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The Ecology of the Succubus and Erinyes
|by Kelly Pedersen|
For further information on Erinyes, see Erinyes
The Ecology of the Succubus and Erinyes is an essay by Kelly Pedersen which examines the myths of the Succubi and Erinyes.
|“|| Her skin of silk, her eyes acharm,
Her voice of glass, her flaming hair.
I sense her lust, she means me harm,
My heart is hers, I do not care.
Sing, sing, in love I sigh
Without her touch, I'll surely die.
Weep, weep, my death is nigh,
And by her lips I die.
My heart is ice, my tongue is stone,
My blood runs cold, my spirit fled.
Dead fields of joy where salt is sown,
My love has gone and left me dead.
—The Succubus' Wedding
The Fiendish Tempters: More Complex than Commonly Thought
Succubi and erinyes are well known. They are the fiends who tempt mortals through lust, conspiring to draw more souls into the ranks of the baatezu and tanar'ri. The common conception of this temptation is a one-on-one experience. Each succubus or erinyes is thought to tempt mortals one at a time, individually. But these tactics, looked at from the bigger picture of the infinite planes and the never-ending Blood War, seem insignificant at best, and a dangerous waste of resources on the parts of the fiends, at worst. Deeper examination of the fiendish tempters would seem to be required.
And, indeed, a closer look at the seducing fiends reveals much more complex and devious behaviour than common knowledge is aware of. For the safety and security of mortals throughout the multiverse, and the enlightenment of other seekers of knowledge, a summary of the succubi and erinyes' deeper machinations, and a comparison of their methods, will be hereafter presented.
An Examination of the Methods and Means of Succubi
The first of the fiends discussed will be the succubi, because of their greater frequency. While most tales of the succubus describe her as going after one mortal at a time, draining him and taking his soul to the Abyss, this only truly describes succubi at certain times. Mostly, this tactic is only used when either it is particularly important for an individual mortal, such as a powerful leader, to be destroyed, or when the succubus is pressed for time. When a succubus is not under such constraints, she prefers to take a more long term approach. The prevalence in tales of only the individual attacks of these fiends can be attributed mostly to the above average standing of the victims, and the fact that the succubus is not trying to conceal herself. When given the choice, most succubi gladly conceal their tracks, making it difficult to detect the presence of the fiend in the chaos she causes.
The succubus' preferred method of attack is as follows. First, the succubus appears in a community, one in which she is unlikely to be detected immediately. This usually precludes areas with powerful wizards or large temples. Once she arrives in a suitable area, the succubus changes into a very nondescript individual, and uses her ESP and clairaudience powers to scout the area, focusing on the local customs and social mores. The succubus then uses her shapechange ability to make herself look like an unavailable, but highly attractive female. The classification of unavailable differs widely by culture. For some, it is an age group. For others, a certain caste or race. The form need not be off limits to all members of society, just a very large portion. The succubus carefully chooses her role to be one that can plausibly arrive in the community, and will have a relatively high profile once she establishes herself.
At once, the succubus' corrupting power begins to assert itself. During the first stage, very little overt change will be observed in the community. However, within the minds of the people, the succubus is having an effect. The major effect of the succubus' presence is a lowering of inhibitions with regard to sex and lust. Slowly, the populace begins to shrug off its ingrained social mores. In a very strict society, this may even be a good thing for a while, as excessive restrictions are relaxed. However, as the succubus continues to live within the community, this change becomes dangerous. At first, the lowering of inhibitions is only in regards to the succubus herself. Males and females to whom the succubus is unavailable begin to desire her. The succubus' attractive force works on all beings, gender and sexual orientation notwithstanding. At this stage, the succubus may be approached by people to whom she is culturally available. The succubus welcomes such attentions, and deliberately holds her soul draining powers in check, to avoid destroying those she trysts with.
In the second stage, the community begins to change outwardly. The first signs are the competition between everyone to win the succubus' attention. Fights and jealousies break out between those who are affected. Those who others view as being more in favour are set upon, and often physically attacked. The second noticeable affect is that the decreasing of inhibitions extends to all people. People feel less and less social pressure to restrict themselves in their romantic pursuits. Often, relationships spring up between those who are fighting for the attention of the succubus, and find themselves among the losers. In addition, the lessening of inhibitions spreads to those who may never have even seen the succubus. In this manner, large cities can be corrupted, even though the succubus is only active in a small neighbourhood.
