No, not everyone knows everything about fantasy. You may be a kid who’s just getting into fantasy RPGs for the first time in your life. Or, you may be an adult who has just gotten the itch for fantasy literature. For all I know, you just got out of a cult who limited your interaction with the outside world.
I don’t know who reads this blog. Regardless, I love you. And I really mean that.
I’ve always been an artist/musician, and yes, we’re the feeling types. I never play the holier than thou game. I’m not better than you or more important.
By the same token, I don’t hang out with people who think they’re intrinsically better than me either. I don’t play that game.
So whether you’re the resident expert at all things fantasy or you’re a complete newbie, welcome. I want you here either way.
The history of a succubus
I’ll need to do more research. But I do know a few things. I know a lot of Bible scholars say that Lilith was the first succubus. Did succubi go back even before the Bible? I don’t know.
Most famous mention of a succubus? Well, not exactly a succubus. Rather, her male counterpart. An incubus.
Merlin, the greatest magician of all time, was fathered by an incubus. That’s one reason he was destined for so much power.
What is a succubus?
A succubus is a female demon. Different stories give her different powers.
Generally, they seduce men in their dreams. I’ve heard that if they successfully seduce you in your sleep, you’ll die in your dream and they get your soul.
I also heard they’re not quite that powerful. If you’re a writer, it’s your world. You can choose how powerful you want to make them.
Regardless, they are dream demons.
There was even a Pope who they claimed got his power from a succubus.
Succubi were popular scary stories during the Middle Ages. Gary Gygax with his Dungeons and Dragons brought the character back big time.
Anyways, I’m writing about succubi because I’m currently working on a painting with a succubus lead. Just in case some folk don’t know what she is.
The legend goes something like this. The succubus enters a man’s dream at night. She starts off as a beautiful young woman. Since men have different views of what constitutes beauty, she definitely meets your standards (an incubus for the ladies).
If you can resist her, you’ll start to see her as she really is. Not all at once, but more like a process. You’ll start to see horns, a tail, scales, and other demonic deformities.
When she becomes unattractive to you, she loses any control over you. Then she had to find another victim to haunt.
So stay strong men. And of course ladies if an incubus enters your dreams.
I don’t know about you, but I forget stuff all the time. No, I’m not getting senile. I’m always trying to do too many things at once.
So I live and die by post it notes. They’re my reminders to do pretty much everything.
I make a new list every day of things I need to knock off. Sometimes it’s a few things and sometimes it’s a lot. Depends on the day.
Anyways, this is my second time talking about writer’s block or creative’s block this month. Since I paint women, I’m making a character list for myself. You’re more than welcome to use this list too if you’re anything from an author to a painter to a dungeon master. This may just inspire you to add a creature or two to your upcoming novel, screenplay, or fantasy campaign.
Human like fantasy femme fatales
Right away, we have mermaids, fairies, witches, sirens, dryads, nymphs, and naiads.
I assume you already know what mermaids, witches, nymphs, and fairies are. Just in case you don’t know the others, sirens are a mythological creature from Ancient Greece. They had such a beautiful song that sailors would be so captivated by it that they’d forget what they’re doing and crash into the rocks and die.
Some cultures had overlaps between sirens and mermaids. And some cultures even said they’re the same thing.
Dryads and Naiads
Dryads are forest spirits who literally live inside a tree. They’re rather lonely creatures and will lure a young handsome man into their tree to live with them forever.
Don’t you love that word forever? It’s used so often in fairy tales and live songs.
Naiads are beautiful water spirits. They live in freshwater only. Naiads are fascinating creatures in Greek mythology. Often jealous, they blinded one young man and fused with another.
Sometimes they’re worshipped. Other times, they’re scary stories. And other times, they’re lovers of Kings.
Semi-human fantasy femme fatales
You’ve heard the story of the Sphinx. Since the Egyptian Sphinx is a male, I’ll talk about the Greek Sphinx instead.
She has the head of a beautiful woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a snake. She’s quite dangerous as she riddles you, and if you cannot answer the riddle, she’ll eat you.
Oedipus finally defeated the Sphinx by answering her riddle. Afterwards, she got so mad that he got it right that she killed herself.
The riddle? What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the day, and three legs at night. The answer? Man.
A baby crawls on all fours. Learns to walk on two legs. And needs a cane in his old age.
Have you ever seen Fantasia? Walt obviously did his homework.
Romans saw them as hideous creatures but the early Greeks saw them as beautiful women with wings. In Fantasia, they were the Roman version – hideously scary and dangerous.
A succubus is the female version of an incubus. Both slip into the dreams of their respective opposite sex and if they successfully seduce you in your dream, you die and they get your soul.
