Zach Brown, Succubus, 2015

The artist writes that this painting is about sleep paralysis and superstitious stories about Succubus. Centuries ago, Christians thought that nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) were sinful. The artist writes: “The early church had many people making confessions that they were sinning in their sleep; the church explained… that they were not sinning and that it was just a demon feeding off their bodily fluids.”

In Christian paintings, sleep paralysis (while waking or sleeping, you feel like you cannot move or cry out) was often depicted as a demon sitting on the chest of some poor soul. Brown writes that “Modern sufferers of sleep paralysis describe shadow people in their room while they are frozen and unable to move.” In the painting Succubus sits on the paralyzed man and wraps her feet around his penis. He is probably terrified yet unable to move or scream out.

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