As the succubus' influence spreads, it can corrupt whole countries, even worlds. The people become less and less concerned with others, and more and more intent on fulfilling their own desires. Often, by the time powerful figures recognise something is wrong, the succubus' influence has spread too far to pinpoint the centre of the danger, and unable to find the fiend to exorcise her. Stopping a succubus usually depends on some lucky individual discovering her true nature early, and either stopping her, or reporting her. Even then, if authorities have been corrupted as well, reporting can be useless, if not dangerous to the reporter.
The succubus' corrupting effect is not precisely a magical effect. The succubus need not concentrate or even activate it. The effect persists on anyone who does not know the true nature and goals of the fiend. Because this ability is not really magical, people who have been corrupted by the succubus are not detected by such magic as detect charm, or similar spells. Detect evil, however, will discover a general malaise in an area under the influence of a succubus, while protection from evil will prevent the effect from affecting a person within its confines, and bless or remove curse will reverse the effect. Removing the effect, however, does prevent it from again affecting a person, and protection from evil will not remove the effect from a person.
An Examination of the Methods and Means of Erinyes
An erinyes' first step is very similar to the succubus'. When it arrives, it scouts an area, discovering the cultural values of the community. Since it lacks ESP or similar mind reading abilities, it typically remains invisible, spying on the mortals until it has learned all it can. Once it has a comprehensive knowledge of the community's values, it polymorphs into a form of a reasonable attractive, but generally average female. The erinyes tries to take on the role of a person with a fairly large amount of indirect influence. Often, this involves being the partner of a powerful person. The erinyes is always careful to see that any liaison she makes is done according to the moral standards of society, and gleefully reports anyone who tries to act with impropriety towards her.
The erinyes has an attractive power similar to that of the succubus, but it is more limited. The erinyes attracts only those who already fall outside the bounds of morality in their society. The erinyes' presence has the same effect as the succubus, causing these people to lose inhibitions and disregard social mores. However, the erinyes has the opposite effect on all other people within her sphere of influence. These people become more concerned with upholding the moral order, and try to increase the morality of their society. Usually, the erinyes uses her highly placed mate to influence and direct these changes.
As the erinyes' corruption spreads, the society becomes more and more straightlaced and prudish. More and more social pressure is put on members of society to conform to one particular set of moral rules, and more social castigation is directed at those who fail to follow these rules. Governments impose laws that try to enforce these moral rules, and often proclaim harsh punishments for those who break the laws. However, all this moral uprightness does not decrease the people's desire for sex. However, since sex is confined to rigidly defined areas of life, a legal way of procuring constant sex is sought. This leads to relationships in which one of the partners is dominant, leaving the weaker partner with few or any rights. People try to use the laws to get ahead in the game of love, using loopholes when they find them, and quickly reporting those who violate the laws, when they can gain from doing so.
In this manner, erinyes corrupt entire societies, turning them into unbending tyrannies, with all people striving to get push others down, using the law. An erinyes can be even more dangerous than a succubus, because it focuses on the powerful members of a community, making it unlikely that leaders notice something wrong. Thus, erinyes are caught and destroyed far less often. Luckily, there are also fewer erinyes than succubi, allowing the tanar'ri an even chance at mortals.
Like the succubus, the erinyes' effects on a group are not magical, and do not detect as such. The same spells will protect against or banish the effects of the erinyes, as well. However, it may be even more difficult to report an erinyes than a succubus, making her destruction by the discoverer almost a necessity.
A Comparison of Succubi and Erinyes
Although the succubi and erinyes powers seem at first glance to be similar, their effects, and the fiends ultimate goals, are radically different. The succubus strives to free sex, to promote an attitude that whatever a person wants, he or she should do, regardless of how it hurts anyone else. A succubus' goal is to create a society in which a large number of people damn themselves to the Abyss when they die. An erinyes' goal, on the other hand, is to create a self-righteous and dogmatic society, in which sex is carefully bound by law and custom, and people use the laws to take what they want. This causes many people's souls to go to Baator when they pass on.
