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The Myth of the Mara

It is a scary time right now with COVID-19, the election, and the state of the world in general, but today, in the Halloween spirit, I want to talk about something even scarier: nightmares.

Many people probably do not give their nightmares much thought, but there is a dark history of nightmares in mythology. In the past it was believed that a nightmare was a small horse-riding creature that would sneak into bedrooms through a keyhole in the door while people slept and sit on their chest.

The belief of the mara was most popular in Germany and Slavic countries and went by many different names. They were called mora, moroi, zmoras, or nocik. My favorite aspect of this myth is that it helps to explain bed head. They were believed to tangle the hair of whoever they sat on, which would result in what were called marelocks. These creatures were not welcome in people’s homes and many put in place defense mechanisms to keep the maras out. Since maras would sneak through the keyhole in your door, one way to prevent this would be to put a broom upside down in front of your door. In Germany, there was also a small prayer to help ward off the evil spirit.

What do you think of the legend of the mara? Do you have any ideas for defenses to ward off nightmares? Let me know!


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