One of the oldest yet very famous artwork of sleep paralysis, is Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting ‘The Nightmare’. This painting features probably all the infamous symptoms of sleep paralysis. In this painting we can clearly see a demon – ‘Mara’ – sitting on the chest of sleeping lady. What we can also see are several quite strange and otherworldly creatures sneaking in her bedroom.
The Astral Demon of the Night in Melanesia
Far far away from Norway, in Melanesian islands, sleep paralysis is interpreted as ‘kana tevoro‘ which literally means getting eaten by the demon. Again, this is a damned spirit who is somehow bound in the material plane becoming a hungry ghost to haunt the living relatives who keep grudge with.
According to their customs, this possession might get handy! Hence, people around should say ‘kania, kania‘ which means ‘eat, eat!‘ in an attempt to prolong the possession and have the chance to chat with the soul hence looking for answers in the matter of why he or she has returned. Here’s when it get’s even creepier. The individual awakening from the experience is asked to pursue the soul of the dead relative. This confrontation is believed to be the only solution. There is actually a 2014 short movie about that story!
The Astral Demon around the Mediterranean Sea
In Greece, it is believed that sleep paralysis occurs when a demonic old lady named Mora (again remember sanskrit Mara, the devil), sits on the victims chest trying to steal it’s breath and energy. A little South from Greece, in Egypt, this spirit is believed to be the spirit of an evil African Queen (probably one who possessed magical powers like Bilqis – Queen of Sheeba ). In Turkish culture, sleep paralysis is often referred to as karabasan (“the dark presser/assailer”).
Night Witches, Witch Trials and Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis was used as ‘evidence’ during the Witch Craze in Salem. In 1692 accused witch Susan Martin had told Robert Downer that “some She-Devil would shortly fetch him away”. About that night, Robert Downer said that “as he lay in his bed, there came in at the window, the likeness of a cat, which flew upon him, took fast hold of his throat, lay on him a considerable while, and almost killed him.”
According to these accounts, Evil Witches brought demons, who possessed these people causing them sleep paralysis.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
But first things first. Let’s give a definition. Sleep paralysis is the feeling similar to waking up, hence being conscious yet unable to move or speak from a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure on their chest, belly or a weird sense of choking. It occurs when a person passes between stages of sleep.
When does it Occur?
Most likely, Sleep paralysis occurs in the Nighttime. It usually happens during the Witching Hour, which makes things even more ‘magically’ complicated.
A Witch’s View on ‘Sleep Paralysis’
Sleep Paralysis is indeed a bewitching time. No matter how hard scientists try to explain what is happening, the stories speak for themselves. Yes it can be traced back to the transitions or REM and NREM sleep states, yet this does not exclude the magical phenomena which co-exist.