelated. The word derives from the Old English “mare“, a mythological demon or goblin who torments human beings with frightening dreams.Subsequently, the prefix “night-” was added to stress the dream-aspect. The word “nightmare” is cognate with the older German term Nachtmahr.
This topic came to my mind when I read a comment by a Facebook friend who recounted how she had suffered from nightmares the previous night. I feel for her. The horrors of a nightmare can be unexcelled and we have no way of protecting ourselves when we are in the throes of such vivid nocturnal visitation to our unconscious.
Statistically women experience nightmares with twice the frequency of men. English psychology lecturer Jennifer Parker of the University of Bristol has found that to be the case in her research and for the following reason: “I believe these results show that women carry over their waking concerns into their dream life more so than men do, and they appear to have more difficulty with ‘switching off’ their concerns.”
I know Wendy has nightmares with a frequency that vastly excels mind and I don’t think that has anything to do with her being married to me. But, she has them so commonly that they are virtually a norm for her. I, on the other hand, rarely encounter them and haven’t much since I was a kid. Mind you, in childhood I had a few blockbuster terror-inducers. In fact, one was so vivid from when I was seven or eight that I still remember it in virtual detail to this day.
In the dream I am playing in the basement of my childhood home. We had a big old coal-burning furnace in a part of the basement and I was rooting behind it for some reason when I noticed a black-and-white puppy. I was thrilled. My parents had gotten me a puppy! I went in to play with it, whereupon the pup turned monstrous and developed huge hands and arms and one of the hands grabbed me by the ankle. I cried out to my father who was puttering in his workshop next door to the furnace room. He didn’t even look up to see my distress. I somehow then dragged myself to the stairway that led up to the kitchen. I was able to make the doorway with the hands still clinging to me and I cried out in terror to my mother who was cooking and, like my father, chose to ignore my plight. In both cases the parents were smiling placidly.
I have no further recall of the nightmare and you can probably read all sorts of Freudian stuff into it.
Yes, nightmares can be pretty bad mojo. In fact, according to some accounts they can be deadly. Witness the following:
Nonsense? Who can tell?
There are certain nocturnal visitors, too, who can come a-callin’ during your dream state and get up to all sorts of monkey-business. They are seen as nightmares of a sort, but with a distinctly sexual twist. These are the incubi and succubi. An incubus is a male dream creature or spirit who comes and has his wanton way with a young female, usually a teen girl, and a succubus is a sexy female creature who does the same with a randy male.
These creatures go well back in history and variations are found in many cultures. I suspect, more than anything else that they are merely fallguys for quite normal nocturnal masturbation by the young in societies that frown on such under-the-covers nonsense.
Anyway, I am happy that I rarely have nightmares and generally dream about fluffy little bunnies and puppies, and am not prepared to mention any succubi who might come visiting during the night. That’s between me and her.