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The Devil on my back

Posted Dec 20 2008 5:41pm

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781) is thought to be one of the classic depictions of sleep paralysis perceived as a demonic visitation


Over the past couple of nights I have been suffering from a wonderful bout of sleep paralysis and accompanying hallucinations, which is exactly the type of thing you need to go through during withdrawal let me tell ya *insert sarcasm here*.

I'm not the superstitious sort far from it actually, but the feeling of being held down against your will while a dark shadowery person takes advantage of you in you own bed is so real that I could well see why the number of folklores that have sprung up around this particular phenomena is so widespread. I must confess that I myself was driven to prayer after realising that it was but a dream of sorts (see you can take the girl out of the catholic faith but you can't take the faith out of the girl).

The following list has been taken from Wikipedia relating to the various folklore surrounding sleep paralysis.

Folklore

In African American culture, isolated sleep paralysis is commonly referred to as "the devil riding your back".

In the Cambodian, Laotian and Thai culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as "pee umm" and "khmout sukkhot". It describes an event where the person is sleeping and dreams that ghostly figure(s) are either holding him/her down or the ghosts can just be near. The person usually thinks that they are awake but is unable to move or make any noises. This is not to be confused with "pee khao" and "khmout jool" which refers to a ghost possession.

In Hmong culture, sleep paralysis describes an experience called "dab tsog" or "crushing demon" from the compound phrase "dab" (demon) and "tsog" (crush). Often the sufferer claims to be able to see a tiny figure, no larger than a child, sitting on his or her chest. What is alarming is that a vast number of American Hmong, mainly males, have died in their sleep prompting the Centers for Disease Control to create the term "Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome" (see Sudden unexplained death syndrome) or "SUNDS" for short; this is now theorized to be a form of Brugada syndrome.

In Vietnamese culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as "ma de", meaning "held down by a ghost" or "bong de", meaning "held down by a shadow". Many people in this culture believe that a ghost has entered one's body, causing the paralyzed state.
In Chinese culture, sleep paralysis is widely known as "鬼壓身/鬼压身" (pinyin: guǐ yā shēn) or "鬼壓床/鬼压床" (pinyin: guǐ yā chuáng), which literally translate into "ghost pressing on body" or "ghost pressing on bed." The modern scientific term, however, is "夢魘/梦魇" (pinyin: mèng yǎn); notice that the character "魘/魇" (pinyin: yǎn) is composed of "厭/厌" (pinyin: yàn), "to detest", and "鬼" (pinyin: guǐ), "ghost, demon".

In Japanese culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as kanashibari (金縛り, literally "bound or fastened in metal," from kane "metal" and shibaru" to bind, to tie, to fasten"). This term is occasionally used by English speaking authors to refer to the phenomenon both in academic papers and in pop psych literature.

In Hungarian folk culture sleep paralysis is called "lidércnyomás" ("lidérc pressing") and can be attributed to a number of supernatural entities like "lidérc" (wraith), "boszorkány" (witch), "tündér" (fairy) or "ördögszerető" (demon lover).[17] The word "boszorkány" itself stems from the Turkish root "bas-", meaning "to press".[18]

In Iceland folk culture sleep paralysis is generally called having a "Mara". Mara is an old Icelandic word for a mare but has taken on the meaning for a sort of a devil that sits on ones chest at night, trying to suffocate the victim.

In Malta, folk culture attributes a sleep paralysis incident to an attack by the "Haddiela" who is the wife of the "Hares", the entity in Maltese folk culture which haunts the individual in similar ways as to those of a poltergeist. As believed in folk culture, to rid oneself of the Haddiela, one must place a piece of silverware or a knife under the pillow prior to sleep.

Kurdish people call this phenomenon a "mottaka", they believe that some one, in a form of a ghost or perhaps an evil spirit, turns up on top the of the person in the middle of the night and suffocates him/her. Apparently this happens usually when some one has done something bad.

