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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to Þjóð Yt 3I

[12] mara ‘the mara’: ON mara corresponds to a word shared by all Gmc languages: OHG mara, OE mæra/mære, OFris. (nacht)merie, ModGer. Mahre, ModEngl. (night)mare, ModDan. mare, ModSwed. mara, Faroese marra. It is also known in ModFr. cauchemar. A mara is a mythical being, sometimes called an elf, which causes nightmares such that the sleeper believes an animal or human creature, commonly a woman, to be sitting on his breast, crushing him to the point of suffocation. The notion exists worldwide and was known in antiquity as an incubus or a succubus (cf. ‘Mahr, Alp’, HDA, 5, 1508-11; Röhrich 1999; Lecouteux 1987).


  1. Bibliography
  2. HDA = Bächtold-Stäubli, Hanns and Eduard Hoffmann-Krayer, eds. 1927-1942. Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens. 10 vols. Berlin and Leipzig: de Gruyter.
  3. Röhrich, Lutz. 1999. ‘Mahrtenehe’. In Brednich et al. 1977-, 9, 44-53.


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