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A mare or nightmare (Proto-Germanic: *marōn; Old English: mære; Old Norse: mara; German: Nachtmahr) is an evil spirit or goblin in Germanic folklore which rides on people's chests while they sleep, bringing on bad dreams (or "nightmares").
The word "mare" comes (through Middle English mare) from Old English mære, mare, or mere, all feminine nouns. These in turn come from Common Germanic *marōn. *Marōn is the source of Old Norse: mara (from which come Swedish: mara; Icelandic: mara; Faroese: mara; Danish: mare; Norwegian: mare/mara), Dutch: (nacht)merrie, and German German: (Nacht)mahr. The -mar in French cauchemar ("nightmare") is borrowed from the Germanic through Old French mare. The word can ultimately be traced back to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root *mer-, "to rub away" or "to harm".
In Norwegian and Danish, the words for "nightmare" are mareritt and mareridt respectively, which can be directly translated as "mare-ride". The Icelandic word martröð has the same meaning (-tröð from the verb troða, "trample", "stamp on", related to "tread"), whereas the Swedish mardröm translates as "mare-dream".
The mare was also believed to "ride" horses, which left them exhausted and covered in sweat by the morning. She could also entangle the hair of the sleeping man or beast, resulting in "marelocks", called marflätor "mare-braids" or martovor "mare-tangles" in Swedish or marefletter and marelokker in Norwegian. The belief probably originated as an explanation to the Polish plait phenomenon, a hair disease.
Even trees were thought to be ridden by the mare, resulting in branches being entangled. The undersized, twisted pine-trees growing on coastal rocks and on wet grounds are known in Sweden as martallar "mare-pines" or in German as Alptraum-Kiefer.
According to Paul Devereux, mares included witches who took on the form of animals when their spirits went out while they were in trance. Animals such as frogs, cats, horses, hares, dogs, oxen, birds and often bees and wasps.
As in English, the name appears in the word for "nightmare" in the Nordic languages (e.g. the Swedish word "mardröm" literally meaning mara-dream, the Norwegian word "mareritt" and the Danish "Mareridt", both meaning Mare-ride or the Icelandic word "martröð" meaning mara-dreaming repeatedly).
In Germany they were known as mara, mahr, mare.
In Romania they were known as Moroi.
In Croatian, mora refers to a "nightmare". Mora or Mara is one of the spirits from ancient Slav mythology. Mara was a dark spirit that takes a form of a beautiful woman and then visits men in their dreams, torturing them with desire, and dragging life out of them. Other names were noćnica, "night woman" in Polish, or éjjeljáró, "nightwalker" in Hungarian.
In Serbia, a mare is called mora, or noćnik/noćnica ("night creature", masculine and feminine respectively). It is a common belief that mora enters the room through the keyhole, sits on the chest of the sleepers and tries to strangle them (hence moriti, "to torture", "to bother", "to strangle"). To repel moras, children are advised to look at the window or to turn the pillow and make a sign of cross on it (prekrstiti jastuk); in the early 19th century, Vuk Karadžić mentions that people would repel moras by leaving a broom upside down behind the door, or putting their belt on top of their sheets, or saying an elaborate prayer poem before they go to sleep.
In Polish folklore, mora are the souls of living people that leave the body during the night, and are seen as wisps of straw or hair or as moths. In certain Slavic languages, variations of the word mora actually mean moth (such as Kashubian mòra, Slovak mora or Czech můra).
In Estonia the mare-like spirit is called Painaja (presser) or Külmking (cold-shoe).
In Turkey the mare is known as Karabasan(ominous-presser).
- Alp (folklore)
- Maya (illusion)
- Sleep paralysis, medical term for the condition the mare is thought to cause.
- Slavic fairies
- Marianne, a 2011 Swedish horror film featuring mares.
- Borgman, a 2013 Dutch thriller film featuring mares.
- Bjorvand and Lindeman (2007:719–720).
- "mer-" in Pickett et al. (2000). Retrieved on 2008-11-22.
- Haunted Land, Piatkus, 2001, p 78
- Ynglinga saga, stanza 13, in Hødnebø and Magerøy (1979:12).
- Kuhn, Adalbert (1864). "Indische und germanische Segenssprüche". Zeitschrift für vergleichende Spruchforschung 13: 12.
- Last line supplied from "541. Mahrsegen" Kuhn 1859, vol. 2, p.191
- Mahr, August C. (1935). "A Pennsylvania Dutch 'Hexzettel'". Monatshefte für deutschen Unterricht 27 (6): 215–225. JSTOR 3016906
- Last line of translation supplied by Ashliman, D. L. "Night-Mares". Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts. Retrieved May 2013.
- Between the living and the dead, Éva Pócs, 1999, p 46
- Vuk Karadžić, Srpski rječnik, 1898, p. 380 (first edition 1818, second edition 1852)
- Bernard Sychta. Słownik gwar kaszubskich na tle kultury ludowej, Ossolineum, Wrocław - Warszawa - Kraków 1969, tom III, pp. 102-105
- Bjordvand, Harald and Lindeman, Fredrik Otto (2007). Våre arveord. Novus. ISBN 978-82-7099-467-0.
- Paul Devereux, Haunted Land: Investigations into Ancient Mysteries and Modern Day Phenomena, Piatkus Publishers, London, 2001[unreliable source?]
- Hødnebø, Finn and Magerøy, Hallvard (eds.) (1979). Snorres kongesagaer 1, 2nd ed. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag. ISBN 82-05-22184-7.
- Kuhn, Adalbert (1859). Sagen, Gebräuche und Märchen aus Westfalen und einigen andern andern, besonders den angrenzenden Gegenden Norddeutschlands. Brockhaus. pp. 18–22, 191.
- Pickett, Joseph P. et al. (eds.) (2000). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-82517-2.