Monster Month: The Dybbuk


The Dybbuk comes out of Jewish folklore and it first showed up in the 16th century.  Prior to that, demons were used in place of ghosts.  So, it took a little time for this creature to gain some traction.  So, what is it?

The Dybbuk possesses people, which is why you see it on the back of the person in the image above.  Though, there are a variety of methods/reasons for them to latch onto someone:

  • Diverting from orthodoxy such as disbelieving various stories.  This invited the Dybbuk into your home.
  • They are male spirits who possess women the day before their wedding.  They enter through the . . . you know.  This stems from a Yiddish play where a woman is possessed by the ghost of a man who she was to marry until her father broke it off.
  • It is a sinful soul that possesses the living and stays there until they clear themselves of sin.  That or they finish whatever business of self-improvement they had when they were alive.
  • The person being possessed has a secret sin, which attracted the Dybbuk.

I couldn’t find any physical description of the Dybbuk, but that makes sense.  These are spirits of the dead, which means they would look somewhat like they did when alive or nothing at all.  There’s never been a standard description of ghosts.  You’ve got invisible, skeletal, human with no legs, full body, blobs, and the list keeps going.  This is why the Ghostbusters had categories instead of just ‘ghost’.  Besides, any ghost that possesses a person ends up losing its initial form anyway until it leaves.

Now, this looks like it came entirely from literature instead of any religious text.  Still, it resulted in Rabbis doing exorcisms on those who were possessed by a Dybbuk.  This evolved from one powerful Rabbi alone to him having 9 other people.  They would surround the possessed and the Rabbi blows a shofar (ram horn instrument) in a certain way to shock the Dybbuk and victim.  The connection is weakened enough for a dialog and prayer to happen.  Yeah, the Rabbi talks with the Dybbuk to find out what it wants and try to convince it to leave.  The group does healing prayers for both parties while the spirit is sent away.  Exorcism through a conversation is probably the most Jewish thing I’ve heard of in a long time.  I just know part of this dialog is a guilt trip.

Like the Wendgio, the Dybbuk has a syndrome named after it.  This diagnosis is connected to hysteria and schizophrenia.  Are we surprised?  Demon and ghost possession has always been connected to mental health issues.  The Dybbuk is thought to have been born from mental issues involving paranoia and anxiety.  It makes me think that the dialog method of exorcism isn’t just a bizarre and messed up version of therapy.  You’re talking to someone and making their emotions feel justified instead of casting them aside.  This whole thing really does feel like a creature born from mental illness and, oddly enough, a low stress way to help them.  The shofar at the start isn’t great, but we’re not talking about strapping someone onto a bed and yelling at them while throwing water in their face.  At least, when they group came into play.

The Dybbuk really makes me wonder about monsters and their connection to mental health.  It explains so much about this specific lore.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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26 Responses to Monster Month: The Dybbuk

  1. I like your analogy of mental illness associated with mythical monsters. Even today, we label people as “sinful” when they struggle with depression or other maladies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    A really cogent description, and I do think there is probably some link between these monsters to mental illness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. L. Marie says:

    I’ve heard of this one for some reason. Trying to remember why.


  4. Mar says:

    Interesting theory, Charles. It makes a lot of sense to associate mental health when thinking about certain entities and possessions. Power of the mind at work. Great article!


  5. I agree with your theory of mental illness and the rise of demons and such. Interesting story of the Dybbuk.


  6. Chel Owens says:

    I haven’t heard of this one. I agree that connecting ideas of paranormal spirits and mental issues would happen in the past; makes sense.


  7. V.M.Sang says:

    Mental health and possession have always been inextricably linked. Even some physical illnesses, like epilepsy has been thought to be due to possession, as when Jesus cast out the demons from a ‘posessed’ individual.
    Thank goodness we’re more enlightened now.
    This creature does sound a bit scary, though. Possession by another entity is frightening.


  8. I like your thoughts about some of these things originating with mental illness. Life in certain eras must have been miserable.

    Liked by 1 person

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