Lilith, Adam’s first wife before Eve, supposedly was a succubus.
At first inspection, they’re beautiful young women. But as you really look into them, you can start to see demonic deformities. Yet another reason not to close your eyes when making love, right?
Alright friends. I think that should be enough to get you started. One of these days, I’ll write a sequel to this article.
If you’re not a Southerner, you may not get that joke. In the old days, salt wasn’t exactly cheap. So spilling the table salt wasn’t exactly a small deal.
Well, back then, Americans had tons of superstitions that we’ve eventually forgotten about. One of them was throwing salt over your left shoulder when you spilled the salt.
You see, everyone has a guardian angel on their right shoulder. This guardian angel looks over you and tries to prevent you from doing something naughty.
You also have a little devil on your right shoulder who tries to get you into trouble. Like spilling salt for instance. That’s why you’ll see a Southerner take a pinch of the salt and throw it into her little devil’s eyes, to teach that little devil a lesson.
Evil Witches are naughty
Well, we all know evil witches are naughty. I’m not talking about the good witches like your fairy godmother. I’m talking about the bad ones. You know, the ones that are trying to trick you out of your earnings, or even trying to trick your kids into their ovens.
Contrary to popular opinion though, bad witches don’t eat kids. They’re feeding their familiars. That’s another thing those old fairy tales get wrong.
Anyways, evil witches still like to eat. And they still have salt shakers on their tables.
Do you think evil witches can be careless and accidentally knock over the salt? Why of course! Why do you think clever kids are always outsmarting them? They got their minds on too many things. (There might be a life lesson there for you and me).
So when an evil witch knocks over the table salt, they take a pinch and throw it over their right shoulder to teach their guardian angel a lesson. After all, why punish the one to help improve your naughtiness?
Hellhound on my trail. Some of you will know that as a Robert Johnson song from the 1930s.
Ah yes. The Mississippi Delta Blues. That’s where it all came from.
But who was Robert Johnson and did he really sell his soul to the Devil? Well, I can only tell you the legend.
Historians aren’t sure which crossroads in Mississippi they referred to when Robert Johnson encountered a large black man who tuned his guitar for him. Suddenly, Johnson went from being a mediocre guitarist to the greatest bluesman of his day.
The Devil supposedly also gave him power over the ladies. Too much in fact. So much that it literally got him killed, no matter which legend of his death you believe.
Hellhound on my trail and foreshadowing
Johnson wrote a lot of interesting songs. If you’re wondering, no, I can’t play Johnson. I’m actually quite bad with the acoustic guitar. I only play electric guitar and piano.
But yes, I did study Robert Johnson. Had to. Historically he’s one of the most important figures in American music.
If you listen to the song Hellhound on my trail, it foreshadows his upcoming death, and how he wanted to be with a certain woman. Who was that woman? Who knows?
There are two legends of his death. One, he flirted with a married woman. So her husband gave him a bottle of poisoned liquor. Johnson was unaware that man was her husband.
Supposedly, Johnson’s buddy knocked the bottle out of his hand and scolded him to never drink a bottle that he didn’t open. So already being drunk, the husband gave Johnson another bottle and Johnson drank it, felt sick, and died a day or two later.
Now the other legend is that a white doctor examined his corpse and said that Johnson died of syphilis.
Either way, Johnson’s womanizing got him killed. Literally.
“What is a hellhound?”
A hellhound is a dog that tracks a damned man. Once the dog catches the damned man, the man dies and the Devil gets his soul.
Johnson was always on the run, knowing it was only a matter of time before the hellhound would find him.
I use a hellhound in my evil witches and their familiars series. It takes a very powerful witch to be able to summon a hellhound and actually somewhat control it. Hellhounds are straight from Hell, and are immortal. The Devil uses them to track down people when their time is up. The cursed man runs, but the hellhound will always eventually catch him.
Other Faustian legends
Robert Johnson wasn’t the only great musician who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil for musical greatness. Niccolò Paganini supposedly did as well.
Paganini wrote the 24 Caprices which are now standard for violinists. For his time though, he was head and shoulders above his competition.
Legend has it that Paganini sold his soul on a Devil’s Bridge, an ancient bridge in Europe. So interestingly, we have a crossroads and a devil’s bridge.
He was too a womanizer and it was said that his playing actually made beautiful women faint. And quite wet. How much of that is true and how much is a legend? Who knows?
He became quite famous in the 1820s and was even honored by the Pope. But, he too developed syphilis. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know shit about anything back then and gave him mercury and opium to treat the syphilis. You could guess what happens next.
Paganini died in 1840, although there was no talk of a hellhound stalking him. Just rumors of him selling his soul earlier to become the greatest violinist of his day.