In New Guinea, people refer to this phenomenon as "Suk Ninmyo", believed to originate from sacred trees that use human essence to sustain its life. The trees are said to feed on human essence during night as to not disturb the human's daily life, but sometimes people wake unnaturally during the feeding, resulting in the paralysis.

In Turkish culture, sleep paralysis is often referred to as "karabasan" ("The dark presser/assailer"). It is believed to be a creature which attacks people in their sleep, pressing on their chest and stealing their breath.
In Mexico, it's believed that sleep paralysis is in fact the spirit of a dead person getting on the person and impeding movement, calling this "se me subió el muerto" (the dead person got on me).

In many parts of the Southern United States, the phenomenon is known as a "hag", and the event is said to often be a sign of an approaching tragedy or accident.
Ogun Oru is a traditional explanation for nocturnal disturbances among the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria; ogun oru (nocturnal warfare) involves an acute night-time disturbance that is culturally attributed to demonic infiltration of the body and psyche during dreaming. Ogun oru is characterized by its occurrence, a female preponderance, the perception of an underlying feud between the sufferer's earthly spouse and a;spiritual' spouse, and the event of bewitchment through eating while dreaming. The condition is believed to be treatable through Christian prayers or elaborate traditional rituals designed to exorcise the imbibed demonic elements.[19]

In Greece and Cyprus, it is believed that sleep paralysis occurs when a ghost-like creature or Demon named Mora, Vrahnas or Varypnas (Greek: Μόρα, Βραχνάς, Βαρυπνάς) tries to steal the victim's speech or sits on the victim's chest causing asphyxiation.

In Zimbabwean Shona culture the word Madzikirira is used to refer something really pressing one down. This mostly refers to the spiritual world in which some spirit—especially an evil one—tries to use its victim for some evil purpose. The people believe that witches can only be people of close relations to be effective, and hence a witches often try to use one's spirit to bewitch one's relatives.

In Ethiopian culture the word Dukak is used. Dukak is believed to be some form of evil spirit that possesses people during their sleep. This experience is also believed to be related to use of Khat. Most Khat users experience sleep paralysis when quitting after a long time of use.

In Ireland it is also known as "the hag". The expression originates from reports of an old woman that was believed to be seen near the sufferer during paralysis.

Several studies have shown that African-Americans may be predisposed to isolated sleep paralysis also known as "the witch is riding you" or "the haint is riding you".[20] In addition, other studies have shown that African-Americans who have frequent episodes of isolated sleep paralysis, i.e., reporting having one or more sleep paralysis episodes per month coined as "sleep paralysis disorder," were predisposed to having panic attacks.[21] This finding has been replicated by other independent researchers[22][23]

In Pakistani culture, it is an encounter with evil jinns and demons. It is also assumed that it is due to the black magic performed by enemies and jealous persons. Curses could also result in ghoul haunting a person. Some homes and locations are also haunted by these satanic beings.

In Korean Culture, sleep paralysis is known as 가위눌림 ("ga-ui nool-lim"), which means "pressed by a nightmare".

In Tamil and Sri Lankan Culture, this particular phenomenon is referred to as 'Amuku Be" or 'Amuku Pei' meaning "the ghost that forces one down".

In Malay of Malay Peninsula, sleep paralysis is known as 'kena tindih', which means "being pressed" and always referred as to be done by the evil. Blind spots that sometimes occurred in their visibility is always referred as demonic figure.

In Newfoundland, it is known as the 'Old Hag'. In island folklore, the Hag can be summoned to attack a third party, like a curse. In his 1982 book, The Terror that Comes in the Night, David J. Hufford writes that in local culture the way to call the Hag is to recite the Lord's Prayer backwards. It is also common for believers to claim that those who are not wakened from this paralysis will die.


I have gotten myself mixed up in a situation that does not lend itself much to peace of mind and perfect sleep patterns. I guess this is just another symptom until I could work myself out.
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