Sunday, May 8, 2011

The folklore of Sleep Paralysis / Old hag Syndrome

According to From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The original definition of sleep paralysis was codified by Dr. Samuel Johnson in his A Dictionary of the English Language as "nightmare," a term that evolved into our modern definition. Such sleep paralysis was widely considered to be the work of demons and more specifically incubi,(which we have covered and will cover more) which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. In Old English the name for these beings was mare or mære (from a proto-Germanic *marōn, cf. Old Norse mara), hence comes the mare part in nightmare. The word might be etymologically cognate to HellenicMarōn (in the Odyssey) and Sanskrit Māra.
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. This nightmare experience is described as being "hag-ridden" in the Gullah lore. The "Old Hag" was a nightmare spirit in British and also Anglophone North American folklore.
In Fiji the experience is interpreted as "kana tevoro" being 'eaten' or possessed by a demon. In many cases the 'demon' can be the spirit of a recently dead relative who has come back for some unfinished business, or has come to communicate some important news to the living. Often persons sleeping near the afflicted person say "kania, kania" (eat! eat!) in an attempt to prolong the possession for a chance to converse with the dead relative or spirit and seek answers as to why he/she has come back. The person waking up from the experience is often asked to immediately curse or chase the spirit of the dead relative, which sometimes involves literally speaking to the spirit telling him/her to go away or using expletives.
In Nigeria, "ISP appears to be far more common and recurrent among people of African descent than among whites or Nigerian Africans"and is often referred to within African communities as "the Devil on your back.
In Turkey and in many of islamic beliefs, Sleep Paralysis is called "Karabasan"(this will be in our next post) which is very similar to the classic story of a demon visiting a person in sleep. Basically an islamic demon [(most commonly people say it is a Djinn (Cin in Turkish)] comes to one's room, holds him down hardly enough to not allow any kind of movement, starts to strangle the person and actually many people say that they hear the voice of the djinn or satan. To get rid of the demonic creature, one needs to pray to God (Allah in islamic beliefs) with certain lines from Quran. If one does not pray soon enough, it is said that the demonic creature will kill the person by strangling. Some woman actually believe the creature raped them through this process due to waking up with pain around the area of their genitalia and with a feeling of a headache.
Various forms of magic and spiritual possession were also advanced as causes. In nineteenth century Europe, the vagaries of diet were thought to be responsible. For example, in Charles Dickens's A Christmas CarolEbenezer Scrooge attributes the ghost he sees to "... an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato..." In a similar vein, the Household Cyclopedia (1881)offers the following advice about nightmares:
"Great attention is to be paid to regularity and choice of diet. Intemperance of every kind is hurtful, but nothing is more productive of this disease than drinking bad wine. Of eatables those which are most prejudicial are all fat and greasy meats and pastry... Moderate exercise contributes in a superior degree to promote the digestion of food and prevent flatulence; those, however, who are necessarily confined to a sedentary occupation, should particularly avoid applying themselves to study or bodily labor immediately after eating... Going to bed before the usual hour is a frequent cause of night-mare, as it either occasions the patient to sleep too long or to lie long awake in the night. Passing a whole night or part of a night without rest likewise gives birth to the disease, as it occasions the patient, on the succeeding night, to sleep too soundly. Indulging in sleep too late in the morning, is an almost certain method to bring on the paroxysm, and the more frequently it returns, the greater strength it acquires; the propensity to sleep at this time is almost irresistible.

(We have covered some of this in the past, but I would like to cover each culture and their differences to see what we find relates.  Remember to click to the right for comments for each topic and my responses as well as the bottom right for showcase comments.   I am still play with their limited themes and applets that allow me to add items to the blog.  If you like one, let me know!

And always sweet dreams


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