Succubi and erinyes also differ in the kind of societies they target. Both fiends seem to take perverse joy in taking a society and transforming it into something completely against its principles. Erinyes prefer to attack freewheeling and permissive societies, turning them into restrictive tyrannies. Succubi enjoy entering a stern and upright society, and turning it into a place where everyone does what they want, and damn anyone who gets in their way. It also appears that the fiends are more successful when changing a society into its opposite, perhaps because a society usually develops ways of dealing with problems associated with its lifestyle. Thus, a chaotic society usually has some way of identifying and neutralising those who don't respect the rights of others, and a lawful society has checks and balances that prevent it from becoming too repressive.
In some cases, a succubi and erinyes will arrive in the same society. In these cases, the society will often approach a medium between the two extremes, with people working within the law when it suits them, and disregarding it when they find it necessary, in the pursuit of their personal happiness. Since such a society does not contribute most of its souls to either the Abyss or Baator, one or both of the fiends will usually leave, or one will attempt to hunt the other down. If the one finds the other, there will often be a battle royal, usually ending with the destruction of one of the fiends at the hands of the other. Of course, since such a battle is extremely obvious and flashy, the victor usually flees the area to prevent destruction at the hands of the authorities.
A Note Regarding Erinyes
Although common knowledge holds that there are only 500 erinyes at any one time in Baator, this figure is certainly incorrect. After all, the baatezu have an infinite, or at least uncountable, number of fiends in their ranks. Actually, there are many more erinyes than just the known 500. There is a significance to the figure of 500, however. This is the number of special erinyes. These fiends are the highest ranking of the baatific tempters.
They only go on missions on the direct orders of the baatezu leaders. These missions are almost always to bring a particular important mortal into Baator, although it is sometimes to corrupt a particularly powerful society. An erinyes can only enter the ranks of the elite when one of the current elite is promoted, demoted, or killed. To become one of the elite, an erinyes must show constant cunning and devotion to duty. To stay one of the elite, she must perform far above her previous best. It is a demanding position, and many fail. Those who succeed, however, are on the fast track to promotion. It is rumoured that some who are particularly good can rise directly to pit fiend.
A Note Regarding Gender
Although throughout this essay succubi and erinyes have been referred to as exclusively female, there are male counterparts to these beings. The tanar'ric version is known as an incubus, while the baatific version is properly referred to as an erinyi, although most people call them erinyes. These fiends are not encountered as often, but it seems likely that they are equally as common as their female counterparts. Speculation runs wild as to why they are seen less often. The most plausible explanation is that almost all known societies have a gender bias that makes the female form an easier one for the fiends to work with. There are almost certainly societies which have an opposite bias, where the male versions of the tempting fiends are active, but these societies do not currently have large scale contact with the known planes.
[Voilá! adds: Some chant goes that both incubus/succubus and erinyes/erinyi are actually hermaphroditic creatures, able to change their sex as it suits them. Wilder chant still from the self-confessed Anarchist Zepherai Thunderstorms, goes that succubus and erinyes are actually the same creature, a yugoloth subspecies called the bioloth.]
I have tried to write this essay with an unbiased view as possible. Of course, I have prejudices, like anyone else, and these are bound to come through. If you see any glaring ones, please write me and let me know. I might agree with you. I probably won't rewrite this essay, but anything I write in the future would try to avoid the prejudice. That said, let me note that I consider myself to be liberal where it comes to sex. I think a healthy sex life is a good thing. However, I don't have too much of a problem with a society that restricts sex, either. I do have a problem with carrying either uninhibitedness or restrictiveness to an extreme. I think that both ends of the spectrum can be dangerous. For instance, in the example provided by the succubus, a total lack of inhibitions causes social strife because no one respects the rights of others. Rape would be common in such a society. At the other extreme, the society created by the erinyes uses the laws to let the strong remain strong, and oppress those under them. Legalised abuse would be common in a society like that. Obviously, evil can come from both over legislating and under legislating.