A short GIF depicting Sleep Paralysis, as created by a long-term sufferer of the disorder. Although it’s quite common, people who have it often experience terrifying hallucinations such as this one. Small alien-like creatures, or demonic monsters are said to be one of the most common hallucinations. Sleeping on your back or drinking too much alcohol can make symptoms worse.
Sleep well last night? We hope so, because the subject of this week’s Mythological Throwback Thursday might give you nightmares. Nothing to do with us, though: that’s literally its job. Let’s get to grips with the nasty little dream-goblin, the mora!
In modern English, the word nightmare has a complicated etymology, but ultimately shares a root with this creature of ancient Slavic folklore. In Croatia, Serbia and Romania mora were said to be ancient, malicious spirits that visited sleepers and tampered with their dreams.
Some tales reported them to be dark spirits that took on the shapes of beautiful women, that would torment men in their dreams by filling them with desire, siphoning the life from them. More commonly, though, they were thought to be squat, ugly creatures like goblins, that would sit on a sleeper’s chest and cause bad dreams. Ever had that crushing feeling in your chest after waking up from a nightmare? Just saying…
A mora possessed many supernatural powers besides visiting nightmares upon folk. In its spirit form, people believed it was supple enough to enter a room through an aperture as small as a keyhole. Difficult to keep out!
There were however several measures that people thought could work against a mora. Turning one’s pillow over and making the sign of the cross, keeping an upside-down broom in the bedroom, reciting a special prayer before sleep, or leaving a belt on top of one’s bedsheets during the night were all methods used to ward off mora.
These days, we understand the feeling of not being able to move on waking from bad dreams, as if being weighed down by something, is related to a condition called sleep paralysis. While the condition is difficult to track in sufferers, it is known that sleep disorders and other conditions that disrupt REM sleep are more likely to cause incidents of sleep paralysis. The mind perceives the paralysis as a threat, and is inclined to hallucinate a threatening presence to account for the sensation. The mind is a pretty weird thing, when you get right down to it.
Hopefully you’ll be better prepared for bad dreams tonight. Sleep soundly, everyone, and don’t forget to check in next week. We’ll be Hapi to see you!