The spooky origin of the word "nightmare"

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IDK some nightmares I’ve had might have been tamped down by having a squat furry muppet goblin in them.


Beating @euansmith to the punch.


It has a cognate in modern German, a Märchen is a fairytale, a diminutive form of Mär. The older word mær means a story or news. So I can easily imagine the etymological root of “nightmare” being more a sort of dream, a night-tale, a bad omen.

The German word for nightmare, by the way, is Alptraum, or an elf-dream. Funny, I always thought it referred to the mountains, and the classic nightmare of falling from a great height.


Seeing this lady’s horse, I feel a lot better about my Shetland Sheepdog’s insistence on sleeping on my bed.


The Charm Against the Nightmare (and I cannot remember where I heard it, but it should be spoken very quickly in Scots. This is the English version)

I chased the mare
I caught the mare
I bound the mare
I bound the mare with her ain (own) hair

And I can’t remember if there is more to the rhyme


BB posts in all italics is a bit meta-nightmareish.


The word nightmare/mare also implies that there can be such a thing as a daymare, which explains why my days are filled with such bullshit


Those who believe in ridiculous old husbands’ tales re: horses are said to make mare’s nests.


Not bullshit, a mare is a horse.


This picture has quite the backstory. Fuseli painted several versions (which can be confusing when looking for reproductions); I think the one in the OP is one of the later versions. The first version’s canvas has an unfinished portrait on its back (always check the flipside when buying paintings). One, actually not to far-fetched interpretation is that the demon is Fuseli himself, and other stuff.


It should be noted that (afaik) the detail of the supernatural being sitting on your chest while you’re sleeping is unique to the German speaking world, hence the picture above by a Swiss artist. I don’t think a mare technically is the same thing. So this is an alp, not a mare. As @fnordius said, an alp causes an alptraum by way of the alpdruck (alp pressure), sitting on your chest and slowly suffocating you.

Fuseli being Swiss, it could also be a toggeli, the alpine Swiss version of an alp. You could prevent that from sitting on you with the very pragmatic solution of sleeping with a flax comb (essentially a nail board) on your chest. Considering the alpdruck is clearly a way of understanding anxiety, I wonder whether this had the same effect as a weighted blanket, if one that looks a bit gruesome to the onlooker.


IDK, first thing that comes to my mind on hearing “mare” is like the mares, or “seas” on the moon. The sea can be mighty frightening, in a different way from a demon. As deep as your sleep and dark as the night- easy to get lost in and swallowed by!

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