Where Did the “Nightmare” Come From?
In Britain’s Dark Ages, when people woke, disturbed, in the night , it was believed to be from “nightmaeres”. These nasty buggers were horse and rider combos of tiny mischief. The faeries or “goblins” rode little mares (maeres in Old english).
Nightmaeres flew only under the cloak of night. Legend has it that they were so small they were not discernible to the human eye.
The nightmaeres’ modus operandi was to dismount on a chest or breast of their human victims and stomp until they had wrecked havoc upon their soul. Discouragement and unbridled lusts (greed, avarice, emotional distress) became the fruit of their labors. Victims would wake up, bewildered by their sleep.
But the other tell-tale physical sign was bedhead.
The goblins or faeries got their kicks from jumping into heads of human hair and twisting or braiding the hair into a frightening mess which the human subject would inevitably discover the next morning.
If that wasn’t enough, the nightmaeres also enjoyed fiddling with your eyebrows. If you happened to be adored by those mischievous buggers, they might even knit your two eyebrows into one unibrow.
Stabbed by the Flax Comb
Do you know the flaxseed? A small seed, right? The combs that were used to separate those tiny seeds from the bast or skin were flax combs.
To ward and trap the nightmaeres, subjects wore flax combs on their chests. Apparently, this worked for a few centuries until the maeres got wise and started stabbing their subjects. In the morning, the subjects found bites and welts on their bodies from the combs.
They Grew Bigger
In time, the maeres grew larger and seemed to be less physical. They grew to be misty spirits or “gasts” from another dimension or reality.
Below is the famous painting by swedish painter, John Henry Fuseli from the 18th century. Pictured below is both the goblin and the horse visiting a victim.
As for bedheads, they appear to still be with us with us. And if you have a unibrow, better check the local stables. Those stables might be enabling certain mischief.