Τρίτη, 18 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Sleep paralysis in art as demonic visitation

Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, Nightmare (1800)
Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which people who are either falling asleep or awakening from sleep temporarily experience a sense of inability to move. More formally, it is a transition state between wakefulness and rest characterized by complete muscle atonia (muscle weakness).

Henry Fuseli, the Nightmare (1781)
Henry Fuseli, the Nightmare (1790–91)
Henry Fuseli, The Incubus Leaving Two Sleeping Women (1793)
Hallucinations are symptoms commonly experienced during episodes of sleep paralysis. There are some main types of these hallucinations that can be linked to pathologic neurophysiology. These include the belief that there is an intruder in the room, the incubus, and vestibular motor sensations. Many people that experience sleep paralysis are struck with a deep sense of terror because they sense a menacing presence in the room while they are paralyzed which will hereafter be referred to as the intruder.

Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (1809 – 1864)
unknown artist and date

Sensing a malignant presence in the room during an episode of sleep paralysis is believed to be the result of a hyper vigilant state that is created in the midbrain. More specifically it is believed that the emergency response is activated in the brain when individuals wake up paralyzed and feel extremely vulnerable to attack. This feeling of helplessness can intensify the effects of the threat response well above the level typically found in normal dreams; this could explain why the hallucinations experienced during sleep paralysis are so vivid.

Jean Pierre Simon, The Nightmare (1810)
Normally the threat activated vigilance system is a protective mechanism used by the body to differentiate between dangerous situations and to determine whether the fear response is appropriate. This threat vigilance system is evolutionarily biased to interpret ambiguous stimuli as dangerous because the survival of the organism is greatly increased if it is more likely to interpret situations as life-threatening. This could serve as an explanation as to why the presence sensed by those experiencing sleep paralysis is generally believed to be evil.

Eugène Thivier, The Nightmare (1894)
The incubus hallucination is associated with the belief by the individual experiencing sleep paralysis that an intruder is attempting to suffocate them, usually by means of strangulation. It is believed that the incubus hallucination is a combination of the threat vigilance activation system and the muscle paralysis associated with sleep paralysis that removes voluntary control of breathing.

Fritz Schwimbeck , The Nightmare (1915)
Vincenz Georg Kininger - The Dream of Eleanor (1795)
The original definition of sleep paralysis was codified by Samuel Johnson as "nightmare", a term that evolved into our modern definition. Sleep paralysis was widely considered to be the work of demons and more specifically incubi, which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. In Old English the name for these beings was mare or mære, hence comes the mare part in nightmare.

Ferdinand Hodler (1853 - 1918)
In Finnish and Swedish folklore, sleep paralysis is caused by a mare, a supernatural creature related to incubi and succubi. The mare is a damned woman, who is cursed and her body is carried mysteriously during sleep and without her noticing. In this state, she visits villagers to sit on their rib cages while they are asleep, causing them to experience nightmares.

wood engraving from J Cazotte's 1845 book, Le Diable Amoureux, entitled "The Nightmare"
Folk belief in Newfoundland, South Carolina and Georgia describe the negative figure of the hag who leaves her physical body at night, and sits on the chest of her victim. The victim usually wakes with a feeling of terror, has difficulty breathing because of a perceived heavy invisible weight on his or her chest, and is unable to move i.e., experiences sleep paralysis.

Olaf Gulbransson (1873 – 1958) 

Warren Criswell , Incubus
In Turkey, sleep paralysis is called karabasan, and is similar to other stories of demonic visitation during sleep. A demon, comes to the victim's room, holds him or her down hard enough not to allow any kind of movement, and starts to strangle the person. To get rid of the demonic creature, one needs to pray to Allah with certain lines from the Qur'an.

Dennis Culver
Andy Paciorek
Andy Paciorek

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια:

Δημοσίευση σχολίου