Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


Have there ever been incubi and succubi? Our learned juriconsults and demonologists admit both the one and the other.

It is pretended that Satan, always on the alert, inspires young ladies and gentlemen with heated dreams, and by a sort of double process produces extraordinary consequences, which in point of fact led to the birth of so many heroes and demigods in ancient times.

The devil took a great deal of superfluous trouble: he had only to leave the young people alone, and the world will be sufficiently supplied with heroes without any assistance from him.

An idea may be formed of incubi by the explanation of the great Delrio, of Boguets, and other writers learned in sorcery; but they fail in their account of succubi. A female might pretend to believe that she had communicated with and was pregnant by a god, the explication of Delrio being very favorable to the assumption. The devil in this case acts the part of an incubus, but his performances as a succubus are more inconceivable. The gods and goddesses of antiquity acted much more nobly and decorously; Jupiter in person, was the incubus of Alcmena and Semele; Thetis in person, the succubus of Peleus, and Venus of Anchises, without having recourse to the various contrivances of our extraordinary demonism.

Let us simply observe, that the gods frequently disguised themselves, in their pursuit of our girls, sometimes as an eagle, sometimes as a pigeon, a swan, a horse, a shower of gold; but the goddesses assumed no disguise: they had only to show themselves, to please. It must however be presumed, that whatever shapes the gods assumed to steal a march, they consummated their loves in the form of men.

As to the new manner of rendering girls pregnant by the ministry of the devil, it is not to be doubted, for the Sorbonne decided the point in the year 1318.

“Per tales artes et ritus impios et invocationes et demonum, nullus unquam sequatur effectus ministerio demonum, error.” —“It is an error to believe, that these magic arts and invocations of the devils are without effect.”

This decision has never been revoked. Thus we are bound to believe in succubi and incubi, because our teachers have always believed in them.

There have been many other sages in this science, as well as the Sorbonne. Bodin, in his book concerning sorcerers, dedicated to Christopher de Thou, first president of the Parliament of Paris, relates that John Hervilier, a native of Verberie, was condemned by that parliament to be burned alive for having prostituted his daughter to the devil, a great black man, whose caresses were attended with a sensation of cold which appears to be very uncongenial to his nature; but our jurisprudence has always admitted the fact, and the prodigious number of sorcerers which it has burned in consequence will always remain a proof of its accuracy.

The celebrated Picus of Mirandola — a prince never lies — says he knew an old man of the age of eighty years who had slept half his life with a female devil, and another of seventy who enjoyed a similar felicity. Both were buried at Rome, but nothing is said of the fate of their children. Thus is the existence of incubi and succubi demonstrated.

It is impossible, at least, to prove to the contrary; for if we are called on to believe that devils can enter our bodies, who can prevent them from taking kindred liberties with our wives and our daughters? And if there be demons, there are probably demonesses; for to be consistent, if the demons beget children on our females, it must follow that we effect the same thing on the demonesses. Never has there been a more universal empire than that of the devil. What has dethroned him? Reason.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01