Robert Johnson and Niccolò Paganini weren’t the only two musicians to have sold their souls to the Devil for greatness. They’re just the two most famous.
I’ve painted a lot of mermaids recently. I think I’m going to take a break from mermaids for awhile. I think it’s time to explore a whole new category of femme fatales. How about witches?
My prior witches were more sloppy than evil. Like the young witch who accidentally unleashed a poisonous snake.
This time around, I want evil. And not just the witches. How about painting some evil familiars to ride along with the witches?
Evil familiar tendencies
A lot of good witches like cats. That goes back, way, way back. Back in the Salem days, we had cats to get rid of the rats. They made great pets. They’re not only your pets, they also took care of a practical problem.
Now, I’m convinced that the whole reason for the Salem Witch Massacre had nothing to do with witchcraft and everything to do with inheritance. Some old ladies often live a real long time. And some would be inheritors are absolutely shitty people. I’m pretty sure you can put two and two together here. Yes, ’twas a conspiracy to get their land and/or money.
But let’s go back further and dive into the world of Medieval Fantasy, my favorite inspiration for art.
Whereas good witches often have cats or owls, evil witches prefer familiars that are a bit more “combat ready.” So evil familiars aren’t just a cunning evil creature that sits on your left shoulder (remember to throw your pinch of salt over your right shoulder when you’re an evil witch). They also have combat purposes. They have a mean bite. And worse.
Imps were human once. Damned to the fiery pits of Hell, an evil witch will often bring one back and use them as familiars.
Imps are cunning and conniving. They’re also stubborn, ruthless, cowardly, and completely self-serving.
Imps were evil beta males. They got pushed around in life and when they murdered in their past human incarnation, they wouldn’t exactly do it in a confrontational manner. They feared direct conflict. When they had to do it directly, they made damn sure the odds were strongly in their favor.
You know the old stick versus carrot rule. As familiars, think in terms of two sticks for each carrot. You still have to carrot them since their sense of loyalty is already pretty bad. If you don’t, they’ll either take off or try to kill you in your sleep.
An evil witch can live hundreds of years. Whereas a human usually dies in double digits, not an evil witch. They can get quite old.
However, dragons live in the thousands of years. We’re talking a whole different ballgame.
Baby dragons make wonderful familiars. The problem with baby dragons is that they’re very rare. Humans and dragons have been at war for forever, with humans in recent years coming quite close to causing dragon extinction.
Their natural habitat? Geez. It’s so small now that I’m not even sure where to find them.
You may be thinking how come humans got the upper edge on dragons, considering dragons are so powerful and so smart. Simply put, biology. Dragons take forever to mate. Dragon eggs only hatch under ideal situations.
But humans? Babies only take nine months to create and are combat ready in only fifteen or sixteen years! No way dragons could keep up with that.
If you ever see a witch with a dragon familiar, she’s on a whole different level of power. Cross her and she’ll not just kill you. She’ll take down your entire Kingdom.
Some witches are so evil that they absolutely detest sunlight. No, they’re not going to exactly burn up and die like a stupid vampire. Rather, they’re at their best after the witching hour.
Those are the kind of witches you’ll find with hellhounds as familiars.
Hellhounds cannot come out in the sunlight. You’ll only encounter them at night. And if you encounter them, you’re in a heap of trouble.
If you see a witch with a hellhound as a familiar, you’re in a super duper heap of trouble. You got a serious problem.
Hellhounds usually signal death when a human encounters one. Generally, the Devil himself sends a hellhound after someone who sold him his soul. That cursed someone knows his time is short. And he’s on the run, for he knows when the hellhound catches him…
For a witch to actually raise one of these foul (and foul smelling) creatures as a pet? Well, she’s got to be more evil than your average evil witch. Plus, she more than likely doesn’t have a working olfactory sense. Did I mention that hellhounds stink?
There isn’t exactly one size fits all when it comes to evil witches. Whereas most evil witches are pretty good at direct physical confrontation, leaving their opponent either in tatters, turned into an amphibian, or burnt to a crisp, some work through other methods.
The kind of evil witch that has a nightmare as a familiar you probably could conquer in a physical confrontation. That’s not the problem.
Just don’t ever go to sleep. That’s where she’ll get you.
Nightmares cause nightmares. But a Nightmare’s nightmare is so powerful, it causes death. Yes, you’re literally scared to death.
So if an evil witch extorts you, it’s more than likely one of these witches. You have two choices. Either pay her off. Or, find her and exterminate her.
If you do the latter, you better find her location before you go to sleep. Once you sleep, she wins. You simply won’t survive an encounter with her nightmare familiar.